By Brad Ciociola – Currency Specialist, Stack’s Bowers Galleries …….
Many types of United States currency are known by popular nicknames such as Chiefs, Bisons, Black Eagles and Battleships. This article features the most morbidly nicknamed note in American currency — the $10 Silver Certificate “Tombstone” notes of 1886-1908.
In 1886, the Silver Certificate series saw entirely new designs for the $2, $5, $10 and $20 denominations, as well as the introduction of the $1 Silver Certificate. New $10 Silver Certificates featured the portrait of recently deceased Vice President Thomas Hendricks. Hendricks was a popular Democrat from Indiana who had represented the state in both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate, and then as Indiana’s 16th Governor. Hendricks twice ran for vice president, easily gaining the Democratic nomination in both 1876 and 1884. He was urged to run in 1880 but declined for health reasons.
In 1884 Hendricks, running on the ticket along with Grover Cleveland, helped lead his party to victory by handedly carrying his key home state of Indiana in the election. Hendricks served as the 21st vice president of the United States from March 4, 1885 until his death on November 25, 1885. Hendricks died unexpectedly during a trip home to Indianapolis, passing away in his sleep after complaining of feeling ill the day before.
The newly designed notes featured Hendricks’ portrait in a tombstone-shaped frame at center. The note symbolized the nation still in mourning over the sudden death of its number two executive.
The design type spanned the series dates of 1886, 1891 and 1908 and is represented by 14 different Friedberg numbers. Both ornate and open back designs were used as were varying seal types.
The note shown above was listed as Lot #2384 in the Stack’s Bowers Winter 2014 Baltimore Auction offered as a Fr. 299 1891 $10 Silver Certificate Tombstone note graded PCGS Gem New 66 PPQ…..it sold for $16,450.