Historical Capital Region Currency Exhibit Opening

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Fractional Currency 10 cents courtesy Ferris CoinOne of the Capital Region’s oldest rare coin dealers will present an exhibit of early local currency in Albany, celebrate its Grand Re-Opening in a new building at 199 Wolf Road on November 1st. There will be an 11:45 am ribbon cutting and unveiling of an exhibit, which will run until November 22, 2017.

“Capital Region Currency: A History of Money in America” is a small exhibit featuring a sampling of currency used in the Capital Region dating from the Colonial era to present day. Many of the paper notes were printed locally and bear the names of Capital Region cities, including Albany, Schenectady, Watervliet, Hudson and Troy.

The earliest of local and regional notes were legal tender, but it was difficult to spend a New York note outside of the colony. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, a new paper currency circulated.

Continental Currency notes from New York are printed on thick stock paper, with ornamentation around the border, and early versions of the New York Seal with beavers, windmills, kegs and Dutch trading symbols. Some notes have pieces of mica embedded in them or impressions of leaves, which are unique, like fingerprints.

During the 1820s through 1850s, small banks, like Manufacturers Bank of Troy, issued what are now called “obsolete notes” that would circulate in specific geographic areas like the cities of Troy and Schenectady or Albany County.

The display includes a $5 Manufacturers Bank note, circa 1839, featuring a very early image of Henry Burden’s water-powered Troy Iron and Nail Co. plant.

Kinderhook bill courtesy Ferris CoinDuring the Civil War, Northern states used notes issued by the federal government but there was a shortage of gold and silver due to hoarding, so the government issued fractional paper currency in denominations of 3, 5, 10, 15, 25 and 50 cents. Places like Albany and Troy issued various patriotic tokens to promote the war effort. Both the Confederacy and individual Southern states also issued paper currency, all of which appears in the Ferris display.

After the Civil War, the U.S. government began producing more notes, called treasure notes, to keep up with the demand for legal tender as the population moved west. These were redeemable for silver and gold.

Around 1875, national bank notes started to be issued by individual banks with formats and designs that are familiar today.

The most significant note in the Ferris Coin display is a 1902 $5 bill issued by The National City Bank of Troy. The bill, which is in excellent condition, features a rare red seal and was printed from plate number 1A, making it valuable. The note is counter signed by bank Cashier Rice C. Bull.

According to Michael Barrett, executive director of the Hudson Mohawk Industrial Gateway, Bull was wounded three times at the 1863 battle of Chancellorsville, and his diary and letters were edited by RPI professor K. Jack Bauer into the 1977 Soldiering: The Civil War Diary of Rice C. Bull. This book was named by the Civil War Society as one of the 100 best Civil War books ever, in the category of personal memoirs, at a time when the Library of Congress lists over 70,000 titles in the Civil War W bibliography category. Bull’s cane and his cased photograph are on display at the Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy.

In 1928, bank notes switched to the size used today. The display at Ferris Coin features both large and small sized national currency from Albany. FDR took the U.S. off of the gold standard in 1933 so that Americans could no longer turn in paper notes for gold.

Rounding out the display are contemporary $1 American Eagle silver and gold coins, which technically can be used as legal tender but are literally worth their weight in silver and gold which is significantly more than face value.

The general public is welcome to view the “Capital Region Currency: A History of Money in America” display during normal business hours. Ferris Coin is open Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, and Saturday 9 am to 3 pm. The display will run November. 1 through November 22.

The next display, featuring vintage jewelry, will open November 24 on “Black Friday.”

Ferris Coin is a buyer and seller of gold and silver bullion, rare coins, flatware and paper currency, as well as having gold and platinum jewelry for resale, repair or recycle. They offer appraisals for personal and estate collections, including diamonds, and can assist with proper insurance.

In 1930, husband and wife Charlie & Arlene Ferris opened Ferris Stamp in downtown Albany, N.Y. at 402 Broadway. Later they incorporated coins into their business model as Ferris Stamp and Coin. In the 1960s, after her husband died of a heart attack, Mrs. Ferris sold the business to Wendell C. Williams who relocated the shop to Lark Street before relocating again to 114 Central Ave. in 1976.

The business re-opened in its third location at 199 Wolf Road this August. Ferris Coin is now co-owned by Geoffrey Demis, a long-time employee, Mike Dozois and gemologist James Naughter. The newest Ferris Coin staff member is Brian Bucher, who founded Brittany Jewelers in 1987 and served as president from 1987 until selling the company this June.

For more information, call the store at (518) 434-3860, email Ferriscoininc@gmail.com, or visit their website.

Photos courtesy Ferris Coin.

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