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Complete Gem District Set of 1934 $500 Light Green Seal Notes to Show at IPMS

The collection–the only complete Gem District Set known to exist–will be exhibited at the 2017 International Paper Money Show (IPMS) in Kansas City, June 8-11

By Robert Phillips ……
The Stradivarius Collection, so named to emphasize its quality and rarity, is not only the finest-known collection of 1934 Light Green Seal (LGS) $500 Federal Reserve Notes, it is also the only gem district set of high-denomination ($500-$1,000-$5,000-$10,000) banknotes extant. It took me over 20 years to locate the 12 gems!

Attendees at the 2017 International Paper Money Show (IPMS) in Kansas City from June 8 through 11 will have the chance to see the collection intact before it is sold at auction.

$500 Light Green Seals

1934 LGS $500s were done on bright white paper with seals & serial numbers printed in a distinctive lime green ink. LGS $500s are much rarer than the later issued Dark Green Seal (DGS) $500s, as the LGS was used only for a brief interval. Additionally, the notes circulated hard, became heavily worn, and most were subsequently removed from circulation and destroyed by the Federal Reserve.

To call $500 LGSs rare is an understatement. Bureau of Engraving and Printing records show that a total of 917,628 of the 1934 $500s were printed for all 12 districts, yet in their 10+ years of existence, PCGS and PMG Currency Grading Services have only graded 2,028 LGS notes (less than one-quarter of 1%!) for all 12 districts combined.

Front and back of 1934-F $500 Note

Of the 2,028 graded LGS notes, most fall within the Fine-Very Fine range, and a scant 105 are gems, with 61 of these being recorded for St. Louis due to a recently discovered hoard, leaving only 44 gems spread across the other 11 Federal Reserve Districts. Boston, New York, Atlanta and Dallas districts have only one gem each, (all of which are in the Stradivarius Collection); Richmond and Minneapolis districts have only three gems each; Kansas City and San Francisco districts – four gems each; while Philly (five gems), Chicago (nine gems) and Cleveland (11 gems) are the more “common” LGS gems, along with St Louis.

Here is a listing of the 12 notes by district with grades for the Stradivarius Collection:

  • 2201-A Boston GEM 65 PPQ
  • 2201-B New York GEM 65 EPQ
  • 2201-C Philly GEM 66 EPQ
  • 2201-D Cleveland GEM 66 PPQ
  • 2201-E Richmond GEM 65 PPQ
  • 2201-F Atlanta GEM 65 PPQ
  • 2201-G Chicago GEM 68 PPQ
  • 2201-H St. Louis GEM 66 PPQ
  • 2201-I Minneapolis GEM 65 EPQ
  • 2201-J Kansas City GEM 66 EPQ
  • 2201-K Dallas GEM 65 PPQ
  • 2201-L San Francisco GEM 66 PPQ

The Boston, New York, Atlanta and Dallas Stradivarius specimens are unique (none equal or better) as they are the only gems recorded in PCGS/PMG Pops. The PCGS 68PPQ Chicago LGS note is a condition rarity, as it is the only LGS $500 graded 68 by either grading service for any district. For all but one of the remaining districts, Stradivarius notes are tied for finest known (for KC, there is a PCGS 67PPQ, one point better than Stradivarius’ KC in PMG 66EPQ.

When one considers the near-perfect state of preservation of all 12 notes in the Stradivarius Collection, then reviews population stats compiled by the two currency grading services reflecting a LGS $500 survival rate in any grade of less than one-quarter of 1%, it becomes clear just how remarkable an accomplishment the completion of this set is. Certainly a must see at IPMS!

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