Many artworks and memorabilia sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars in auctions, but sometimes money itself—in the form of coins or banknotes—can sell for even more money. Rare bills and coins are favorites among deep-pocketed collectors. Recently, a handful of pieces at a numismatic event from Heritage Auctions were sold for record-breaking amounts, proving them to be highly unique, vintage pieces. Namely, a $10,000 bill from 1934 sold for $480,000.
This banknote features, which President Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, was the highest denomination of U.S. currency ever to publicly circulate. The piece on auction was marked as “PMG Choice Uncirculated 64,” which refers to the condition it's in. This particular grade typically means that “the centering is off on one or two sides” and that “some handling may be evident but there [are] no folds in the design.”
Despite the high sum it brought in, the team at Heritage Auctions weren't too surprised. “Large-denomination notes always have drawn the interest of collectors of all levels,” says Dustin Johnston, vice president of currency at Heritage Auctions. “The $10,000 trails only the $100,000 gold certificate issued in 1934, and of the 18 examples graded by PMG, this example is tied for the highest-graded. Among all small-size $10,000 FRNs, PMG has graded only four equal and five higher, so this is an absolute prize that will command a share of the spotlight in its new collection home.”
Another special lot that caught the eye of collectors was a rare 1899 20-dollar coin known as Double Eagle. It sold for $468,000, breaking the previous record for a Double Eagle coin of $218,500 set in 2008. “It takes an extraordinary coin to rise to the top of an auction with such consistent high quality, and this 1899 double eagle is that kind of coin,” says Todd Imhof, executive vice president at Heritage Auctions.
“It is such an exceptional rarity—the recorded original mintage was just 84 proofs—and over time, that total is dwindled, to somewhere around 30,” Imhof explains. “Of the survivors, this example carries the highest grade, and that includes the one that is in the Smithsonian Institution. The winning bidder acquired an exceptional trophy-level coin that immediately becomes a collection centerpiece.”
While many dream of hitting the jackpot with the coins and bills they happen to stumble upon, most of these collectible pieces date back to the late 19th century and the early 20th century—and are in a very, very good shape. Still, it's fascinating to see how much more a rare coin or banknote sells for, as well as the interest something so allegedly common sparks among numismatic collectors.
Recently, a handful of pieces at a numismatic event from Heritage Auctions were sold for record-breaking amounts—A $10,000 bill from 1934 sold for $480,000, and a 1899 20-dollar coin sold for $468,000.