Friedberg 1225 - the Series 1900 $10,000
Posted on 7/24/2012
Numismatic lore and many auction descriptions tell the story of a fire at the then "new" Washington, DC Post Office at 12th and Pennsylvania on Friday December 13, 1935. During this event, many government records were tossed out of the sixth floor windows and into the street below, and among these records were several hundred cancelled $10,000 gold certificates. Many onlookers picked the notes up and took them home. This is the accepted explanation behind why many are found with moisture stains and a few with charring.
Newspaper accounts of the day tell us that this was one of the most unusual fires in the history of Washington, DC. The first alarm occurred shortly after midnight. The fire started in a large filing room on the sixth floor that was crammed full of flammable material, then spreading to other similar filing rooms. Hoses had to be hauled into fifth floor windows with the help of ropes and then dragged through the corridors and up the stairs to the sixth floor. These filing rooms were locked, so axes and crowbars were employed to break the doors down. Eventually, the fire would go to five alarms and fire departments as far away as Virginia and Maryland responded. The filing rooms lacked sprinkler systems and ventilation, requiring walls and floors to be breached to let the smoke out. A lack of gas masks caused 41 firemen to be overcome with smoke and taken to the hospital. Luckily, all of them would recover. In the meantime, a crowd of several thousand assembled in the street below. Files of the General Accounting Office, plus files from other government agencies were thrown out of windows (the sixth floor only had windows along one side), in order to deny the fire future nourishment. This is when the Series 1900 cancelled $10,000 Gold Certificates rained down on the lucky onlookers and eventually into the numismatic community.
Within a couple of days of the conflagration there were three different inquiries on the fire. The first theory of how the fire started was that an electric "drop" light had been resting on a large stack of papers and its 100 watt bulb caught the papers on fire. However, Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes reported on December 27, 1935 that the fire was caused by a lighted cigarette or cigar. President Franklin Roosevelt chimed in that he was shocked that Federal buildings were not under the jurisdiction of local fire departments. Congress would take swift action to correct this oversight. The fire damage was estimated at $300,000.
The popular Friedberg (Fr.) reference, Paper Money of the United States by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg, devotes number 1225 to this design. Starting with the latest and current nineteenth edition of this publication, each Treasury officer signature combination gets its own subset number 1225a through 1225h. Even within these eight different numbers, there are several additional varieties that include different issue dates and other more minor differences.
The Friedberg numbering system is:
|Fr. #||Register-Treasurer||Dates of Service||Printed||Serial Numbers|
|1225a||Lyons-Roberts||04/07/1898 - 06/30/1905||36,000||E1 - E36000|
|1225b||Lyons-Treat||07/01/1905 - 04/01/1906||6,000||H1 - H6000|
|1225c||Vernon-Treat||06/12/1906 - 10/30/1909||36,000||H6001 - H42000|
|1225d||Vernon-McClung||11/01/1909 - 03/14/1911||18,000||K1 - K18000|
|1225e||Napier-McClung||08/15/1911 - 11/21/1912||18,000||K18001* - K36000|
|1225f||Napier-Burke||04/01/1913 - 09/30/1913||6,000||M1 - M6000|
|1225g||Parker-Burke||10/01/1913 - 12/31/1914||30,000||M6001 - M36000|
|1225h**||Teehee-Burke||03/24/1915 - 11/20/1919||213,000||M36001 - M249000|
| *Serial number K18001 was in our January 2009 FUN Auction|
**(Only 127,250 may have been issued of Fr. 1225h.
It is interesting to note that due to the short length that Register of the Treasury James C. Napier and Treasurer of the United States Carmi A. Thompson served together (11/22/1912 - 03/31/1913) that their signature combination does not appear on this design. Another interesting fact is that there are no serial numbers recorded for Fr. 1225f which had a printing of a mere 6,000 notes.
There are two major censuses for United States large size paper money. The Gengerke Census has recorded 361 Friedberg 1225's and the Track & Price Census has recorded 380 as of this writing. It is estimated that 80% of the Fr. 1225's are of the Teehee-Burke signature variety (1225h). Fr. 1225g and 1225h are the numbers that were made payable to the Federal Reserve Board and later the notes were roulette cancelled through the portrait with "Payable to the Treasurer of the U.S. or a Federal Reserve Bank."
The scarcer Fr. 1225's (1225a-1225f) were issued before the creation of the Federal Reserve Board in December 1913 and were payable to large national banks with New York City and Philadelphia being the two most popular locations. The national bank's name and city could be either hand-written, rubber-stamped, or typed in. Since these notes carry the name of a national bank, you can add one or more of these fascinating Gold Certificates to your National Bank Note collection.
The thoughts and opinions in this piece are those of their author and are not necessarily the thoughts of the Certified Collectibles Group.