The William Kelly Confederate Paper Money Sale – The Montgomery Collection

Pierre Fricke's picture

I attended the William H. Kelly Confederate paper money sale held in conjunction with the FUN show in Orlando. Heritage auctions conducted the sale on Thursday night, January 5, 2012. We (my wife and I) arrived in Orlando Sunday, New Year’s Day to stay with a long time friend and get a jump on viewing many lots in this sale. Heading to Florida during the winter is always a well anticipated event, especially to see these friends and visit this FUN show. The company, weather and event would prove to be excellent, more so than most.

William Kelly collected over the last quarter century of the 20th century focusing on building four complete Confederate money type sets, building eight sets of Montgomery notes, and adding a number of major rare varieties to his collection – making the Kelly collection one of the major collections offered (both publicly and privately) over the past century. Indeed, the hallmark of this sale was the 32 Montgomery notes – eight of each type ($1000, $500, $100, $50) – a quantity never before offered in one sale. The last major sales of Confederate notes were the Western Reserve sale and Mayer sale of Montgomery notes (13 examples) in 2007. The Western Reserve sale was noted for its breadth and depth in rare varieties and variety scope in general. The Kelly sale was noted for Montgomery notes. This sale would give us an idea of what mid-to-nicer Montgomery notes were worth on the open market. The Montgomery note market has strengthened with the 150th anniversary of the War for Southern Independence (so-called Civil War) as compared with 2007 where 11 of the 13 Montgomery notes went to dealers. Given how many were offered, we would likely see a number go wholesale to dealers who would then resell them privately or on a public list or table. We will focus on the Montgomery notes in this article while the rest of the sale will be covered in a future article.

We arrived in the room early for several reasons – catch up with old and new friends, grab dinner served by Heritage, and watch the Southern State sale. The room was quite crowded and a good number stayed for the Kelly Confederate sale which followed Obsolete and Southern State. The major dealers present were I, Randy Shipley and Greg Ton. Other dealers bidding included Fred Bart, a noted Federal currency dealer who also deals in Confederate notes from time to time. Several major collectors were present as was William Kelly himself. This was the best time in recent memory to add one or more Montgomery notes to your collection – certainly that was one of my motivations (I am getting very close to completing my second type set – first one to be complete including the Big 6).

Like all major currency offered in Heritage sales, these Montgomery notes were third party graded, in this case by PCGS. I generally like PCGS as the more consistent third party graders of the major two firms. I still like CC&A the best for being the most conservative and using collector-oriented grading, however, PCGS is quite respectable. They’ve become quite adept at grading uncirculated notes as well as detecting problems and repairs. I disagree with their definition of VF – most of their F-15 to VF-30 notes grade somewhat lower on the collector-oriented scale. They also use “Choice” to mean something different than eye appeal – they use it to designate a note with less circulation than the base grade, but too much to make the next higher grade. This will be reflected below where I give my grade and PCGS’s grade.

16233. T-1 PF-1 PCGS Choice About New 58 Apparent. This note was nowhere near apparent AU to me. AU, net Fine with repaired cut-cancels and punch out cancels. $20,125

16234. T-1 PF-1 PCGS Extremely Fine 45 POC and CC. XF-AU punch out cancels and cut-cancelled. $20,125

16235. T-1 PF-1 PCGS Extremely Fine 40 Apparent. XF+, net VF. 2 punch out cancels expertly repaired along with some minor edge work. This had a nice appearance. $37,375

16236. T-1 PF-1 PCGS Very Fine 35 Apparent. VF+ - cut-cancelled once – closed with invisible archival tape. I liked this one for its color and originality and it did not have holes in it repaired or otherwise. My #1. $27,600

16237. T-1 PF-1 PCGS Very Fine 30 Apparent. F-VF to me, Cut-cancelled and obviously closed. $18,400

16238. T-1 PF-1 PCGS Very Fine 30 Apparent. About Very Fine, net F+ or F-VF. Minor repairs. Nice note… my #2. $27,600

16239. T-1 PF-1 PCGS Very Fine 30 Apparent. F-VF, punch out cancels crudely repaired. Net VG. $19,550

16240. T-1 PF-1 PCGS Fine 15. VG-F, original note. Decent lower to mid-grade note. My #3.

16241. T-2 PF-1 PCGS Extremely Fine 45 PPQ. XF to me and would be choice except this note was heavily washed with the date and signatures very weak. Net VF. Notes of similar grade have brought most of 2x this in the past. However, they had good signatures which are important. $34,500

16242. T-2 PF-1 PCGS Very Fine 35 Apparent. VF-XF. Minor ink erosion on signature on reverse repaired (tiny). Net VF. Nice color and cut. This was my #1 T-2. $27,600

16243. T-2 PF-1 PCGS Very Fine 35 Apparent. VF+. Minor rust spots, net VF. Nice color and cut. This was my close #2. $32,200

16244. T-2 PF-1 PCGS Very Fine 30 PPQ. F-VF to me, cut a bit tight on top margin. Still it is original and a nice T-2. My #3. $27,600

16245. T-2 PF-1 PCGS Very Fine 30 Apparent. About Very Fine to me. 2 punch out cancels filled and redrawn. Net Fine. Nice color. $25,300

16246. T-2 PF-1 PCGS Very Fine 30 Apparent. 6 punch-out cancels and cut-cancelled. About VF. Some mounting damage on back. Net F-VF-POC and CC. $18,400

16247. T-2 PF-1 PCGS Very Fine 30 Apparent. VF to me. Some restoration on signature and minor foxing. Net Fine, plus. $18,400

16248. T-2 PF-1 PCGS Fine 15 Apparent. VG-F to me. Major repairs. Net G-VG. $12,650

16249. T-3 PF-2 PCGS Extremely Fine 40 Apparent. XF. Some rust spots, not too bad. Net VF. $11,500

16250. T-3 PF-2 PCGS Very Fine 35 Apparent. VF-XF, a couple of minor repairs that were hard to see. Net VF. $18,400

16251. T-3 PF-2 PCGS Very Fine 35 Apparent. VF+, a couple of small repairs, center. Net F-VF. $17,250

16252. T-3 PF-1 PCGS Very Fine 35 Apparent. VF-XF. Minor edge splits, ink erosion and foxing spots. Washed and pressed obviously. Net Fine, CC. This is the rarer PF-1. Sold after the sale for about $ 8,625

16253. T-3 PF-1 PCGS Very Fine 30 PPQ. Choice F-VF to me. Nice cut and OK color. Rarer PF-1. $13,800

16254. T-3 PF-1 PCGS Very Fine 30. About VF and nearly choice. $16,100

16255. T-3 PF-1 PCGS Very Fine 30 Apparent. F-VF, some minor mounting remnants on back. $11,500

16256. T-3 PF-1 PCGS Very Fine 30 Apparent. F-VF, 2 punch out cancels repaired. Net VG-F. Sold after the sale for about $ 7,763

16257. T-4 PF-2 PCGS About new 50 Apparent. AU to me, minor repair on corner. Net XF. $16,100

16258. T-4 PF-1 PCGS Extremely Fine 40. VF-XF and nearly choice. Rarer PF-1. $25,300

16259. T-4 PF-2 PCGS Extremely Fine 40. VF-XF, trimmed into left margin. $22,500

16260. T-4 PF-2 PCGS Extremely Fine 40. About XF. Minor ink erosion. Net VF+. $14,375

16261. T-4 PF-2 PCGS Very Fine 35. About XF. $17,250

16262. T-4 PF-2 PCGS Very Fine 25. Single hole punch cancel. Pen cancel. F-VF POC/PC. $ 9,200

16263. T-4 PF-2 PCGS Very Fine 25 Apparent. Edge damage. Punch out cancelled. My grade is F-VF, net VG-F POC. $ 4,600

16264. T-4 PF-1 PCGS Fine 15 Apparent. Major repairs and closed cancellations. My grade is Fine, net G-VG. $ 4,600

This auction has helped define the Montgomery market for the early second decade in the 20th century and the 150th anniversary period. As mentioned, a good number of these went to dealers for resale. However, unlike the Mayer sale in 2007, there was quite a lot of collector bidding – some in the room and a lot on the Internet and phone (some of which was likely other dealers too).

We will cover more of the Kelly Confederate paper money sale in a future article. Have fun and enjoy!

Pierre Fricke


I first met Pierre at the 26 Broadway offices of Smythe in the early stages of his work with Dr. Douglas Ball. Douglas was kind enough to spend time with this displaced mid-westerner in the wilds of New York city making us friends in short order. For that reason ,and my general curiosity with all things numismatic, I was always intrigued by Dr. Ball's and Pierre's area of research and expertise.

I can remember the panic that Douglas's illness and eventual passing spread through the dealer and collector community. There was so much knowledge locked up in that incredible memory and I was equally devastated as a recent addition to the Smythe team that would be denied any learning experience or wisdom from Dr. Ball. I count myself lucky to have met him and the entire collecting community was very fortunate indeed that Pierre and Douglas worked together so well. I am sure there were many that helped but I was only acquainted with these two gentlemen authors and researchers.

I don't know the details but I do know the results, at least as I see them. I doubt that many would dispute the fact that the works Pierre has completed (if that is ever really the case as he is always working on something) in the realm of Confederate States issues are the finest to date. I use 'The Collecting Confederate Paper Money, Field Edition 2008' frequently and find it to be exactly what our hobby needs, an easy to understand and trusted reference which spurs collectors to action in the marketplace with a "Field Edition" tucked safely nearby. I admire and marvel at his accomplishments but await his coming works with impatient expectation.

Pierre Fricke's picture

Thanks, Scott. Yes, we do miss Dr. Ball. There were a lot more discussions I wish we had had the chance to have! We were lucky that Stephen Goldsmith and John Herzog saved Dr. Ball's materials which otherwise would have been lost.