Treasure Trove of North Carolina Colonial NotesNorth Carolina Colonial Notes Roughly one thousand North Carolina Colonial notes are included in this lot ranging from the April 4, 1748 issue to December 1771, many of them with appealing vignettes. However, not all denominations within those issues are represented. The notes present a time capsule of sorts, providing a snapshot into the lives of the people of North Carolina during that period. As the notes circulated and became worn and tattered, measures were taken to reinforce the remaining paper so the money could continue to be circulated. In order to fully appreciate the connection between the largely well-circulated pieces contained in this lot and the glimpse into history they provide a brief overview may prove useful to tie the two together.
In the early 1700's, inhabitants of North Carolina were looked down upon by their more aristocratic neighbors, Virginia and South Carolina. According to Thomas A. Bailey's The American Pageant, North Carolina, along with Rhode Island, was considered to be "the most democratic, the most independent-minded, and the least aristocratic of the original thirteen English colonies." North Carolina had become a separate colony in 1712 and in 1729 it became a royal English colony. As opposed to South Carolina's planters who grew lucrative crops of rice and indigo, the tobacco crop of North Carolina left the farmers poor overall. The early inhabitants consisted largely of Welsh, Highland Scots, and Scots-Irish immigrants. A number of the notes are backed with pages from their bibles and religious tracts.
The Native American population was greatly reduced in the late 1730's due to a smallpox epidemic. A second epidemic in 1759 further decimated the Indian population. Decades later, yet another smallpox epidemic would affect the printing of North Carolina's 1779 currency, but that is another story.
New Bern was chosen as the colonial capital in 1745. In one of the many colonial era migrations, German descendants began moving into North Carolina from Pennsylvania around 1748. Several notes in this group are backed with portions of pages from German bibles and almanacs.
James Davis (1721-1785) became the first printer to set up a press in North Carolina when he did so on June 24, 1749. Davis had been recruited to New Bern from his Williamsburg, VA home with an initial five year appointment as the government printer to the North Carolina colony. In that capacity, Davis printed North Carolina's paper money. In 1751 he also began publishing the North Carolina Gazette, the colony's first newspaper. News of the day included information on ships that had arrived, advertisements, information on current events in Europe, tables listing when the various phases of the moon would be appearing, colonial medical tips and treatment information, and also poems and other literature. Portions of newspapers were used as backing to reinforce worn notes.
A number of armed conflicts, including the French and Indian War, took place in the 1750's and 1760's that included the use of the North Carolina militia against various Native American tribes. Numerous endorsements are seen by various Captains and other officers on the backs of the notes.
In addition to the printed materials that were used as backing, handwritten pages were also used; including penmanship practice sheets, portions of letters and handwritten legal documents, and financial records. In many cases, notes were backed with multiple layers. Plain materials were also used including coarse blue and brown papers, canvas, cloth, and blank paper. A variety of elements were used to attach the backing including pins, various types of threads, wax, and adhesive substances.
Unlike the paper money that was issued in the other colonies, many of the North Carolina issues were endorsed on the back. In some cases, the backs of the notes are littered with so many endorsements that it is virtually impossible to make out the names. However, in many cases, numerous names can be viewed on the notes. Combined with a little genealogical research, an even greater appreciation of the material may be realized.
This lot is not for everyone. As mentioned, the majority of the notes are well-circulated and many experienced paper loss along the way, thereby decreasing their numismatic value. In addition to the large number of contemporary repairs, there are also some notes with non-contemporary repairs. The November 2009 Greensheet lists North Carolina notes in VG 8 at $65 bid. While some of the notes contained in the lot may meet or exceed that grade, there are certainly many pieces that will fall far short.
However, this lot would be a fantastic acquisition for a collector interested in North Carolina history and numismatics or a dealer with a plan to market the material. A collection of North Carolina material this size will likely never be seen again, so this may well prove to be a one-time only opportunity. This lot is being offered without an estimate or a reserve. Due to the volume and condition of this material, lot viewing is strongly encouraged. There will be no returns on this lot for any reason.
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