PMG Certifies Seldom-seen $100,000 US Gold Certificate Specimen

Posted on 8/18/2020

PMG recently authenticated and graded a rare 1934 Series Front Specimen of the largest denomination of US paper money ever produced.

Paper Money Guaranty (PMG) has graded an excessively rare, ultra-high denomination note: a 1934 $100,000 Gold Certificate Uniface Front Specimen. PMG’s Choice Uncirculated 63 grade reflects the Specimen’s overall excellent state of preservation, with subtle toning.

Because all the known examples of issued notes are in the possession of the US government, the Specimen represents an ultimate achievement for paper money collectors.

The Specimen (Friedberg# 2413s) features the signatures of United States Treasurer William A. Julian and Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr., as well as a G.F.C. Smillie-engraved portrait of Woodrow Wilson, who was US president from 1913 to 1921. The text above and below Wilson states: “This is to certify that there is on deposit in the Treasury of the United States of America one hundred thousand dollars in gold payable to bearer on demand as authorized by law.” The back is blank except for a silver-colored “SPECIMEN NOT NEGOTIABLE” printing.

1934 $100,000 Gold Certificate Front Specimen
graded PMG 63 Choice Uncirculated.
Click images to enlarge.

1934 $100,000 Gold Certificates were issued exclusively for official use in transferring large sums of money between Federal Reserve Banks and were never released or circulated among the general public. Thus, no issued example is available to the collecting community, making the Specimen the only form available to a collector.

As stated on the back of the PMG holder, this particular Specimen is pedigreed to the Taylor Family Collection. At a February 2005 Heritage Auctions sale held in Dallas, it realized $74,750, including buyer’s premium. Heritage said it was one of three known examples in collectors’ hands.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the US moved to disconnect its currency from the gold standard. After the Gold Reserve Act of 1933, Gold Certificates were withdrawn from circulation. With the 1934 Series Gold Certificate issue, the promise to pay was amended with the phrase “as authorized by law” to indicate that redemption was now restricted only to certain entities.

The Federal Reserve of New York states that the short-lived 1934 Series $100,000 Gold Certificates “were printed from December 18, 1934 through January 9, 1935, and were issued by the Treasurer of the United States to Federal Reserve Banks only against an equal amount of gold bullion held by the Treasury Department.” “Paper Money of the United States” by Arthur and Ira Friedberg lists 42,000 notes being printed, but most were subsequently destroyed by the US government. Issued notes have a distinctive bright orange-colored back.

Only a few examples of issued notes exist today, and they are all in possession of the US government. Recognizing the importance of the 1934 $100,000 Gold Certificates that were withheld from destruction, the Department of the Treasury allows these notes to be on display at the Smithsonian Institution, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), and the Federal Reserve Banks in Richmond and San Francisco. The BEP occasionally exhibits its Specimen sheet of these high-value orange-back notes, according to “Standard Guide to Small-Size US Paper Money 1928 to Date” 10th Edition by John Schwartz and Scott Lindquist.

“We chose PMG to certify this note because of their expertise in grading ultra-rarities of paper money,” said Mark and Martin Anderson of Conejo Valley Stamp and Coin, who acquired the note and submitted it to PMG for certification. “The PMG Guarantee offers an essential assurance that this Specimen is genuine and not overgraded.”

The enduring popularity of the 1934 $100,000 Gold Certificate is evident from the many copies of the note commonly seen in the market, as well as novelty collector items such as gold foil reproductions of the same design type.

“The $100,000 Gold Certificate captures the imagination of US paper money collectors like nothing else,” said PMG Chairman Mark Salzberg. “PMG is honored to have played a role in preserving this historically important Specimen for safe, long-term storage in its holder.”

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