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Fort Benton, Montana Territory First Charter $5 featured in the Stack’s Bowers ANA Auction

We are very fortunate to offer to the
collecting a community a significant and highly desirable Montana Territory
first charter five dollar banknote in the Stack’s Bowers Official Currency
Auction of the ANA World’s Fair of Money. At some point a diligent collector
must have seen this note in passing, because the serial number and plate
position are recorded in the census. There are in fact four territorials known
from The First National Bank of Fort Benton, two of which are sheet mates to
the specimen offered here. The earliest of the four is just ten serial numbers
away – a repaired but attractive VF. None of the three notes listed as AU from
sheet 2928 have ever been offered at auction before.

A student of Montana nationals will
quickly notice the signature of C.E. Conrad. Charles Edward Conrad was born in
Virginia but called Montana home from the age of 18 until his death at 52. He
came to Fort Benton in 1868 with his brother. He appeared to enjoy working with
family. The signing cashier on this note is Joseph Amos Baker, C.E. Conrad’s
brother-in-law. After making millions in Fort Benton by the age of 40, Conrad
was able to explore the region more and ended up founding the town of
Kalispell. He was also the first president of his privately named Conrad
National Bank of Kalispell, for which a cut sheet of serial #1 Brown Backs is
known.

We can tell based on the serial numbers
that these first charters were issued toward the end of the territorial era in
Montana. Based on the excellent state of preservation and the fact that the #1
Kalispell notes exist, it would not surprise your cataloger if this Fort Benton
note and the Kalispell notes were personally saved by C.E. Conrad. This
examples grade of PMG 53 makes it the nicest third party graded Montana
territorial. A group of three Butte Montana first charters are listed as Uncirculated
in the census, although it appears that none of that group has ever been certified.
It is tough to assign a value to a banknote such as this with both historical
and numismatic importance. However, we do feel our estimate of $30,000-$50,000
will likely be conservative as this rarity will appeal to several cross
sections of collectors.

The live sessions of
the Stack’s Bowers Galleries Official U.S. Paper Money Auction at the ANA
World’s Fair of Money will be held Wednesday and Friday August 14th
and 16th. Internet sessions will be held the following week. For
more information regarding the auction contact Director of Currency Peter
Treglia at 800-458-4646 or petert@stacksbowers.com.

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