I have always enjoyed studying old auction catalogs, fixed price lists, and periodical advertising. It is really amazing at what was the “hot” item of a particular decade. Some things are always rare and valuable. However, other things take on a legendary status through either the promotion of a major dealer or a collector, or because to well-funded collectors are creating a market for it. These same notes can go out of fashion just as quickly. Here are some prior trends:
1960s – National bank note collecting was in its infancy. There was no price guide and it is my understanding that collectors were not even aware of what types and denominations a specific bank issued. Most trading was done as a percentage of face value. Back then the hottest items were national gold bank notes. Today we know every last detail about a bank’s issuance. National gold bank notes are certainly still valuable; but they are no where near as rare as they were fifty years ago.
1970s – Collectors were very interested in state seals during this time period. We specifically remember lots of references to 1882 $100 brown backs from Florida. The 1970s is when the first paper money only auctions started to occur. Prior auctions of just paper money were sporadic and only occured every few years when I major collector sold out.
1980s – This will surprise a lot of people, but during the 1980s a Mississippi brown back was a rare and treasured item. I remember seeing one catalog that dedicated a whole page to a $5 brown back from a common Mississippi bank. I can guarantee you that the notes was worth then than now (and we are not factoring inflation in either). Today there is just no interest in notes from Mississippi. Tastes can change quickly.
1990s – The 1990s was the end of era. This is the last time that you saw fixed price lists and mail-bid auctions. The hottest items were Texas notes. There were four or five collectors in Texas who wanted to buy anything rare. The ultimate trophy was a first charter lazy deuce. Even relatively common blue seals could break the $1,000 mark. Sadly, the market for Texas notes is at best stagnant. Most of the collectors paying big money in the 1990s have either passed away or sold their collections.
2000s – Red seals were hot! Even in the early days collectors knew that red seals were much scarcer than blue seals. However, they didn’t always trade for significant premiums. Between about 2001 and 2008, anything that was red had a big price tag on it. Many of those same notes sell for about half (or less) of what they were “worth” when they were in vogue.
Today – Most people have transitioned to just collecting by state or region. There isn’t one particular type of note that is considered hot. History has taught us that just because someone really wants something today, doesn’t mean that more people will want it tomorrow. Keep this in mind when both collecting or deciding whether or not to sell something. Please contact us if we can help you with your numismatic needs.