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Rare Mule Highlight of CSNS Trip
By Bill Brandimore, Bank Note Reporter
May 29, 2013

This article was originally printed in Bank Note Reporter.
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My latest escapade took me to the Central States Numismatic Society show in Shaumburg, Ill., April 24-27. I’m on the CSNS board of governors, so I always get an inside look at the show.

As usual, the educational programs were excellent. That’s a testimony to education chairman Ray Lockwood’s planning efforts. This being the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the programs focused in that area, with Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas re-enactors playing important roles. As a rule, programs at big coin shows rarely draw more than a handful of spectators. The conversation between Lincoln and Douglas drew 40. Both players did great jobs and impressed us with their depth of knowledge.

In another wing of the show, exhibits were on display. If you haven’t tried exhibiting, do so. It will force you to look more deeply at your collection and bring out the fascinating details that draw us to the hobby. There’s nothing like sharing your collection and the folks you meet are interesting in their own right. If you choose not to exhibit, at least look at the various displays, you’ll be glad you did.

The auctions at Central States are one of my favorites and they didn’t disappoint me, or anyone else for that matter, if you consider a $15 million gross indicative of general interest, and that was just the currency portion of the Heritage auction.

Perhaps even more exciting for coin collectors was the auctioning of the Walton specimen of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel. There were accompanying programs on the nickel as well.

I was able to satisfy the biggest item on my want list, as I acquired one of only seven third-party graded $1 1935 Silver Certificate mules. It was graded a PMG-64 and finished off my 1935 Silver Certificate star set. The bidding was hotly contested and exciting.

This particular mule occurred when new 1935A back plates with a larger plate number size were matched with the 1935 face plate with its smaller plate letter. The two issues, 1935 and 1935A, were being printed at the same time for a short period in early 1938. Back plates of both issues got mixed together and mules were created for both issues. Both mules are scarce, but the 1935 mule is especially hard to find.

Mules in other small-size collections add to the fun. They are present in $5 Legal Tenders; $5 and $10 Silver Certificates; $2 Legal Tenders; and 1934-era Federal Reserve Notes. They are also found in large-size notes such as the 1901 Buffalo Legal Tender $10. These sleepers can make a big difference in value if you are sharp-eyed and well-informed.

Auction prices seemed mixed. Bidders saw identically graded notes sell for widely different prices, indicating perhaps a thinner market than is currently supposed. Certainly, if there are only two serious bidders for identical notes, the second note could be a bargain. Or, sometimes it is the first, all depending on bidding strategy.

It is wise to go into an auction with a bidding strategy in mind. You have to know what you really want and how much you really want to spend.

Unfortunately for me the auction held a number of notes I was interested in, but they all came prior to my main goal, the mule, and I had to pass as I was saving my funds for that one special purchase.

I had a chance to visit with Glen Jorde and Tom Denly, veteran currency dealers. Both felt large-size type was continuing strong, especially in grades of Very Fine and higher. I couldn’t find anything at Glen’s table, but I found early Fiji and Bermuda Queen Elizabeth notes in Tom’s inventory.

At the auction, I didn’t see many prices exceeding those of the spectacular Thomas M. Flynn collection sale in 2008. I think, however, that prices are headed in that direction, so now is not a bad time to look for that note you’re really interested in.

Even though auction notes are almost all slabbed at this time, it still makes good sense to examine the auction lots before you bid. Sometimes the brightness, centering or rich seal color that is so attractive varies in the same grade. Make sure you buy the note you want and not just the holder.

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If at major shows you are in pursuit of a particular or really scarce note, I saw an interesting technique in action. A friend of mine was shopping for 1914 Red Seal Federal Reserve Notes in the $50 and $100 denominations. He found examples of each on the floor of the show and then followed the bidding at the auction. When auction price plus buyer’s fees exceeded prices he had seen on the floor, he opted to purchase the notes from the floor dealers the next day.

He was looking strictly for type notes, so he could disregard the notion of paying more for a Minneapolis, Kansas City or Dallas note, and he was able to secure notes of the same grade, but that faced up better than the auction lots. As things worked out, the notes were still there and he was a happy camper.

Sometimes the note you delay on, however, is gone when you decide to pull the trigger. This, of course, could work in reverse as well. You might find the auction lot to be the better buy. These nuances, for me at least, make the chase all the merrier and I think most of us find the chase to be the most fun of all.

The next big show will only be a few weeks away as you read this. That is, of course, the incomparable International Paper Money Show in Memphis, Tenn. It’s Thursday, June 13, through Father’s Day that Sunday. I expect it to be another great event.

Lyn Knight will have a great auction and the restaurants of Memphis are already beckoning me. If you haven’t done it before, try a trolly car ride after dinner. You can get on right outside the convention center hotel and ride around in a circle, enjoying a view of downtown Memphis and the Mississippi River. It is a good way to cool off for a dollar.

A number of clubs also meet at Memphis, including the Fractional Currency Collectors Board. Try attending one of the clubs that interest you. You might end up joining and making some new friends.

The programs at Memphis are also excellent and the Tom Baine breakfast/raffle is also worth attending. It’s Friday morning and sponsored by the Society of Paper Money Collectors. This is also a club worth joining. You get a great magazine and help support the hobby.

Look me up at the show, I’ll be checking out the exhibits, hanging out at Rob Kravit’s fractional table or attending one of the meetings or programs. Share your thoughts with me in an email at In the meantime, have fun collecting.

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