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Rare signature combination found on $1
By Peter Huntoon, BNR
May 23, 2014

This article was originally printed in Bank Note Reporter.
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Grab a table, hold on, place your feet firmly on the floor, and then drink in this truly astounding discovery. If this note doesn’t raise your blood pressure, have someone check your pulse.

The rarest Treasury signature combination on National Bank Notes is Jeffries-Spinner, and here you have absolutely everything you could ever want in a specimen all rolled into one:

• First serial No. 1 Jeffries-Spinner note ever to come onto the numismatic market;

• Choice About Uncirculated grade with no detractions whatsoever;

• Small New Hampshire bank.

The Noal L. Jeffries-Francis E. Spinner signature combination was used only on Original Series notes. Only 14 banks in the country received notes with the combination, and not all of their plates used it.

The fellow who brought this jewel in from the cold wishes to remain anonymous but all the same is justifiably excited about every aspect of the piece.

Let’s first examine why Jeffries-Spinner notes turned out to be so rare, then once we place them into context, we can marvel over this particular find.

Jeffries and Spinner served together for a year and a half, which was plenty of time under normal circumstances for many hundreds of banks to have received notes with their signatures. However, fate in the form of a very technical constraint conspired to make their signature combination the rarest on nationals.

Theirs was not a case of rarity attributed to brief service together; rather it was caused by a paucity of bank organizations during their joint tenure.

The National Bank Acts of Feb. 25, 1863 and June 3, 1864 placed a $300 million cap on total national bank circulation, a number that was reached in 1866. The officers of new banks organized thereafter had to agree to waive their right to receive circulation. The profit to be made on circulation was a major incentive for organizing a bank, so without it, few bankers bothered.

The result was that new organizations practically ceased beginning in 1866; a situation that continued through July 1870. The Civil War was over, confidence in national currency was rising, and profits from circulation were excellent. The brake on the system was the limit on total circulation.

The numbers of new banks chartered during this period were a paltry 39 in 1866, 10 in 1867, 13 in 1868 and eight in 1869. National bank organizations had cratered from 944 in 1865. Consequently the demand for new plates—plates that would bear Jeffries-Spinner signatures—dropped to a trickle.

 

Jeffries and Spinner served together between Oct. 5, 1867 and March 15, 1869. However, their signatures should have been current on plates with plate dates from Oct. 5, 1867 through April 2, 1869, because John Allison didn’t assumed office until April 3, after Jeffries’ departure. Notice that these dates fall squarely in the middle of the lull in bank organizations.

Most of the banks chartered during the Jeffries-Spinner era that received circulation, did so under provisions of an 1865 amendment to the National Bank Act that called for apportionment of half the total $300 million circulation based on population. Consequently the Comptroller moved circulation to under represented states such as New Hampshire.

Four banks chartered during the Jeffries-Spinner sidestepped the cap on circulation through an arcane technicality. They moved.

There were no provisions in national banking law that permitted bankers to move prior to May 1, 1886. The only way they could relocate to greener pastures was to win passage of a special act or resolution of Congress allowing for the change.

If they chose to avoid the hassle of gaining congressional approval, their only other option was to liquidate their existing bank and organize a new one in the new locale. Four banks did that in 1868 during the Jeffries-Spinner era.

They were The First National Bank of Downington, Pa. (338) to The First National Bank of Honeybrook (1676); The First National Bank of New Brunswick, N.J. (208) to The Princeton National Bank (1681); The Second National Bank of Des Moines, Iowa (485) to The Pacific National Bank of Council Bluffs (1684), and The First National Bank of Plumer, Pa. (854) to The First National Bank of Sharon (1685).

Comptroller of the Currency Hiland R. Hulburd treated the new banks as reincarnations of the predecessors in liquidation. He thereby allowed each to take out circulation as fast as the circulation of the predecessor came in for redemption, thus circumventing consideration of the $300 million cap. If, however, the bankers bought bonds for their new bank in excess of those held by the predecessor, circulation could not be taken out against the overage.

When the smoke cleared, 21 banks, with charter numbers between 1671 and 1691, were eligible to receive notes with Jeffries-Spinner signatures. Most got them for at least some of their plate combinations. However, two things caused other signatures to appear on their plates.

Three of the banks chartered at the beginning of the Jeffries-Spinner era used plates bearing a Dec. 24, 1867 plate date, but those plates carried obsolete Colby-Spinner signatures. Those banks are Davenport, Iowa (1671), Atchison, Kan. (1672) and Warner, N.H. (1674). The Colby-Spinner notes issued from them represent the earliest known examples where the signature combination is not mated to the plate date.

Four of the eligible banks had to defer issuing until Congress raised the cap on circulation by another $54 million in the Act of July 12, 1870. When plates finally were ordered for them, they bore Allison-Spinner signatures owing to the delay.

From 21 eligibles, the list of anointed got winnowed down to 14.

Some of the remaining 14 banks that did receive Jeffries-Spinner notes ordered other Original Series plate combinations after the Jeffries-Spinner era. They carried Allison-Spinner signatures. This exceptional circumstance explains why some of the Original Series plate combinations used by the banks are missing from the Jeffries-Spinner list on Table 1.

The Jeffries-Spinner signatures did not survive beyond the Original Series. The Original Series plates were made by the bank note companies. When those plates were altered into Series of 1875 plates at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the bureau put the current names of the Treasury officials on the plates. Jeffries and Spinner were long gone by then. Consequently, the Jeffries-Spinner combination is available only on Original Series notes.

Prior to his stint as Register of the Treasury, Noel F. Jeffries (1828-1896) served in the Civil War, first as a first lieutenant in the Adjunct 59th New York Infantry. He left the service on March 13, 1865, at the rank of brevet brigadier general, noted for faithful and meritorious services in the recruitment of the Armies of the United States.

The foregoing explains why the Jeffries-Spinner signatures were used on so few plates. Table 1 is a complete list of the 14 issuing banks and all of the Jeffries-Spinner plates used by them.

Table 1 also has a summary of the current census of Jeffries-Spinner notes in numismatic hands. There only are two dozen of them, not enough to go around.

The primary thing going against the survival of the Jeffries-Spinner notes issued by those 14 banks is their antiquity. The typical National Bank Note lasted only two or three years in circulation before it wore out. The only way a note issued in the 1860s and 1870s could have survived was for it to have been plucked from circulation and locked away in a hoard or to have been saved by a banker and passed down through his family to the present. The latter is exactly the fate of the No. 1 being shown off here.

The good fortune that befell this wonderful piece defied all odds. Here is a piece of paper that has been passed down for 144 years—the note was printed in 1870—that is a fresh as the day it was delivered to the bank. Sure it has a couple of minute corner dings—so what?

The paper is sound and bright. Humidity has not attacked the sizing that gives the paper its sheen.

Important is that the note is perfectly centered—a rarity for Original Series notes. Original Series notes were so closely spaced on the sheets, the bankers had a hard time not cutting into the meat when they separated them.

It has vivid, bright, legible bank signatures that have not eroded the paper.

And, of course, it was cut from the very first 1-1-1-2 sheet delivered to the bank.

The note is uncirculated because it never was spent, but if you want to split hairs, its technical grade is choice choice AU because a few fingers have touched it during the last 144 years.

What the piece has going for it above all else is that it is what we connoisseurs call totally original. This means that no attempt has been made by any idiot to try to improve it.

The note is simply a thing of beauty. It is the finest known Jeffries-Spinner note.

Where can you go from there?

The note is signed by president Stephen Kenrick and cashier John C. Campbell. At the time they were signing this note their bank had a circulation of $44,300, a modest but respectable amount for a small to medium town in New Hampshire.

The bank was organized Sept. 2, 1868, and chartered Dec. 16. It was in business all the way through the National Bank Note era, so issued notes from every National Bank Note series. The circulation was a modest $50,000 in 1935.

Hillsborough is located 20 miles northwest of Manchester along the Contoocook River. A falls there powered mills. According to information on Wikipedia, the town was settled in 1741 and incorporated in 1772. Today the village center has a population of about 2,000.

Hillsborough was the birthplace in 1804 of Franklin Pierce, 14th U.S. president. Pierce was the only president to hail from New Hampshire.





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