Thursday, December 22, 2011

Santa Claus as Depicted on Obsolete Bank Notes

By Kathy Lawrence
Heritage Auctions
December 22, 2011

Many countries have versions of St. Nicholas. The American version came to us by means of the early Dutch settlers in New York (then known as New Amsterdam). That version of Santa Claus was a much thinner man than what we're accustomed to today. The poem, "The Night Before Christmas," (originally published as "A Visit From St. Nicholas") by Clement Clarke Moore in 1823 forever altered our view of the man and led to an increased popularity of Santa. Moore wrote the Christmas poem for his children, but it was later widely published along with a representation of Santa that was painted by newspaper artist Thomas Nast in 1870 based on Moore's poem.

A number of Northern states designated Christmas as a state holiday in the mid 1800s. Since banks often chose vignettes that would lead customers to have faith in the bank, it is not surprising that Santa Claus vignettes were chosen by some banks to help acquire confidence and goodwill. The banks may have also hoped that customers would set a lower denomination note aside as a keepsake due to the Santa vignette as well. The vignettes found in this collection portray both the thinner Dutch version of Sinterklaas as well as the more Americanized version.

Heritage Currency is pleased to present The Roger H. Durand Santa Claus Notes Collection as part of our FUN Signature Currency Auction being held in Orlando from January 5 thru 8. Given the fact that most of the notes with Santa Claus vignettes are scarce to extremely rare, this is indeed a fabulous and noteworthy collection. Roger's initial purchase that began this collection took place in 1960 at a cost of $17 — several multiples of what most Obsoletes cost at that time. At that time, there was only one reference on the subject — a five page monograph by John A. Muscalus, Ph.D. published in 1959. That work was followed in 1973 by a publication from Larry L. Ruehlen that ignited the interest of collectors.

There were far fewer notes than there was demand for and the notes are generally prized and closely held, so building a collection was quite the challenge. Although that is still the case, the sale of the American Bank Note Company archives in 1990 did add more material to the marketplace along with Part VI of the Ford sale in October 2004, although the Ford sale consisted primarily of material he purchased at the 1990 sale. The continued interest in the Santa Claus vignettes is evidenced by the fact they took the number 23 spot on the list of The 100 Greatest American Currency Notes list, and the recent auction sale of a circulated Santa Claus note for over $40,000, an amazing price indeed for any obsolete banknote.

May your eyes twinkle and your dimples be merry this holiday season.

1 comment:

Jay said...

Really great article Tom!

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