The Changing Fortunes of War: The Changing Color of the C.S.A. $500

The numismatic legacy of the American Civil War is arguably the widest of any conflict engaged in by the United States. From the issuance of “Greenbacks” and Confederate States banknotes to the tokens and other substitutes created to deal with the removal of specie from circulation, the conflict spawned a cacophony of issues that continue to delight collectors.

As the conflict wore on, the Confederacy faced increasing supply issues stemming from repeated defeats on the battlefield and a deteriorating economy. Domestic supply shortages combined with access to European markets being increasingly cut off by Union naval blockades, the production of Confederate banknotes began to suffer.

This phenomenon is perhaps best illustrated by the $500 note issued in 1864 (T-64). It bears the portrait of then recently deceased Lieutenant General T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson at right along with the Great Seal of the Confederate States of America with battle flag at left. This note is arguably one of the most striking and elaborate among those produced by the Confederacy.

Early issues of this denomination featured a reddish hue that offered visually striking contrast with the various design elements. Later printings for the most part lacked this aesthetic distinction due to difficulty acquiring the ink used to produce these notes.

Printers diluted their ink stocks to make it last longer, which resulted in the loss of color on most examples of the type. Once a bright red, the notes printed using diluted ink stocks came to display a less and less prominent pinkish hue with each subsequent printing until a new supply of red ink was received at some point toward the end of the conflict. Those printed using the new supply of ink bear an even darker shade of red compared to previous printings.

A pleasing Choice Very Fine example of T-64 will be offered as lot 99125 in our December U.S. Currency Collectors Choice Auction. Popular with collectors today, most circulated examples can be acquired for roughly face value or less. However, premium examples with a distinctive red color like this one can be somewhat difficult to find and often bring a premium on the open market. Although not necessarily a rare opportunity, this note represents a choice specimen of one of the most popular notes to be issued during the conflict.

To consign your numismatic items to one of our upcoming auctions, please call 800-458-4646 or email

Join our mailing list

Don't miss an auction!

Subscribe to our newsletter.


Contact Us

West Coast Office • (800) 458-4646

Midwest Office • (800) 817-2646

East Coast Office • (800) 566-2580

Hong Kong, China Office • +852 2117 1191

Follow Us

Subscribe to
Our Newsletter

We are sorry, an unexpected error occurred!
Please enter a valid email address

I'm Interested In...

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Stack's Bowers Galleries e-newsletter.