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Review by Obsolete Note Authority Russell Kaye
Minnesota Book Sets New Standards

As the field of collecting paper money continues to gain popularity, the need for knowledge and current reference books also grows. In the field of obsolete currency, the four volume Haxby catalog is the most comprehensive reference covering the 35 states that issued obsolete bank notes and there are also more specialized books for more than half of these states. “A History and Catalog of Minnesota Obsolete Bank Notes and Scrip” by Shawn Hewitt, with help from Charles Parrish, Steve Schroeder and Gilmore Sem and published by R.M. Smythe & Co. sets a new standard for these specialized state books.

Mr. Hewitt has included several features not found previously in any other obsolete currency book which helps set this new standard. Indeed it would be wise for future authors to use this reference as a template for future obsolete currency state reference books. First, he includes specific census information including serial numbers and quantities of known proofs, remainders and sheets. This information was painstakingly compiled from the work of past researchers, museums and current collectors. Wendell Wolka had compiled similar information for his recently published book “A History of Nineteenth Century Ohio Obsolete Bank Notes and Scrip” but he only used the census information to assign rarity ratings. Specific serial numbers allow the user the ability to determine if their note is new to the census as well as greater detail about just what is known. Shawn Hewitt is the first author to provide this valuable information.

Second, retail values are provided for all notes in up to three different grades. Although readers want this information the lack of well established values has precluded authors of other obsolete currency books from including this information. Mr. Hewitt has done an excellent job with this difficult task as his values closely approximate this thinly traded market. Lastly, rarity ratings are provided for each issuer as well as for each individual note issue. This is particularly useful for the collector who might be interested in acquiring a single note from a certain issuer without regard to denomination. The individual notes from a bank might be rated as R-7 (1-5 known) but the bank rarity, meaning any note from the bank, might only be R-5 (11-25 known). The collector looking for any note from this bank might be a bit more patient realizing that there will be more opportunities to buy an R-5 note than an R-7 piece. Rarity by issuer is important information that has not appeared in state obsolete currency books before.

This book is divided into three major sections. The front of the volume catches ones eye with sixteen pages of color photos illustrating examples of the fourteen different types of currency covered by this reference. This is followed by background information about the authors and a general discussion about the different classifications of notes and how they will be classified and described by this reference.

The second section, about 120 pages in length, contains essays about each of the fourteen different types of notes covered by this catalog. They are presented in chronological order and provide an excellent understanding of the way that these currency issues evolved and how each type of currency fits into the overall picture. In this section there are in depth articles about private and state authorized obsolete bank notes, private as well as state, county and municipal scrip, cardboard, Labor Exchange and Tiffany scrip, postal notes, Depression scrip from 1893, 1907 and the 1930s, advertising notes and college currency. No other state obsolete currency reference book has been this comprehensive in its coverage.

The third and largest section is the catalog itself. Arrangement is alphabetical by location, then by issuer. Biographical and historical information is provided for each issuer. Catalog numbers are assigned which classify the note by type (private bank note, municipal scrip, etc.) then by note category within the type. Page headings and type are large and clear making the book easy to navigate and user friendly. Large photos, values and rarities provide all of the essential information in a clear and concise manner which is easy to understand. The scope of notes covered and information provided about each of them, has not previously been achieved by any of the state obsolete currency books already published. This is why this book should be considered the new standard and model for future obsolete currency books.

This reference is a large format volume measuring approximately 11 by 9 inches, contains 600+ pages and is generously illustrated throughout. It is well manufactured and bound and printed on quality paper. From both an organization and production standpoint, it would be difficult to improve upon this work. The comprehensive coverage and explanations of just how all of the different types of obsolete currency were used is simply fascinating. It would be of interest not only to all collectors of obsolete notes from any state but really to anyone with an interest in Minnesota history or banking and commerce.


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