Serial Number 1 Circus Poster $5 Note Offered in the Spring 2024 Showcase Auction

Offered in lot 20428 of our Spring 2024 Expo Auction is an unassuming note that at first glance appears almost indistinguishable from the multitude of $5 Brown Backs issued from 1882 until 1908. However, this example is quite exceptional even among the highly popular subset it represents.

Likely saved as a souvenir by a bank employee in the 1880s, this rarity hails from the first sheet of $5 Brown Backs delivered to the Northern National Bank and features the coveted “Circus Poster” title layout. Fifty banks spread across 28 states issued $5 Brown Backs that used this distinctive title layout that resembles the richly detailed and ornate advertisements favored by the traveling circuses of the period.

Today such notes are wildly popular with collectors on account of that aesthetic distinction. Offerings featuring this layout are scarce and those that feature a Serial Number 1 are virtually unheard of on the public market. Even an example that exhibits extensive circulation will realize a figure well beyond that of a higher-grade example featuring a generic title layout.

This note is a quintessential trophy piece and one that will appeal to the Circus Poster obsessed collector as well as the advanced specialist of Wisconsin National Bank Notes. This note, featured in Session 6 of our Spring 2024 Showcase Auction is sure to stand out, even among the many impressive rarities offered in this sale!

To view all lots in the Stack’s Bowers Galleries Spring 2024 Showcase Auction visit To consign your numismatic items to one of our upcoming auctions, please call 800-458-4646 or email

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