River Raisin Banknote Printing Plate Offered by GreatCollections

GreatCollections is currently offering collectors the opportunity to bid on an extremely interesting and unusual piece of American paper money history. This printing plate for the Bank of the River Raisin from Monroe, Michigan, offers a glimpse into the world of American obsolete private banknotes and frontier banking of the mid-1800s. Interested collectors should note that bidding for this piece ends on Sunday, February 5, 2023, at 7:58:57 PM Pacific Time (10:58:57 PM Eastern).

At the time of publication, and with four days remaining until the lot closes, the opening bid stands at $ 6,000.00 USD.

This $1-$1-$2-$3 banknote sheet printing plate was created for the Bank of River Raisin (sometimes misspelled Raisen) in the 1840s. The story of this bank is an interesting one. First chartered on June 29, 1932, the Michigan legislature later allowed it to expand and open a branch in Pontiac. While perhaps not the first bank to have been opened in Monroe, it was at least “the first legitimate effort at substantial and permanent banking” in the area (Burkley, 352). It was led by President Austin E. Wing of Monroe, who happened to be the uncle of a cashier at the larger, and better known, People’s State Bank of Detroit.

River Raisin Banknote Printing Plate Offered by GreatCollections
NGC Photograph depicting the image the plate would make if used.

Unlike many other small frontier banks, the Bank of River Raisin actually owned its own building. Located on Washington Street on the northwest corner of Monroe’s central square, the striking brick building presented a colonnaded façade to the public. While the bank ultimately closed in 1846, the building remained as a bank under the ownership of Stephen G. Clarke and Dr. William M. Smith, and later the local post office until 1868 when the building burned down.

As a stable and trustworthy institution, the Bank of the River Raisin “carried quite a large amount of specie and currency,” which enabled it to fulfill all obligations of such a small yet vigorously growing town on the frontier (Burkley, 357). As such, when the bank closed in a “voluntary liquidation,” it was able to fulfill all of its debts (Burkley, 350).

Interestingly, this plate must have been engraved between 1840 and 1844 by the famous banknote engraving firm of Rawdon, Wright & Hatch, because even though the bank closed two years later, its last notes were dated September 1844.

Today, choice AU examples of all three denominations present on this plate sell for between $200 and $300


This printing plate, like many others from small banks, has multiple denominations present. In this case, two $1 notes, one $2 note, and one $3 note. All of these denominations depict two agricultural vignettes, one at the top and the other at the bottom of the banknote. For the $1, there is a man plowing a field with two horses at the top between the numerical denomination and a small dog at the bottom. The $2 note shows a farmer sowing seeds in the large vignette and a small dog’s head at the bottom. Lastly, the $3 depicts two men cutting wheat with scythes as the main, and a cow as the minor vignette.

The denominations were printed seven times on each note: in each corner, once in large letters at the bottom, and then on either side of the main vignette. Additionally, the banknote’s borders consisted of the repeating denomination. All of these notes would have been uniface, with a blank reverse. Which means that this would have been the only plate needed by the bank, and there was not a reverse used to make a mated pair.

When certifying this Sheet Plate, PMG created two Photocerts: one that depicts the true image of the plate and one that depicts the mirror image of how the sheets would appear when printed onto paper.

Bidding ends on Sunday, February 5, 2023, at 7:58:57 PM Pacific Time (10:58:57 PM Eastern).

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To search through GreatCollection’s archive of over 600,000 certified coins the company has sold over the past eight years, please visit the GreatCollections Auction Archives.

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Burkley, 1915 – https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/micounty/BAD0978.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext


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