Extremely Rare $500 Legal Tender TypeFr. 185a $500 1874 Legal Tender PMG Very Fine 25. This note was introduced to the numismatic community when it appeared in our September 1996 Auction. The discovery increased the number of known Series 1874 pieces to five, though that number is misleading. Two pieces are permanently impounded in the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the Smithsonian Institution and a third is reported but it lacks sale information, its grade is even unknown. The last, and presumably the only other piece in collector's hands, appeared at public auction once; it realized $44,500 in 1983. As a basic type, this note is incredibly scarce. The design encompasses fourteen Friedberg numbers made up of the 1874, 1875, 1878, and 1880 Series' and many different signature combinations. In total those fourteen Friedberg numbers show only thirty six survivors but more than two thirds of the notes are permanently impounded in various museum and government collections, thus only eleven of those specimens are presumably available to collectors.
At left stands the allegorical figure of Victory, her face long and her posture, a state of calm. Below her rests a tipped cannon and unspent cannon balls, the remnants of a war that affected a nation in a way that can never be captured in a single vignette. At right is Major General Joseph K. Mansfield, one of only a few men immortalized on United States currency for their contributions to the Civil War. The power of Charles Burt's design really comes to light with the knowledge of Mansfield's fate. Victory looks to Mansfield who was himself a casualty of the Union victory at Antietam. He was taken in his prime on the bloodiest day in American history where more than 22,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in battle.
Our previous physical description of this incredible Legal Tender rarity included a detailed account of the overall eye appeal, "At a glance, the colors and brightness give the impression of a fully uncirculated note. The seal, the two large red "D's" and the "500" between them are all bright red -- not the annoying pink that so often occurs on 1874 Series notes." PMG's grading opinion includes the comment, "Restoration", though thorough examination of this note reveals little more than a few closed pinholes, a refreshing departure from the heavy repairs usually associated with major currency rarities as well as the other known examples of this type. After years of maturing, this market may only now be able to fully appreciate this rarity.
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