Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Priceless Appraisal: Man Finds $20 Heirloom Worth $250,000

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Priceless Appraisal: Man Finds $20 Heirloom Worth $250,000

Article excerpt

For decades, it was tucked away in a desk drawer, but soon a rare and colorful $20 bill issued to help pay for the Civil War will be in the national spotlight.

"If someone was putting together a complete . . . collection of $20 bills, you've got to have this," said David Sundman, president of Littleton Coin Co., in Littleton, N.H.

The 1866 certificate was discovered this fall when its owner, a man who lives in the Connecticut River Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont, tried to determine the value of old money passed down through his family.

The owner, who wants to remain anonymous, learned he was holding a treasure, worth at least $250,000, in Sundman's estimation.

"I collect large-sized paper money," Sundman said, "and I was in shock."

It is one of only six known examples of 48,000 such bills circulated between 1865 and 1878 to help finance the Civil War. The series, Sundman said, comprises the rarest $20 bills ever circulated in the country.

"Collectors will be astonished," he said.

The owner said that when he first asked a couple of dealers to appraise coins and 64 other pieces of 19th century paper money he received, he got conflicting answers. One estimated the collection was worth $1,100. A second "spotted something of great interest," and estimated the value at $2,000, the owner said.

"It just struck me there may be something here worth pursuing," the owner said, and was referred to Sundman's company.

"We told them right away, 'This is a big deal,' " Sundman said.

Of the six such bills known to survive, one is in the Smithsonian Institution and another is in the government's Bureau of Public Debt, Sundman said. Three are in collectors' hands. The latest is in Littleton's vault, awaiting auction next spring at the Chicago Paper Money Exposition, one of largest paper money events in the world.

A similar $20 bill discovered last year sold at auction for $528,000, he said. …

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