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Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio   |   The August 2018 ANA Auction   |   23 August 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Session 4, Lot 2047

Estimate: 400'000 USD   |   Starting price: 240'000 USD Price realized: 660'000 USD
Treasury Note
Serial Number 7 1891 $50 Treasury Note
Finest Graded Example of the Type
Friedberg 376 (W-2938). 1891 $50 Treasury Note. PCGS Currency Gem New 65 PPQ.
This 1891 $50 Treasury Note is the single finest graded example of this rare one-year design type. It is the Plate C note from the second sheet of notes printed and displays the ultra low serial number B7 followed by a decorative star in bold red in the serial number panels. A profile portrait of William Henry Seward is seen at center with a large 50 counter in an ornamental panel at the left end of the note. A red scalloped Treasury Seal is at right and the engraved signatures of Rosecrans and Nebeker are at the lower left and right. The back design is open in keeping with the theme for all of the 1891 Treasury Notes. Denominational counters are found in the corners.

This low serial number note was almost certainly held from circulation as a souvenir by a VIP. The note is well centered with ample margins. The intricate design is sharply printed in dark inks. Original plate and overprint embossing are clearly evident from the verso. This is the only example of the type to achieve a Gem grade. It was originally graded as Gem Uncirculated 65 EPQ by PMG and now resides in an equivalent PCGS Gem New 65 PPQ holder.

Of the 22 examples, six are in government collections and another permanently resides in the ANA museum, leaving 15 pieces available to collectors. The print run for this design was 80,000 examples of which only 23,500 were distributed. Treasury records reported only $1,250 worth (25 notes) are outstanding.

No 1890 $50 Treasury Notes were ever printed, thus the 1891 notes are a singular design type found in only one signature and seal combination. This type has always been considered a key to the large size federal type series and there have never been enough available to satisfy collector demand.

About William Seward

The portrait vignette of William Seward at center is quite dramatic as it displays him in full profile. Seward, prominent in Upstate New York politics and in early 1860 a hopeful for the Republican presidential denomination, is well known for his achievements as secretary of state beginning in 1861. Not all of his actions were meritorious, such as the imprisonment of Northern "Copperheads" (suspected Southern sympathizers) without giving them a chance to explain or appeal.

In 1867 he negotiated the deal to purchase the Alaska Territory from Russia, after which the transaction was satirized as Seward's Folly. He responded to those who questioned the purchase by saying, "It will take people a generation to find out." Seward also was an intended target in a separate assassination attempt which was directly related to Abraham Lincoln's murder on April 14, 1865. Seward survived after being stabbed several times. He ultimately led a long life for the time, passing away at the age of 71 in 1872 with his legacy being immortalized in various places including on this rare banknote.

PCGS Population: 1, none finer.
From Hessler Illustration; Lyn Knight's sale of August 1998, lot 1312; Jay Parrino Fixed Price List of February 2002; Lyn Knight's sale of June 2007, lot 79.

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