As with most any collectable; one of,
if not the single most important aspect of a note's desirability, potential
for increase in value and an indicator of it's current value is it's
grade or condition. Much has been written, discussed and bantered about
with regard to this subject, as most collectors justifiably desire to obtain the
highest grade example of any given note as is possible; whether it be
a Confederate, Obsolete or any other given note.
This web site utilizes "Collector Oriented Grading" as compared to "Market Oriented grading". The former is more strict than the later. This is not to say that "Collector Oriented" graded notes do not repose in third party graded holders. During the course of looking through other dealers inventory at shows or while viewing auction catalogs; I find myself forgoing consideration of over 95% of the notes I see, as they are graded utilizing the "Market-Standard" approach. I will not offer a note on this web site which is graded via "Market-Standards" or if so, my grade is lower than that you see upon the grading service holder. Any and all third party graded notes offered here meet collector-oriented standards and a great many are CHOICE! They are much more difficult to locate and cost considerably more money; although they are well worth it. I am always more than happy to pay "extra" for a choice, collector-oriented graded note, as I know they will stand the test of time. I was taught to grade by the late Dr. Douglas Ball well over 40 years ago. To most, Dr. Ball's Very Fine was another's Almost Uncirculated. Suffice it to say that the notes you see offered here are very conservatively graded and that which is stated above bears repeating; all third party graded notes here offered, fully and completely meet "Collector Oriented" grading standards. The rest are rejected and not seen here. This is extremely important to remember. As of 2018, it seems that the third party grading services have tightened up their criteria somewhat; although in most instances, such is not the case. One must search quite hard to locate a "collector-oriented" graded note within a grading service holder; although it CAN be done; as is evidenced here. In addition, just because a note of the exact same type is assigned the same grade by a grading service by no means should be interpreted to mean the notes are of equal value or even have the same appearance. Further; even though a given note may be assigned a "higher number" than the exact same note of the exact same type, does not necessarily mean that the note with the "higher number" is always more desirable or more valuable. Far too many other factors come into play; such as color, contrast, inking, trim, lack of toning, etc., etc..
Many notes you see offered upon this website are "raw" or ungraded by a third party grading service. This situation exists for two reasons. First; it would be economically unfeasible to pay the $20-$90 per note to have over 6,000+ pieces graded. I have very few notes in my inventory listed here and endeavor to list them as time permits. Secondly; and most importantly, I make it an absolute priority to call out every single near invisible edge "bump", fold, light bend, faint spot or any other matter; no matter how trivial, which may affect a potential buyer's ability to properly evaluate a note. There are occasions wherein a scan does not illustrate everything one needs to see, therefore it is extremely important that additional information be provided. One will find that a very good scan coupled with a detailed description - pointing out each and every positive or negative aspect of any given note extremely helpful. Remember, a note housed in a grading service holder consists of someone else's opinion of that note's grade as well. That's all. I can readily understand the temptation to look at a number placed upon the grading service holder and "Go with it". Simply put, there is more to it than that. While browsing the notes listed upon this site, you may rest assured any given note will be properly graded. On the market today; there exist many times the number of "raw" notes as compared to graded notes and I highly recommend that the collector not get "hung up" on acquiring graded notes exclusively. Doing so is indeed understandable; especially considering the wide array of grades seen assigned raw notes upon various sites across the internet. While viewing some internet venues, I have been astonished myself upon seeing a note graded Extremely Fine which in reality graded no better than Fine....at best. The collector has to negotiate this "mine field" thereby making it much more difficult to acquire raw notes which are properly graded. We take great pride in possessing the proper grading skills one can rely upon in order to accurately grade or evaluate any given note. This ability to properly grade has been acquired through 45 years of experience in handling the very type of notes you see offered here. I fault no one for acquiring third party graded notes and it is totally their prerogative. I merely suggest that a collector not "rule out" a note just because it is not in a piece of plastic or is "raw". You will soon find that you can grade the note yourself if coupled with proper and accurate comments. I will be more than happy to provide anyone a higher resolution scan of a note or portion thereof which they may have reservations or questions about. The most important aspect of this hobby is that you enjoy yourself as you add pieces to your collection. For over four decades I have seen many collectors rewarded with the pleasure of owning any of these wonderful pieces of history and when the time came; reap the financial rewards as well.
TO GRADE IT; YOU MUST BE ABLE TO SEE IT!
Many web sites offer good scans of the material they offer for sale. Some do not scan the back of a note; which makes it totally impossible for you to see and grade the note for yourself. It is totally and completely impossible to get a "feel" for what the note may grade by looking at the front only. In the alternative, ask for a reverse scan of any note you are considering purchasing. Most dealers and owners of web sites will gladly provide one upon request. Scans produced for this web site are as sharp and clear as any you will see. Many times, a high resolution scan may make a given note look worse than it really is; as paper imperfections or the like which cannot be seen with the human eye will appear. The color may seem distorted. The trim may seem to be a bit "off". A scan can give the appearance that the note is trimmed a bit poorly; whereas, if one was actually holding the note, it would not be noticeable. A note which looks good in a scan on this web site will blow you away when you actually see it. If you cannot read the printer or engraver's name on a note presented upon any given web site; you can not see what you need to see!
The grading discrepancies which exist
in the current market are broad; wherein one person's "Extremely Fine"
may in reality grade "Very Fine" to "Fine". You may rest assured that
purchasing a note at an Extremely Fine price which actually grades Very Fine to Fine is no
bargain. To utilize the current Confederate note arena as an example;
the above difference in assigned grade may represent hundreds or even
thousands of dollars with regard to an ever growing number of issues. While the grading services do a good job, one must remember that this grade is merely another person's opinion. That person may have hundreds upon hundreds of notes to grade that day. Anything from Federal (a vast arena), Foreign, Confederate, Military Payment Certificates, Obsoletes, Bonds, and on it goes. Nor do we know how long the person grading the note employed at the grading service has been at this. The grading services are quite proficient at detecting repairs; (we possess the same UV and other equipment they utilize) nonetheless, the note you see housed in the grading service holder was graded by another person, with his/her own opinion. Even more importantly, the grading services grade from a technical perspective only. This is incredibly important; as no mention of eye appeal is made....and rightfully so (See "Eye Appeal"
below). This is not an attempt to "bash" the grading services. Given the sheer volume and variety of notes, bonds, etc. which they are under tremendous pressure to get graded and "out" on any given day, they do a good job, the majority of the time.
As more collectors enter the market; given the limited supply of many
CSA issues, the temptation is strong to "nudge" a given note
upward one-half or even a whole grade.
This is not to say that most dealers over grade.... such is not the
case. Most dealers we know attempt to honestly and accurately describe
and grade their material. "Grade inflation" is much more pronounced
at some online auction sites than at an actual paper money show or website.
Grading is not a definitive science. There will always be differences
of opinion as to the proper grade a given note should be assigned; however,
as one's knowledge of proper grading techniques increases, these differences
Unlike coins, wherein the major problem with
grading seems to be located at the high end of the spectrum, most CSA
and obsolete currency grading questions lie within the mid-grade to higher
mid-grade notes, i.e. Fine+ to Extra Fine. While it may be most difficult
to discern the difference in a Mint State-66 and a Mint State-67 Morgan
silver dollar; it certainly isn't difficult to determine if an 1861 Confederate
T-5 is Gem New 65 or Choice Uncirculated 61. Many factors must be considered
before one decides to purchase a particular note - depending upon the individual collector. Color, clarity, cut (CSA
and other early notes were trimmed from sheets by hand); body, crispness,
paper quality...aged or toned, and overall wear to name a few. Does
the note have problems? Is it stained, soiled, spotted, frayed, chinked,
torn or filled with pinholes? In an attempt to control inflation, the Central Government of the
Confederacy passed legislation from time to time to induce redemption
of various CSA issues; is the the note cancelled, thereby indicating
redemption? If so, is it bank hammer cancelled (CC), punch canceled
(PC), hole out cancelled (HOC), cut out cancelled (COC) or ink cancelled
(IC)? Individual tastes vary greatly among collectors. In my humble opinion, this is a good thing. While all of us would aspire to have only Gem New 66 notes in our collection, it simply isn't possible. Many are happy with Cut Cancelled notes, as the history and appeal of the note itself is satisfaction enough. Others want only Gem notes in their collections; a scenario which is difficult to achieve, although completely understandable. In over 45 years of handling Confederate Treasury Notes, Obsolete Bank Notes and Southern States Bank notes; as of 2018, I have never seen the supply of high grade, problem free notes lower. This is especially applicable to CSA and Obsolete Bank Notes. Many rare or semi rare issues have always been near non existent in high grade. However; I am referring to a rapidly dwindling supply of material that was once available....to a limited degree. When one actually thinks about it, given the leading thoughts in the trade relative to a survival rate of 15%, what are the odds that any 1861, 1862 or 1863 CSA issue will remain in Choice Uncirculated condition in this day and time? Almost Uncirculated? Extremely Fine? Cancellations, staining, soiling, tears, chinks, holes, time, varmints, redemption by the Treasury, and a myriad of other factors prevent such. These notes were used heavily over 150 years ago. The high grade, perfectly trimmed notes we seek today are the very rare exception, not the norm. It is indeed incredible that many of these notes remain in the lofty condition of Extremely Fine or better. Some notes are of such rarity that grade matters little. This is a subject for a different venue and time. In an attempt to offer the best examples of any given note, I reject at least 97% of the material I am offered. While I may on occasion pay more for "rare or choice" material I acquire, I insist upon outstanding quality and eye appeal. Quality, rarity and superb eye appeal always take care of themselves with regard to any given note. I have been accused of paying too much, only to have the same person ask me how I got the note so cheap 6 months later. You may see a similar note offered elsewhere at a lesser price; however, if you look very closely you will discover the difference in the two pieces. This always boils down to rarity, quality and eye appeal.
There are a wide array of materials available
to those who are interested in learning the specifics of grading. We will not attempt to set out the specifics of grading
here; although you may rest assured that the material offered here is
conservatively and properly graded. One rule remains paramount-your
satisfaction! If you acquire a note from us and disagree with
the assigned grade; you may simply return it...no questions asked.
CH CU (Choice Crisp Uncirculated)
COC (Cut out cancelled)
HOC (Hole out cancelled
(ink or manuscript cancelled)
OBV (Obverse or face of the
REV (Reverse or back of the
rating; i.e., R-10)
(Rothert #'s- Arkansas)
(Kraus #'s- Mississippi)
(Medlar #'s- Texas)
(Garland #'s- Tennessee)
(Burgett #'s- Indian Territory and Oklahoma)
(Parrish & Willingham)
A FEW WORDS ABOUT "EYE APPEAL".
Many times a collector will hear the words "great eye appeal". The grading services deal with "technical grade" only, not eye appeal. This is extremely important to remember. Eye appeal is that intangible element a note possesses which cannot be measured by any price guide, book, grading service holder or written reference. Outside of rarity, it is the single most important factor affecting the desirability and value of any given note, no matter what the type. One learns the effect eye appeal has upon a given note via experience. For example; two third party graded CSA Treasury notes of the same "Type", with each possessing the exact same technical grade are rarely worth the same amount of money. At a major auction in 2006, I observed an Unc 64, 1864 $100 note, an AU-58, $1 note and an Unc 63, $2 note with incredible color and eye appeal sell for nearly $1,000 each; many times the price of a normal note in the same technical grade. I have seen more examples of such an occurrence than I can relate here. If a note looks good to you; odds are it will also look good to someone else. Great color; superb trim, snow white paper and many other factors can lead to "superb eye appeal". Give me a VF note with drop dead eye appeal over the same note in XF with "so-so" eye appeal every single time. Eye appeal can be equated to a note's beauty, it's stunning look, etc.. There is no catalog that will help you to value "eye appeal". I have seen notes at auction which possessed amazing "eye appeal" bring 5-10 times the high estimate over and over again. If you acquire a note with superb eye appeal, you will never have to worry about value. These notes always take care of themselves from a value perspective. As the old saying goes; an ugly note never gets any prettier; no matter how long we stare at it or wish it would. Great eye appeal will override folds most every single time.
No where is the above more vividly displayed when it comes to a note housed in a grading service holder. Which would you rather have? A Choice AU-58 note bearing a microscopic corner fold, bump or the like or a New 63 note with no microscopic corner fold which is trimmed into the margin? Obviously, this is an area that most often comes down to how well the note is trimmed, it's color and overall beauty. In many cases, the Choice AU-58 piece will likely be all there, and many times with four full frame lines, superb color and tremendous eye appeal. The New 63 note will; by definition, be trimmed into the margin. This is not to say that all Choice AU-58 notes meet this criteria. I acquire perhaps one of ten AU-58 notes I am offered. I refer to Choice AU-58 notes which would, save for a tiny corner bump or one light corner fold be GEM. Time and time again I have seen collectors go with the opinion of the grading service and acquire the New 63 note over the AU 58 simply because the holder says "Choice Uncirculated". In my humble opinion, this is a mistake. Personally, if I can acquire a gorgeous, perfectly trimmed note, bearing superb color and superb eye appeal which is "relegated" to an AU-58 grade due to a small corner fold or bump, I will take the AU-58 note every single time. A Choice AU-58 note will most often be worth three to four times that of the New 63/64 note. Think for a moment about this subject. We are discussing notes that were printed, issued and utilized over 150 years ago. Is a crackling crisp, drop dead gorgeous note with four full frame lines, superb color and well inked worth less than the same note which is trimmed into the margin which does not have the corner bump or microscopic corner fold? There is no right or wrong answer to this question and thankfully this determination is up to the individual collector. Nonetheless; time and time again I have seen collectors buy a "number" on a piece of plastic rather than actually look carefully at the note itself and think the matter through. Such is human nature I suppose. It is my opinion the right CHOICE AU-58 note is very much undervalued. I seek every single CHOICE AU-58 to AU-55 note which meets my criteria I can find. Again, I am referring to choice notes only - problem free notes which bear superb eye appeal, and are fully framed. It is also important to remember that the grading service holder need not say "Choice" for the note to be such.
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