Sometimes just one digit in a serial number can make a difference of thousands of dollars, and not because it’s fancy in any way. In this case, the difference is between “8893” and “8894”, and that difference is $ 1,920.
This was the price paid by the winning bidder at a Stack’s Bowers Galleries Collectors Choice online auction on July 29 for a $ 1,000 Bank of the United States note dated December 15, 1840, bearing number 8893. It was in a state 63 of Paper Money Guaranty Choice Uncirculated. The note was issued by the Philadelphia branch of the bank.
The value of a banknote numbered 8894 is nothing, as it is the serial number of one of the most common forgeries in history. Back in the days when the internet supplanted dealerships as the public’s go-to source for reviews, it was rare for a week to go by without at least one phone call starting: “I have a 1000 ticket. $ 1840. What is it worth? When we shocked the caller with the response, “It’s serial number is 8894, isn’t it, and if it is, it’s no good.” The disappointment, and sometimes even the anger, was palpable.
The fake, with its crisp and revealing faux parchment paper, was produced in huge quantities in the 1960s, long before the Hobby Protection Act of 1974 required the word COPY to be printed on it. Among other things, it has been used in promotions in cereal boxes, by check printers, by the Longines Symphonette Society, and for sale along with similar counterfeits in packaging by souvenir vendors.
The original note was printed by Draper, Toppan, Longacre & Company of Philadelphia and New York. A vignette of the bank building sits in its center with six portrait vignettes – David Rittenhouse, William Penn and Thomas Paine on the left edges and Robert Fulton, Benjamin Franklin and Robert Morris on the right.
Despite the headline, “Bank of the United States” was a private bank. The original Bank of the United States was a national central bank established in 1791 on a proposal from Alexander Hamilton as a place to hold federal funds and as a tax agent for the government. Congress gave him a 20-year charter, under which he conducted both private and government affairs.
The bank was politically controversial, with Jeffersonian agrarian interests firmly against it. When the charter expired in 1811, it ceased operations.
The financial difficulties of the War of 1812 led to the charter of the Second Bank of the United States in 1816. It operated in a similar business and engendered the same political acrimony. This was a problem in the 1832 election, with President Andrew Jackson being so vehement in his opposition that six months after his second inauguration in March 1833 he announced that he would no longer use it, withdrew all federal funds and banned new deposits. When the charter expired in 1836, it reincarnated as a commercial bank under the laws of Pennsylvania. It failed on February 4, 1841, shortly after the issuance of the $ 1,000 notes.
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