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New discovery Stockton banknote collection sets record at Bonhams Coins Sale
Series 1873 $10 Gold Banknote (Friedberg 1146). From the First National Bank of Stockton California Banknote Collection. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Coins and Banknotes auction on August 31 in Los Angeles brought in an impressive $1.6 million in total sales and 97 percent of lots sold at Bonhams, the third largest international fine art auction house in Los Angeles. The newly discovered Stockton California National Banknote collection led the auction taking in $339,300 including the buyer's premium at nearly three times its low estimate and features a Series 1873 $10 Gold Banknote with serial number 1, a Condition Census example. It is particularly special as the extended margin at the top reveals it to be the first note printed on the sheet as well as the first note issued by the First National Gold Bank of Stockton California. Fierce bidding for the collection erupted and ultimately went to an auction room bidder. To Bonhams knowledge, this is a record for this type of large size gold banknote ever at auction.

The gold banknote relates to the California Gold Rush of 1848 and is considered one of the most romantic of all currency issues. National Gold Banknotes of California are easily associated with gold because the paper on which they are printed on is a yellow-gold color. The issuance of these banknotes, as redeemable currency for gold coins, became necessary in order to facilitate the enormous quantities of gold coins in daily transactions where the handling and counting of such coins became too time consuming and made banks operate inefficiently.

Of the coins section in the auction, the $4 Flowing Hair and Coiled Hair "Stellas" fetched strong prices. As an attempt to accommodate international trade and travel for Americans to Europe, the $4 Stellas contained metallic content stated in the metric system and possessed an approximate value to the Spanish 20 peseta, Dutch 8 florin, Austrian 8 florin, Italian 20 lire and French 20 franc piece, among other denominations. An 1879 Flowing Hair $4 Proof 62 PCGS sold for $117,000 and is the most available of the four known varieties of Stellas. Another 1879 $4 Flowing Hair Stella Proof 45 PCGS realized $72,540. Three of the more rare and highly sought after “gilt copper” varieties of Stellas was an 1879 $4 Coiled Hair Stella, an 1880 $4 Coiled Hair Stella (both brought in $72,540 from an estimate of $30,000-40,000), and an 1880 “gilt copper” $4 Flowing Hair Stella that realized $56,160 (with an estimate of $30,000-40,000).

Other top highlights in the sale include a 1776 Continental Dollar (sold for $70,200), an 1818 Texas 1/2 Real Jola (sold for $46,800), a Russia, Peter I the Great gold medal of the Capture of Four Swedish Frigates Near Grengam Island, dated July 27,1720 (sold for $40,950) and an 1836 Gobrecht $1 Original Proof 63 PCGS (sold for $35,100).

Regarding the results of the auction, Paul Song, Bonhams Director of Coins and Banknotes commented, "We are delighted with the results this holiday weekend in our sale of Rare Coins and Banknotes. Despite the recent softness in the price of gold, the prices of virtually all categories of US Gold coins was the strongest in recent memory and our internet bidding feature enlivened the bidding in the auction room and with phone bidders. The fact that most of the material came from several “old time” collections and were completely fresh to the market made many of the prices that much more exceptional."

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