“Grand Watermelon” Note

A legendary $1,000 bill known as the “Grand Watermelon” was recently sold at public auction for the amazing sum of $2,255,000. It was the highest price ever paid for any United States paper money and probably a record for any bank note anywhere in the world.

Few people have seen any $1,000 bill in recent years. The government stopped making them around 1948 and they have been gradually withdrawn from circulation ever since. They are still legal tender, but because so many were being used in illegal trading, a decision was made to stop printing any bills over the $100 denomination. Whenever any $500, $1,000 or $10,000 bill is turned in to a bank today it is sent to Washington for redemption and destruction.

A limited supply of high denomination bills remains in the hands of collectors, but they are so scarce that even the most common variety is valued at about $1,250 regardless of condition. I have heard of incidents where collectors have been called upon to “rent” $1,000 bills to photographers or movie studios for use in an advertisement or movie scene. Do not bother asking your local bank to find one for you, they simply do
not exist in normal banking channels. About the only time they do come on the market is when some forgotten legacy or hoard is accidentally discovered.

1890 $1000 "Grand Watermelon" Note

1890 $1000 “Grand Watermelon” Note

1890 $1000 "Grand Watermelon" NoteEver since the earliest days of federal paper money in this country, around the time of the Civil War, it was commonplace for bills over $100 to be available to anyone who could afford them. At a time when the use of checks was limited and there were no credit cards, the large bills were necessary for commerce. Many different kinds of $1,000 bills have been made since the first ones of 1862, but none are so colorful and coveted as the unusual one with a design called the “grand watermelon” that was made in 1890.

The descriptive moniker was given to this note because of the way the zeros in 1000 are shaped. They are fat and oblong, and look something like watermelons. A similar feature is seen on the companion $100 note that was made at the same time. Both are Treasury Notes of series 1890. The $100 bill has a portrait of
Commodore Farragut, while the $1,000 shows the head of Civil War General Gordon Meade. Collectors have long held these to be two of the most sought after pieces of United States paper money because of their rarity unusual designs. The $100 notes have sold for prices up to $35,000 each, but no specimen of the $1,000 note has appeared on the market for many years.

It is estimated that fewer than 25 of the “grand watermelon” notes have not been redeemed by the government, and it is doubtful that more than a half dozen still exist.

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The Man Who Turned Lead Into Gold

It was man’s ancient dream. Peasants, alchemists, kings and commoners have all chased after the formula for turning lead into gold. The one man who successfully did it is long dead now, but his method did not die with him.

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However, up until now no one else has ever put it to use, and hopefully no one ever will again.

The successful magician was General Augustino Sandino, the famous leader of a rather nasty revolution in Nicaragua that began in the later months of 1927 and lasted for almost two years. The fighting was fierce
enough that the United States Marines were called in to quell the hostilities, and Sandino led them on a merry chase up and down the country.

During that pursuit the General needed provisions from time to time. Victim of his foraging might be a frightened grocer whose shelves would be swept bare by the bandit army. Of course the General was always courteous and offered payment in special coins made just for such a contingency. His money was not the usual Government Issue, but everyone knew that they had to accept it or else.

One of Sandino’s early conquests gained control of the San Albino gold mine. It was his intent to use gold from that source to finance his campaign, but there was never enough time to successfully mine the precious metal. In a panic he ordered troops to tear out all the lead water pipes they could find. He had a scheme for making lead as valuable as gold, and he put his plan to work quite successfully. There was no real mystery to it. The General simply declared that the flimsy lead coins he made were “gold”, and no one dared to challenge his claim.

Sandino 10 Pesos Oro

Sandino 10 Pesos Oro

The crude coins that Sandino made have the inscription 10 PESOS ORO (gold), and INDIOS DE A. C. SANDINO. They are about the size of a U.S. half dollar but much thicker.Most of them were destroyed over the years and it is estimated that only four or five are still in existence. At the time the coins were issued it was rumored that some were made of gold and silver, but no such pieces have ever been reliably reported.

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2013 West Point American Silver Eagle Set Creates Excitement

One of the most anticipated sets to be released this year is creating quite a buzz in the coin collecting world. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the U.S. Mint’s West Point facility, this unique 2-coin Silver Eagle was produced. This is the first set to include the history making enhanced uncirculated and reverse proof Silver Eagles. Both coins are minted at the West Point facility and bear the “W” mint mark.

2013 American Eagle West Point Two-Coin Silver Set

2013 American Eagle West Point Two-Coin Silver Set

The unique coin included in the set will feature an enhanced uncirculated finish. On the obverse, the mountains, red stripes and blue field of the American

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flag, Liberty’s sandals, and the date carry an uncirculated finish. The remaining design elements and inscriptions carry a heavily frosted finish. On the reverse, the ribbon in the eagle’s beak, arrows, olive branch, the alternating stripes and border of the shield carry an uncirculated finish. The remaining design elements and inscriptions carry a heavily frosted finish. The fields of both the obverse and reverse feature a new light frosted finish. Together, the three different finishes create a new impression of the well known design.

This will be the first time that the enhanced uncirculated finish has been used on the American Silver Eagle.

The American Historic Society is offering this beautiful set in a limited “Inaugural Strike” first day of release edition. In addition both coins are graded in RP70 and EU70 respectively. This flawless designation makes this set even more desirous.

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Coin Trivia

449-404 BC Ancient Silver Tetradrachm

449-404 BC Ancient Silver Tetradrachm

In coin collecting, “friction” refers to

  1. tension between a collector and dealer
  2. shiny coins showing slight wear on high spots of the design
  3. washing rarities with soap and water
  4. all of those.


Answer: 2

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Buffalo Nickel

Buffalo nickel

1913 Buffalo nickel

1913 Buffalo nickel – Obverse

Weight: 5 g
Diameter: 21.21 mm
Edge: Plain
Composition: 75% copper 25% nickel
Designer: James Earle Fraser

1913 Buffalo nickel - Type 1 Reverse

1913 Buffalo nickel – Type 1 Reverse

1935 Buffalo nickel - Type 2 Reverse

1935 Buffalo nickel – Type 2 Reverse

In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt expressed dissatisfaction over the current coin designs of the time. One of these designs was the 5-cent piece or more commonly known as the nickel. According to law, a coins’ design could only be changed every 25 years without special Congressional approval. Therefore in 1909, one year after the Liberty Head nickel design was eligible for change, Mint Director Frank Leach, instructed Mint Engraver Charles Barber to create a new design. Barber introduced a design featuring George Washington. However, after Leach left office later that year, the project was discontinued. The Liberty Head nickel continued to be minted.

The Unique Design

Eames MacVeagh, the son of Treasury Secretary Franklin MacVeagh wrote to his father on

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May 4, 1911:

A little matter that seems to have been overlooked by all of you is the opportunity to beautify the design of the nickel or five cent piece during your administration, and it seems

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to me that it would be a permanent souvenir of a most attractive sort. As possibly you are aware, it is the only coin the design of which you can change during your administration, as I believe there is a law to the effect that the designs must not be changed oftener than every twenty-five years. I should think also it might be the coin of which the greatest numbers are in circulation.

Such a letter motivated MacVeagh to look into the matter. During this time, design submissions for the new nickel were requested. James Earl Fraser, a student sculptor who worked with the legendary Augustus Saint-Gaudens , submitted a design featuring a Native American on one side and a bison on the other. This design was favorably received by the Mint Director and recommended to MacVeagh to commission Fraser to complete the design. On July 10, 1912, Fraser brought models and electrotypes to a meeting with MacVeagh, who enthusiastically agreed with the final design.

Franklin MacVeagh

Franklin MacVeagh


On February 22, 1913, during a groundbreaking ceremony for the National American Indian Memorial, Staten Island, NY, the first nickels were distributed. The Buffalo nickel was officially released on March 4, 1913, with mixed reviews.

Shortly after production began, it was observed that dies were wearing three times faster than with the Liberty Head nickel design. Barber made revisions to the design to enlarge the words “FIVE CENTS” and modified the hill to flat ground on which the bison stands. These changes were not successful to lengthen die life, but further changes were denied.

A well-known variety in the series is the 1937–D “three-legged” nickel, on which one of the buffalo’s legs is missing. It is believed that this variety was caused by a pressman, Mr. Young, at the Denver Mint, who in seeking to remove marks from a reverse die (caused by the dies making contact with each other), accidentally removed or greatly weakened one of the animal’s legs. By the time Mint inspectors discovered and condemned the die, thousands of pieces had been struck and mixed with other coins.

Another variety is the 1938-D/S, caused by dies bearing an “S” mintmark being repunched with a “D” and used to strike coins at Denver. While the actual course of events is uncertain, the variety was created because Buffalo nickel dies intended for the San Francisco mint were repunched with the “D” and sent to Denver so they would not be wasted—no San Francisco Buffalo nickels were struck in 1938, but they were produced at Denver, and it was already known that a new design would be introduced. The 1938-D/S was the first repunched mintmark of any US coin to be discovered, causing great excitement among numismatists when the variety came to light in 1962.

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