I asked authors Pierre Fricke and Fred Reed for some more information about their new book, History of Collecting - Confederate States of America Paper Money Volume 1, 1865 to 1945.
We wrote the book to provide a view of how people collected Confederate paper money over the years in a complete context ordered by time with vignettes of the people, collections, books, auctions, dealers, events as a backdrop - including touching on related areas such as CSA "coins", Southern States paper money and CSA Bonds.
We also wanted a book to put the condition census of rare notes and provenance in context which is included on the DVD. There are also many other collecting tools such as checklists, exhibit lists, old auction catalogs' CSA sections, recent auction results and 7 years' worth of my blog articles on the DVD.
As we see carrying on today, people collected these fascinating artifacts of one of the most significant periods in US history in a variety of ways and from the wealthy collecting thousands of notes to the modest which can also be an interesting collection. We stopped at 1945 as the book was passing 300 pages (it ended up being 340) and had plenty more to add from 1945-2015. We wanted an affordable, high value package that was easy to pick up and read and not be too big and intimidating. It will take us a few more years to get 1945-2015-16 done and wanted something out during the 150th anniversary.
Several things were learned... ten come to mind tonight.
1. Collecting CSA paper money started in earnest in the numismatic sense in 1865. Mostly in Boston in the northeast down to Richmond Virginia.
2. It took time to get to stable type categorization system. Actually did not happen until the 1960s when Criswell's type system took hold (with some arguable errors or items of contention one might add). The variety system continues to evolve, which you can see across the various books and auction of the period (and now in the 21st century again - Volume 2 topic).
3. Counterfeits did not become more popular until after this period.
4. The so-called "essay" notes or fantasy notes T-47/XX-2 and T-48/XX-3 were not sought out by the vast majority of these earlier collectors - later popularized by Chase and especially Criswell post 1945. (An aside, there is little chance these are "essays" in the sense of "proofs" as is commonly thought of an essay as the quality is poor and there are too many of them). Still, they are fascinating and a great add to a type set.
5. CSA paper money did not just go up in value, though it increased greatly over the 1865-1945 period driven by more collectors/interest and inflation. The 1890s and 1930s were tough on CSA paper money (and many other things as these were depression years mostly).
6. Most collectors focused on the major designs (types) and interesting varieties. Many collectors also had plate letter/number (plen) sets, e.g., A-H of the major varieties which drove huge collections of thousands of notes - but most of these were very cheap... many notes for less than 0.01 each. A few went for all documented varieties - none that we know of got there during the period (Dr Ball in his 1987 sale remains the closest, though the potential exists for at least one 21st century collector (not me) to get closer - no one has achieved what Dan Holmes did in large cents yet - may never happen).
7. While there was some interest in other types of error, military signature issues on $100 7.3% interest notes and other non-variety anomalies, collecting these became more popular in the past 20 years - topic for volume 2.
8. Many of the CSA collectors also had significant interests in other areas of numismatics - especially early US coins (large cents being most popular) and obsolete / colonial paper money.
9. CSA paper money was not plated much at all during this period in the auction catalogs - these plates were mostly reserved for early American coins (up to 1815, though some later issues too) from colonials to gold.
10. Grading interpretations were all over the map... in general, grading was not much of an issue during this early period as most CSA paper money was "cheap" and had shallow price curves (people looked for an example that was decent, but most did not drive hard for census level notes). What we call Ch VF-XF or better might have been called AU or Unc. Today this is a different situation with higher prices and steep price curves for some types and varieties - another volume 2 topic.
The only thing that I'd add to the excellent commentary that Pierre sent you about our new book is that these early first Confederate collectors were for the most part really more antiquarians than hobbyists. They were studious and meticulous, albeit voracious in their antiquarian appetites.
They were interested in everything antique (including genealogy, autographs, paper documents, letters and printed ephemera), and these curious rebel notes were part of an overall interest in times past. Many of these first collectors, of course, also had personal remembrances of the war; some had served (mostly in the Union Army), and these notes were curios,
and for the Yankees evidences that the rebellion was not only a "lost cause" but a very flawed one at that.
You can quote me on this, although it won't make me any friends with the highly partisan neo-Confederates of the world. AND you can quote that too!