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Noteworthy Notes: 1864 $50 Changeover Pair

By Philip Thomas - October 12, 2023

About 2,500 years ago, Heraclitus notably proclaimed that change is the only constant in life. “There is nothing permanent except change,” quipped the esteemed pre-Socratic Greek philosopher millennia prior to the production of this particular pair of 1864 $50 Confederate States of America (CSA) seventh-issue treasury notes that later came to wholly substantiate his theory.

The predictably persistent change within the rowdy arena of notaphily (the study and collection of paper money) comes in many forms. Nation-states are founded and then fall; financial institutions flourish and then fail. Featured dignitaries and signatories come and go, printing and security feature technology advances, and other more subtle date and design revisions are implemented by printers and issuers over time for one reason or another. Each of these necessary transitions yields more and more material for us numis-enthusiasts to consider and collect. And sometimes, if you get really lucky, you can capture the precise moment that something changed... In the form of a changeover pair!

These two 1864 $50 Confederate States of America notes represent a changeover pair, evidenced by both their consecutive serial numbers and changes in the appearance of the lettering over the vignette of Jefferson Davis. Courtesy of PCGS. Click images to enlarge.

The first of two fundamental criteria for changeover pairs involves their serial numbers. Those numbers must be sequential. In the case of CSA changeovers, serial numbers can either be machine printed (as it is with these, 3450 and 3451 letter-pressed in black ink at center-left and center-right) or handwritten (as it is with nearly all other CSA issues). Consequently, a consecutive run of notes, originally printed together and miraculously remaining that way decades after issuance is the prerequisite to have a chance at locating a changeover pair. The two-note duo profiled here has been partnered in direct contact for over 150 years and came from a larger partial pack quantity that successfully fended off the commercial pressure to be divided up and dispensed out piecemeal.

The remaining criterion (the clincher, if you will) involves the specific varieties of each of the notes. There must be some sort of varietal distinction between the two, preferably a readily identifiable distinction recognized by a reputable numismatic reference guide or publication. While both notes of this pair fall under the T-66 major type umbrella, the two have been assigned different PF-numbers (“Fricke” – the current standard reference) as well as different CR-numbers (“Criswell” – an older reference system still in use by some). Varieties within the CSA domain approach a thousand in number and can involve obvious plate design differences, series number, “plen” (plate number and letter) positioning and size, various engraving errors, paper varieties, and watermarks. In this case, the variety distinction involves the presence (or lack) of a flourish just above “Con” of “Confederate” at upper center, over the portrait vignette of first-and-only CSA President Jefferson Davis.

This note, bearing serial number 3450, exhibits flourish. Courtesy of PCGS. Click image to enlarge.
This example, with serial number 3451, is without flourish. Courtesy of PCGS. Click image to enlarge.

PCGS Banknote staff is trained to be on the lookout for variety shifts across consecutively serial numbered notes that would qualify for the changeover pair attribute and is proud to be at the forefront of changeover pair identification as it pertains to CSA issues, a notion relatively new to the realm of professional third-party certification.

Change can be undeniable, and resistance to it can indeed be futile. In any event, this spectacular CSA changeover pair is undeniably irresistible!

Article provided by PCGS at
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