Bonhams To Sell California Gold Rush Era Banknotes

Coins and Medals
31 Aug 2014
Los Angeles

Los Angeles - Bonhams, the third largest international fine art auction house, is pleased to announce the sale of the First National Bank of Stockton California Collection of National Banknotes in the Coins, Medals and Banknotes auction on August 31. The entire collection has an estimate of $120,000-150,000 and will feature a newly-discovered, Condition Census example of a Series 1873 $10 Gold Banknote (Friedberg 1146).

National Gold Banknotes of California are one of the most romantic of all currency issues. Their existence is directly traceable to the California Gold Rush of 1848, and they remain today as tangible mementos of the "Winning of the West."

The First National Bank of Stockton was organised in 1872 under U.S. law as a gold bank, but in 1879 it was re-organized under the general banking laws of the United States, thus ending the Gold Banknote era for this bank. This 1873 $10 gold note is signed by H.H. Hewlett, President of the bank and a prominent citizen of Stockton in the San Joaquin County. Hewlett subsequently gave this note to his daughter Lizzie Hewlett. The top margin of the $10 Gold Banknote exhibits the following hand-written inscription: "1873 - Lizzie Hewlett to be kept as a keepsake being the first 10 dollar note issued and given her by her Father."

The extended margin at the top, which also includes the Federal serial number 1, indicates this was the first note on the sheet and the first sheet issued by the bank.

The obverse features vignettes of Benjamin Franklin drawing electricity from the sky with a kite and a key. On the right, Liberty soars on an eagle, clutching lightning in her hand. The reverse features the California State emblem to the left and an eagle with wings partially spread standing on a shield at the right. The centre vignette is a beautiful display of United States gold coins in various denominations within a large oval, a unique design for these gold notes.

Also on offer from the collection is a rare Series 1882 $10 "Value Back" National Banknote (Friedberg 577). The value "TEN DOLLARS" is at the centre, which is a rarely seen issued note from this coveted bank. To finish out the inventory, three Series 1929 Small Size National banknotes: $10 (Friedberg S-2055), $20 (Friedberg S-2106) and $50 (Friedberg S-2157) are present, each bearing the unique premier serial number A000001A.

Small size National Banknotes were issued from July 1929 to May 1935. This group of three notes represents the first issued of each denomination for the First National Bank of Stockton California. This is considered a rare, highly collectible issue with few, if any auction records in recent years for any denomination. All three notes were found in the private collection belonging to Hewlett's daughter since 1872.

The illustrated catalogue for the sale will be online at in the weeks preceding the auction. For more information about the department, please visit

For further information and images call Melissa Sanchez at 323 436 5458,
or email or


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

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