PCGS Grades Finest Example of Ultra-Rare 1890 Grand Watermelon Note

By Cory Williams for PCGS ……
 

PCGS Banknote is very pleased to have recently graded the ultra-rare 1890 $1,000 Grand Watermelon Treasury Note, and at PCGS About Uncirculated 50 it is the finest known!

“I am very excited to have this iconic and historic note certified and encapsulated by PCGS Banknote,” says Stack’s Bowers Galleries Director of Currency Peter A. Treglia. “I believe it continues to solidify its importance to the numismatic community.”

Series of 1890 Treasury Notes were a product of the Legal Tender Act of July 14, 1890, as indicated in the bottom border of this rarity. Also known as the “Sherman Silver Purchase Act”, the Legal Tender Act of July 14, 1890 required the United States Government to purchase an additional 4.5 million ounces of silver every month for minting coins with which to back banknotes. These banknotes were created to pay for that silver with the provision that they could be redeemed in silver or gold coins at the Secretary of the Treasury’s discretion.

The $1,000 (commonly called a “Grand”) piece was the highest denomination of these banknotes issued, and as the large green zeroes on the reverse appear very similar to watermelons, that is what Treasury officials at the time derisively termed these notes, as they didn’t like the elaborate artwork like we do today.

However, since then many collectible banknotes have gained various colorful, whimsical nicknames, and these days when one says the phrase “Grand Watermelon” people’s eyes light up.

With facsimile signatures of William Starke Rosecrans as Register of the Treasury and James Nelson Huston as Treasurer of the United States, this note is known as Fr. 379a in Paper Money of the United States by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg. Only 16,000 notes were printed, and just two are known and available to the collecting community.

This particular specimen has a lengthy and illustrious provenance, with previous owners such as F.C.C. Boyd, James Wade, Robert Friedberg, Amon Carter, Jr., Q. David Bowers, and Joel R. Anderson. This exact banknote is featured as the #1 selection in and on the cover of 100 Greatest American Currency Notes by Q. David Bowers and David M. Sundman.

“The offering of a $1,000 Grand Watermelon note is always a special occasion,” says Stack’s Bowers Galleries Co-Founder Q. David Bowers. “[It’s] the currency equivalent of, say, an 1804 Silver Dollar. The example showcased here stands as one of the finest of this famous variety. How exciting!”

While the reverse of the note bears the feature from whence the note’s famous nickname derives, the obverse includes an exquisite portrait engraved by Charles Burt of Union General George Meade, who famously turned the tide of the Civil War with his victory at Gettysburg.

In 2005, this specimen of the Grand Watermelon became the first banknote to sell for more than $1 million at auction.

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