South Carolina fractional currency to be sold
There’s a move afoot in the US to do away with the $1 bill. Think it can’t happen? Canada ceased production of $1 notes more than two decades ago.
Yet, there was a time when bills with a face value of less than a dollar were a regular feature of American commerce.
Throughout a good part of the 19th century so-called fractional currency was popular, with notes as small as 3 cents and 5 cents being produced.
Tomorrow, a handful of fractional currency notes produced by the state of South Carolina while it was part of the Confederate States of America will go up for auction.
Four different notes – one 15-cent issue and three 25-cent issues – are part of a currency sale being put on by Heritage Auctions of Dallas between July 3-10.
The notes were issued in February 1863 by the Bank of the State of South Carolina, and each features a Palmetto Tree, offering evidence that the sabal palmetto has been emblematic of South Carolina for at least 150 years.
The Bank of the State of South Carolina was chartered in 1812 and operated as an arm of the state treasury, according to the S.C. Department of Archives and History.
The bank was formally closed a few years after the South’s defeat, in 1869.
Notes issued by the bank during the War Between the State became a contentious political issue during Reconstruction.
Notes issued by the bank before Dec. 20, 1860, when South Carolina formally seceded, were deemed to be legitimate by the Reconstruction government and were exchanged for 20-year state bonds, but those issued after secession and before the final surrender in the spring of 1865 were considered worthless.
However, things began to change when control of state government shifted away from Northern-backed Republicans to South Carolina-backed Democrats in 1877.
An act was passed in late 1879 that allowed for any of the bank’s post-secession notes to be redeemed for 50 percent of face value, also payable in bonds, according to the state archives and history department.
Beginning in early 1880, the Confederate-era notes were turned in and cancelled, bundled, sealed and set aside for destruction.
Most, however, were never destroyed, but set aside. Boxes filled with these sealed bundles were stored in the State Treasurer’s storage area in the Statehouse for decades.
When rediscovered in the late 1950s, concern over theft prompted their transfer to the State Archives in 1961.
Beginning a few years ago, the state of South Carolina began holding public auctions of these notes, some of which were fractional notes and others $50 and $100 bills.
In state-run sealed-bid auction in May 2011, the reserve price for 15-cent and 25-cent notes produced in June 1862 – the closest comparable to what Heritage is putting up for Auction – was between $30 and $35.