Old banknote worth a pretty penny

This 1902 Prairie City banknote, valued at about $5,000, will go up for auction this weekend.

GREENVILLE, SC – When is a $5 bill worth $5,000?

When it’s over 100 years old – and printed for a Prairie City bank.

In 1963, Gary Latimer, who is from the Monterrey, Calif., area, was clearing out his deceased great uncle’s safety deposit box when he came across the old $5 banknote. Latimer’s uncle was from the Bend area.

The bill, dated as 1902 and 1910, has the First National Bank of Prairie City printed on it, along with the signatures of the bank president F.W. Peet and cashier D.E. Hughes.

Someone offered Latimer $10 for it at the time of finding it, but he decided to hang on to it – he was 23 at the time.

Fast forward to 2015, Latimer discovered the banknote again, and is worth a pretty penny – about $5,000.

Manning Garrett of Manifest Auctions in Greenville, SC, which specializes in rare bank notes, said they were excited to see the bill.

His business will have the banknote up for auction July 11, and can be viewed at www.manifestauctions.com along with many other items.

“There weren’t many of these printed,” Garrett said. “It’s one of the best pieces in this auction.”

National banknotes could be issued by any bank in the country between 1863 and 1935, as long as that bank had a national charter with the federal government. There were 12,635 banks which chose to issue their own money.

Oregon had just 127 national banks in 72 different towns. The banknotes were printed in Washington, D.C., then mailed to local banks where they were signed by the cashier and president of each bank. The money was then circulated throughout the town and beyond just like money is used today.

If a person walked into the local Prairie City bank in 1910 with a $15 check, they would likely receive three $5 bills back drawn off the First National Bank of Prairie City.

Because it was commonplace and just a part of everyday life, very few people thought to save these banknotes.

Today many of them are extremely rare and worth thousands of dollars to the collectors who specialize in them.

The most sought after notes are from small community banks like Prairie City.

Prairie City only had one national bank.

In 1928, all U.S. paper money changed to its current size. Before that, money was about 40 percent bigger than it is today.

One can imagine, when paper money changed sizes, people tried their best to get rid of the old over-sized money because they were worried it would be devalued. That never happened; in fact over-sized money is still legal at its face value.  However, the collector value is of course much greater than the face value.

- Information provided by Manning Garrett, owner and president of Manifest Auctions, LLC.

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