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Broken Bank Note Won't Break Bank

May 15, 1986|DON ALPERT

Question: I have a $5 bill drawn on the Bank of Clarendon and with the state of North Carolina shown. It is signed and dated in ink, which is faded. The date is either January or July 2, 1860. There are two signatures, neither of which I can interpret. Is this worth anything? Also, I have notes drawn on the Lyons, N.Y., Bank dated July 15, 1862. There are denominations of 50, 25, 5 and two denominations of 10 cents each, in that order, all attached to each other. Along the right edge is printed "M. S. & H. J. Leach, Lyons, N.Y." I'm curious about these too.--K.H.

Answer: Your bills are known as broken bank notes. The term refers to privately issued paper currency that was issued in the United States between 1800 and 1865. When the banks that issued these bills failed, the money became worthless; hence the name. These notes were authorized because there was a shortage of hard currency and the limited precious-metals pieces available were often hoarded.

Private bank notes had a tarnished reputation due to counterfeiting and the collapse of hundreds of banks during the panics of 1819, 1837 and 1857. This system was completely strained during the Civil War, for both North and South. When a 10% tax was placed on the face value of private bank notes in 1865 by the North, the end was at hand. The South's system collapsed with its defeat, also in 1865.

Your broken bank notes are interesting because they reflect this turbulent period. Many people collect these notes--by state, denomination, bank or design, many of which are interesting historically. Most of these bills, however, are not terribly expensive. Your $5 note from North Carolina is worth, interestingly enough, about $5. You will notice that your attached notes from the New York bank add up to a total of $1. These bills are called fractional currency and were a method of providing change during the coin shortage. A person or shopkeeper would just cut off the denomination needed. Perhaps your bill came from a failed bank before it could be spent, so it was never cut apart. It's worth about $25.

Q: I have three pieces of pre-revolutionary Russian paper currency. They are: denomination of 1, year 1898; denomination of 50, year 1899, and denomination of 10, year 1909. Two years ago I attempted to assess their worth through a few Valley coin stores and my local library. However, they did not have any information on Russian money. What do you think they are worth?--L.H.

A: It can be frustrating trying to pinpoint the value of something like your bills. First, I suspect that the monetary unit of your bills is the ruble, introduced by Peter the Great in 1704. The reason you have not had any success is that there is little or no market for these bills in the United States. Consequently, most dealers have no interest in or knowledge of the subject. You might try a major coin show, where many dealers will be present at one time, and chances are that someone will either know about your bills or will know someone who does. Another possibility is the antique market. Some of those people buy and sell everything imaginable.

Q: I would appreciate knowing the value of the following: U.S. dollars dated 1878, 1881, 1882, 1887, 1888, 1893, 1900, 1921 and 1922; a Russian 5-ruble gold coin, 1898; 20 gold Frank-Albert King der Belgian, 1914, and a Columbian half dollar, Chicago Exposition, 1893.--B.T.

A: Your U.S. silver dollars are worth about $10 each and up, depending upon the mint and condition; the Russian gold piece is $60; the Belgian gold piece is $95, and the U.S. silver commemorative half dollar is $10.

Q: I have a German coin that is inscribed on one side: "FREI UND HANSESTADT HAMBURG" with two lions holding a shield. The other side reads: "DEUTSCHES REICH 1912--DREI MARK" and has an eagle. The edge of the coin has the inscription "GOTT MIT UNS." Can you tell me if this coin has any value other than being a commemorative?--S.R.

A: Your 3-mark German coin is worth about $25 or $30.

Q: On the large $1 silver certificates and the smaller series in 1928 it states: "This certifies that there has been deposited in the Treasury of the U.S. of A. one silver dollar payable to the bearer on demand." The 1935 series states: "This certifies that there is on deposit in the Treasury of the U.S. of A. one silver dollar payable to the bearer on demand." Why was the wording changed from "has been deposited" to "is on deposit"? Can a $1 certificate that says "is on deposit" get a silver dollar on demand?--I.I.V.

A: I don't know the reason for the wording change, although it seems minor. But I do know that silver certificates are no longer redeemable for silver. They were replaced in the 1960s by the new Federal Reserve Notes.

Q: I have a coin that was attached to an antique gold bracelet by a small ring, deftly soldered to the coin. It is a 10-mark Deutsches Reich 1875, Ludwig II. Is it valuable?--J.K.

A: Your German 10-mark gold piece is damaged for numismatic purposes. It's worth about $30.

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