In fairness to a seller that I have and now continue to do business with I think I need to take back my earlier assessment that they overcharged my wife when she bought that ungraded Zimbabwean 20 Trillion Note for $60.
I guess the thing that should have been my first clue was that they’ve always offered returns and gave us a perfect, no-fuss return on the note and I’ve always been able to get very reasonable prices from them on so many other things, including most of my other Zimbabwe notes.
In saying that they overcharged her I was thinking about what paid for most of my Trillions notes back in late 2015. It would appear, since that time, the Trillions notes specifically have appreciated in value. As I’ve been shopping around, I’ve seen other sellers asking that much for the note and some asking quite a bit more.
I can’t find the records of the sale anymore, but I think when I bought my 100 Trillion in 67EPQ a few years ago I paid about $35-40 for it. The other trillions that I have are 65EPQ or 66EPQ and I got them for about $20-25 if I remember right. The other day I saw one of the 100 Trillion notes in 65EPQ sell for $95 (+$6 shipping) with another recently getting $92 (+$8 shipping), putting the price around $100 for a 65EPQ. These weren’t BIN sales. These were auctions with the bidders getting to determine the final price. 65EPQs have achieved up to $142 recently after shipping and it looks like 66EPQs have achieved up to $170. A 67EPQ sold recently for $350, and, I won’t lie, that one shocked me.
I am very glad that I bought examples of the Trillions notes when I did and got them for the kinds of prices that I did. If I was shopping for them today, I don’t think I’d ever be able to buy them. I could just never imagine or get behind spending the same amount on that 100 Trillion that I did to get that 1886A 20 Franc - more than what I paid to get my long sought after 1877 10G. As it was, it was a stretch for me to pay what I did back in the day. I only did that to get a graded example and I wanted a high grade because that note was inevitably going to be a highlight / centerpiece of the set I was hoping to build.
I feel like there is a crazy but cool message about subjective valuation here. A coin with 130 years of history and nearly a fifth of a troy ounce of gold vs a 10-year-old piece of paper with ink and a lot of zeros on it, but, to the right people, they can both be sold for $300+. Of course, I know there are people out there that pay $8,000+ for US Education Series notes and people out there that pay $100,000+ for 1932 double eagles, so maybe this shouldn't surprise me as much as it does. I think part of it for me is the fact that those old notes and coins are actually fairly rare. These 100 Trillion notes still seem almost as common as sand on the beach. You still see people selling even the 100 Trillion note by the brick. It's hard for me to wrap my head around that valuation when they're still seemingly just so excessively available.
My wife has attempted to mess with my head by suggesting that I might want to sell the Trillions notes at these higher prices and use the money to pick up some gold coins - like an old British Sovereign or an 19th Century Italian 20 Lira, both of which are pieces I’d like to own. I’d likely be more tempted by this if not for the fact that I’m trying to build the set out more, note liquidate it, and getting rid of the notes would be quite a blow to the set.
The higher prices are largely confined to the four issues (the 10, 20, 50 and 100 Trillion notes, P-88 through P-91) but the 100 Trillion issue in particular. Most of the other issues in the third dollar series can be purchased raw for a $5 or less and graded 65-67EPQ by PMG for $15-25 - barely more than the grading fees. That as much as anything is what threw me off at first. I was seeing low prices for everything else and what feels like moon-money for the Trillion series. But, clearly, for those notes, some people are willing to pay it.
At $15-20 for a graded note I’m definitely a buyer of this series. I enjoy them and they’re worth it to me at that level. I feel like I don’t have to feel bad about spending it or worry about taking a bath on re-selling them later if I decide to. At $25-30 and above I have a harder time going for them. I have paid up to $40 for some first dollar issues in the past and I may do that again to get my hands on a few rarer, older, issues for that set when and if the time comes, but I don’t think I’ll ever spend much more than that for one of these. At that price, as my wife recently pointed out when we were talking, I can get some nice silver rounds and government bullion issues - sometimes already graded by NGC - and I feel like the silver content of those makes them a better value proposition over time – and, on the whole, I enjoy shiny metal more than paper.