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    Very Rare Kingdom of Hawaii Note

    Hawaii Kingdom of Hawaii Certificate of Deposit $20 1879 (1880) Pick 2b
    The reference, Hawaiian Money, by Donald Medcalf and Ronald Russell is the most comprehensive resource for Hawaiian numismatics. Still, little is known about the earliest currency issues of the islands and the rarity of the 1879 issue cannot be understated. According to Medcalf and Russell, discussion of government issued currency is known as early as 1845. Coinage of the United States and other governments filled the needs of commerce as well as a few private scrip issues. In 1859, the Hawaiian Government issued certificates of deposit, though only a lone survivor is known today. It is a $50 note that looks more like a check than a currency issue.

    The 1870's was a tough decade for the Kingdom. A slew of troubles faced the most important segment of the economy, sugar growers. Transportation costs were at record levels, U.S. tariffs on sugar were damaging exports, and labor shortages were so severe that the government was supplementing relocation costs for Norwegians to move to the islands to assist growers. Most economies facing financial crises of this magnitude often turn to issuing currency to prevent worsening of the economy and Hawaii decided to do just that in 1879. The currency failed to make the desired impact since the entire issue was backed by silver in the Treasury. It simply replaced hard currency for paper and did not expand the money supply. Vignettes from notes circulating in South America and printed by the American Bank Note Co. were selected to adorn $10, $20, $50, $100, and $500 denominations.

    According to Medcalf and Russell, 200 of the $500 notes were printed and issued. They were all redeemed and no print runs were published in their book for the other denominations. Serial number ranges for the other notes indicate they were likely printed and released in quantities of 8,000 to 12,000, though the number of survivors is minuscule. The book's census of the 1879 issue shows only three uncancelled notes in private hands. A $50 example is listed by serial number, and a $10 and $100 are reported in private hands, but without confirmation by serial number. The only other uncancelled note is a $10 listed by serial number and resides in the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. Cancelled examples are much more common and likely number between 14 and 20. However, 10 of those examples are all locked up in the Hawaii State Archives.

    After a breakdown of the research provided in Hawaiian Money, we estimate there are likely six to ten cancelled notes in private collectors hands, only three of them of the $20 denomination. This piece bears serial number 6208 and was cut cancelled at bottom. It spent considerable time in circulation, likely a vote of confidence among islanders that their currency was sufficiently backed by the treasury. With no recent realizations to use for values, any estimate is a guess and could easily be surpassed. PMG Good 4, CC.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2013
    9th-14th Wednesday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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