Local Deposits: Part I

Posted on 3/21/2017

While Sarasota, Florida is known for its sandy beaches, many are not aware of the rare bank notes issued in the early 1900s.

Southwest Florida has a rich history of obscure banks. Sarasota County, where PMG is located, is no exception. In the early 1900s, there were three national banks that opened in Sarasota – none of which lasted more than 10 years as a national charter. This makes the area's national notes quite challenging to see, let alone collect!

The first bank to request a national charter in Sarasota was the Citizens Bank. The bank was started in 1911 by Owen Burns who was the largest landowner in Sarasota at the time. Once Burns was approved for the charter, it converted in 1913 to the First National Bank of Sarasota. The bank operated for ten years as a national bank until 1923, after issuing only $64,750. After forgoing its national charter status, the bank changed names once again to the First Bank and Trust Company becoming a state bank. Six years later, in 1929, the bank closed its doors. This was due in part by the charters fluctuation between its national and state status.

The First National Bank of Sarasota, front
Graded PMG 25 Very Fine
Click image to enlarge.

The First National Bank of Sarasota, back
Graded PMG 25 Very Fine
Click image to enlarge.

In 1925, the American National Bank of Sarasota started its charter in the peak of the roaring 20s. High speculation in this era lead to the bank paying quite a hefty sum of money for the land in which the future building would be on. According to The Illustrated History of Florida Paper Money by Daniel G. Cassidy, the land for the bank was purchased for $500,000, but the previous owners had bought the land just 11 years earlier for $35,000! This amount was before construction even began for their ten story building. The cost of the land and the building didn’t help a bank that only had $100,000 in capital to start. These large debts likely overextended the bank, as it closed its doors three years later in 1928.

Palmer National Bank & Trust Co. was the last national bank to open in Sarasota. This bank has one of the most historic backgrounds due to a woman named Bertha Palmer. Mrs. Palmer was married to Potter Palmer, one of the main developers of Chicago’s State Street. Mrs. Potter was one of the original snowbirds that fell in love with Florida’s winter climate. She purchased around 80,000 acres of land in the Sarasota area or roughly the county of Manatee! Some credit Bertha with bringing attention to the Sarasota area and possibly spurring the town’s growth in the early 20th century.

The Palmer bank was started in Bertha’s namesake by her son Potter Palmer Jr. It was founded in 1929 and began issuing small size national notes. After the Federal Home Loan Bank Act was enacted in 1932, note issuing privileges for national charters began being revoked. Palmer’s National Charter was withdrawn in 1935. The bank’s note issuing privileges ceased but the bank stayed operational until 1976 in which it was sold to Southeast Bank. Some sheets and small size notes are known to have survived from this bank but are still quite rare. A $20 small size Type 1 Palmer National came to auction in January of 2017 and sold for $3,290. According to Heritage Auctions, only three notes have come to auction from this bank since 1990!

National notes are a great way to own history from your hometown. Sarasota isn’t the best example for affordability but there are some nationals that sell for much less and are still in great quality. These “hometown” notes make for a great conversation starter and can help get more people interested in collecting bank notes!


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