Introduction to Collecting Confederate Paper Money
T-52 on true white paper
MY COLLECTING BACKGROUND
I have been an advanced collector and/or dealer of early American numismatic items by variety since 1973. My first great “find” was an 1800 Sheldon 198 large cent in nice G+ for $12 which I proceeded to sell for $80 a couple of weeks later. I was hooked! Today, that large cent is worth about $4000 and is in the condition census. By comparison a comparable “type” 1800 large cent was also worth $12 in 1973 and is worth about $60 today. I’ve moved from early American coppers through bust half dollars in the late 1980s and 1990s. I began publishing a price guide for bust half dollars know as “Bust Half Quotes” in the late 1980s and continue to this day with a partner, noted numismatist and dealer, Brad Karoleff. I sold all of my large cents and bust halves in the mid-1990s to purchase a house in Westchester County near NYC when we moved here from Texas.
After doing research into my family history in Louisiana going back to the 1700s, learning more about the history of the early USA and South, going to a couple of War for Southern Independence (so-called “Civil War”) re-enactments, and recovering from the financial shock of buying NYC-area real estate, I decided to dive deeper and change my focus from early American coins to Confederate fiscal paper – notably Treasury notes and bonds. In particular, beyond my love of history and the South, I was impressed with the depth and opportunity CSA paper offered the modern collector. Unlike large cents and bust half dollars today, rare and interesting CSA varieties can be found at the average coin/currency show and better yet, found relatively inexpensively and unattributed! I have since accumulated a CSA currency variety collection of over 400 different varieties including over 200 different R8s or better and more than a dozen unlisted and/or discovery notes. Along with this more than 160 different CSA bonds as a complement. And learned a lot and had a lot of fun!
COLLECTING CSA TREASURY NOTES AND BONDS
Collecting CSA notes and bonds is a fascinating endeavor and offers much depth, learning opportunities as well as potential financial gains. And best of all, are all of the interesting people who pursue such collecting hobbies. There are numerous ways to approach collecting these pieces of history. Type collectors are most common. Varieties in a particular type is another – these include varieties by Criswell number as well as various postmarks and issue stamps on some of the types. Errors are another interesting focus area. For bonds, usually people collect certain types and there are some who want to collect as many of the Ball varieties as possible as well. Advanced collecting by variety may seem daunting, but one can focus in on a certain area of interest. A good example is collect all of the varieties of a particular type or series. I like the 2nd series in particular which spans T-7 through T-12 and is a challenging, but doable task exposing one to a wealth of interesting nuances in early CSA paper production. I am close to a complete collection of T10 varieties which has a wealth of interesting different papers and signing formats. T26 is another fascinating type with numerous errors and watermarks to study. More about suggested variety collections is written in an appendix.
The most important items to consider when collecting old numismatic or scripophily items are: condition, technical grade, rarity, desirability, and beauty. I will expound further on the first three in this guide.
There are many opportunities and benefits of collecting CSA currency. The large collector base makes it easy to get to know a wide variety of people, learn from others and have a ready market to buy and sell in. Of course, there is a rich history and many interesting and beautiful examples of art in CSA currency. Lots of information has been written and is available for the new and advanced collector with more on the way. Financially, most CSA notes have been attractive over the past few years, especially in the wake of the stock market crash and 1% CD rates. Further opportunities for knowledge and financial gain await variety collectors as well as the ability to build “unique” collections that may gain fame. This happened in large cents and bust halves when the type markets fell and people sought more knowledge, differentiation and recognized true rarity in the varieties.