100 Greatest American Currency Notes Series: Original and Series of 1875 $50 National Bank Note

It is pretty safe to say that in a series like the 100 Greatest American Currency Notes that a majority of the notes will be classified as rare. That would make a lot of sense, mainly because of all the series and types of currency out there, narrowing them down to a list of only 100 would almost certainly mean that those chosen would have a requirement of rarity. This next note certainly does classify as such.

Along with authors Q. David Bowers and David M. Sundman, we will explore the next note in this blog series that happens to have cracked the top 50. In the only edition of the publication from Whitman Publishing, this note is not only rare now, but it was rare when it was produced in its own time.

#44 - Original and Series of 1875 $50 National Bank Note

These $50 National Bank Notes of both the Original Series and the Series of 1875 are once again, rare. In the National Bank Note Census record curated by Don C. Kelly, there are only 24 known examples of the first Original Series and 62 of the 1875 Series.

Perhaps what makes these notes the most appealing in the grand scheme of things is the design engraved on them. Using the 1851 painting Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emmanuel Gottlieb Leutze as inspiration, the face of the note was designed by J.P. Major and depicts the scene of our first President and his men rowing from Pennsylvania through the icy conditions of the Delaware River on Christmas night in 1776. Trying to reach the New Jersey Shore, the Continental Army went to face the British troops and Hessian mercenaries in the battles of Trenton and Princeton. These battles would end up being a turning point in the American Revolutionary War.

The right side of the note features a vignette called Prayer for Victory. It is also called Washington at Prayer as it shows a kneeling officer of the war with three goddesses hanging above him. A banner with the word “VICTORY” also hangs above. The back of the note features the illustration of the Embarkation of the Pilgrims that was engraved by W.W. Rice from the American Bank Note Co. The mural by artist Robert W. Weir was the inspiration for the engraving. That same engraving concept was also used on a fellow note from this top 100 list in the $10,000 Federal Reserve Note of 1918.

Historic market values for this note in a Very Fine condition have consistently increased over the years. In 1960, the note was valued at $1,200 and by 2006 when this publication was released, it was $26,000.