HomePaper MoneyQ. David Bowers - Focus on the Exceedingly Rare $20 Silver Certificate...

Q. David Bowers – Focus on the Exceedingly Rare $20 Silver Certificate of Deposit

By Q. David BowersCo-founder, Stack’s Bowers ……
At the several offices of Stack’s Bowers Galleries we are all busy wrapping up our five auction catalogs for the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo in Baltimore. This is always one of the top five shows of the year. Going into 2018 the market for coins, tokens, medals, and paper money is very strong — an ideal situation. In the New Hampshire office we are finishing up work on the Joel R. Anderson Collection of large-size paper money by design types — in cooperation with the paper money experts on our staff.

As many of the notes are great rarities, I must say that by the very definition of being a collecton of types, the sale will also include many popular and affordable notes.

This week I showcase a Silver Certificate of Deposit. The last two words are key: We all know about Silver Certificates, but even most experts have never seen a Silver Certificate of Deposit.

Here is their history followed by our catalog description of the Joel R. Anderson note:

$20 Silver Certificates of Deposit, Series of 1880, Countersigned

$20 Silver Certificates of Deposit, per their official name at the top of the face of the note, were antecedents to Silver Certificates. These were issued under the Bland-Allison Act of February 28, 1878, and were not intended to circulate widely. Most went into the hands of banks and agencies.

These depict Commander Stephen Decatur on the face. These are specifically designated “CERTIFICATE OF DEPOSIT” on the face, “SILVER CERTIFICATE” in large letters on the back. On the face the inscription “SILVER DOLLARS” is done in a series of vignettes, one for each letter, connected together in a straight row. This is the “shingle” style. Using blue-tinted paper made under the Willcox patent of 1866, it was engraved and printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Notes of this type were payable in cities including New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

Series of 1878 and some of Series of 1880, as here, bear two printed Treasury signatures plus the hand-signed countersignature of another Treasury official. This extra signature proved to be cumbersome, and at least that of A.U. Wyman (on a variety different from that offered here) was augmented by signatures printed in the plate. There is no specific record of countersignatures, and there is always the possibility for new discoveries. Part way through the Series of 1880 the idea was dropped entirely. All have a large red Treasury Seal at top center. On this seal, for this denomination and other countersigned notes in this series, the key faces to the right (with the handle at the left). These are often called “triple signed notes”.

F-308 (W-2160) notes are payable in New York and are countersigned by Thomas Hillhouse. We estimate the printing quantity as 200,000 and the number of survivors as fewer than 15.

Following the above issues, regular Silver Certificates became a popular series, starting with the $1 denomination to make them popular with the general public. These are familiar today.

Here is our description of the Anderson Collection rarity:

  • Rare Triple Signature 1880 $20 Decatur Note
  • Fr. 308 (W-2160). 1880 $20 Silver Certificate of Deposit. PCGS Very Fine 35.

Replacing the Large Red Treasury Seal and “Twenty” of the 1878 series is this 1880 $20 Silver Certificate of Deposit that features the countersignature of T. Hillhouse and a Large Brown Seal with “XX” below it. Just 200,000 notes were printed and today only 11 examples of this “Triple Signature” type are known to survive. This is the single finest graded example for the catalog number by either PCGS or PMG. Ample margins and bright paper are enhanced by boldly engraved inks and overprints. Just a moderate level of circulation is exhibited. This note last traded publicly in 2005 when it realized $46,000.

PCGS Population 1; none finer. One of only 10 known.

From Currency Auctions of America’s sale of January 1998, lot 1603; Lyn Knight’s sale of August 2003, lot 1974; Heritage Auctions’ sale of May 2005, lot 16715​​

–Dave Bowers


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