Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bad day to be bear hunting

Few of those who follow this blog know that in the years before I became involved with creating and growing the sportscards division at Krause Publications, I was involved in the company's numismatic division.

I was originally hired on June 10, 1974, as an editorial assistant on the weekly coin collectors' newspaper Numismatic News. A couple of years later I was editor of the monthly newsstand glossy magazine Coins.

In those years my interests tended toward the field of U.S. paper money and related collectibles. I wrote many columns and feature stories on the subject, and eventually co-authored with Chet Krause the Standard Catalog of U.S. Paper Money. 

In 1979, Krause Publications bought a monthly newspaper titled Bank Note Reporter, covering all manner of paper currency and fiscal paper (checks, stocks, bonds, etc.). These were all areas in which Chet Krause had personally collected over the years. Recognizing my own interests in these areas, I'm convinced to this day that Chet bought BNR for me to play with. I was the paper's editor when it came into the company through the  early 1980s, when the growing baseball card periodicals took me away from the numismatic end of the business. 

The field of fiscal paper was interesting to me because these pieces of historical paper were often directly tied to famous persons, places, businesses, and events.

A second attraction were the vignettes which sometimes appeared on the currency, stocks, bonds or checks. Vignettes are the "pictures" that appear on such paper. Their heyday was the period roughly 1850-1900. They were generally accomplished via the medium of steel engraving. 

While the principal purpose of such vignettes was to deter counterfeiters, they also sometimes served the purpose of projecting an image favorable to the issuing authority, such as a patriotic theme or a depiction of an impressive headquarters building. 

One of my retirement projects has been working with Chet Krause to research the stocks, bonds and checks he accumulated over more than 50 years of collecting.

I want to share one item with you because it features a vignette I don't recall seeing before. 

The vignette shows an out-of-luck Indian hunter who pissed off a large bear by breaking off a lance into its shoulder. The hapless hunter is now in the unenviable position of having brought a knife to a teeth-and-claws fight. His horse appears to be similarly shit out'ta luck, with the wounded bear's mate or companion clamped onto its jugular.

The vignette was the work of the engravers at National Bank Note Co., New York, which created all manner of checks, stock and bond certificates, bank notes and even U.S. currency.

The piece bearing this dramatic image is a check on The Rocky Mountain National Bank of Central City, Colorado Territory, dated Nov. 29, 1875. The check was written by J.S. Reynolds, the bank's cashier, to attorney Morrell B. Messenger. It was paid at Kountze Brothers, Bankers in New York. There must have been some sort of connection between the banks, as Herman Kountze was president of the Colorado bank.

This check will be sold on eBay on April 20. I see that when he bought it, Chet paid $20 for it. It will be interesting to see what it sells for.

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