The Santa Claus Vignettes

Although most obsolete notes issued in the years preceding the American Civil War feature vignettes rich with allegorical symbolism or landscapes, a notable exception among standard depictions can be found on notes that display Santa Claus. This was a popular vignette among Antebellum banks, specifically among those in the Northeast and New England.

The Bucksport Bank of Bucksport Maine featured a particularly portly depiction of Saint Nick on the $50 whose weight appears to make it quite difficult for his enchanted flying reindeer to gain altitude. A portrayal that fits in nicely with our modern image of Santa Claus.

Perhaps the most prolific of the banks to issue “Santa Claus” notes was the White Mountain Bank of Lancaster, New Hampshire. This vignette of Santa Claus looks more like a haggard sailor as he appears to be contemplating a chimney before taking off to continue his gift-giving rounds.

A variety of other vignettes featuring Jolly Saint Nick appeared on obsolete notes of the period. One depicts Santa Claus as an elf-like creature emerging from a fireplace while two display a relatively thin individual similar (size aside) to those that are popular today in terms of attire and mannerisms.

Today obsolete notes bearing Santa Claus are highly sought by collectors on account of their unusual subject matter. Although the surviving populations might make them seem common, particularly for examples from the White Mountain Bank where an estimated 125 to 249 are estimated to exist, the Santa Claus vignette increases the value dramatically.

The Currency Department here at Stack’s Bowers Galleries would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

As we enter the New Year, if you would like to consign your numismatic items to one of our 2024 auctions, please call 800-458-4646 or email

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