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Making a Bank Note: A Study of El Banco del Estado de Chihuahua Bromide Proofs

20 Dec

by Connor Falk


The history of El Banco del Estado de Chihuahua (the Bank of the State of Chihuahua) is brief and steeped in the turbulent times of the Mexican Revolution. It was founded on December 12, 1913, as decreed by General Francisco “Pancho” Villa, military governor of the state of Chihuahua and commander of the División del Norte, an armed revolutionary faction. The bank’s stated purpose, in addition to issuing currency, was to “facilitate loans on properties that fully guarantee capital, especially poor farmers who need pecuniary elements to tillage their lands.” The bank’s capital was 10 million pesos, to be distributed in bank notes backed by gold.


Work began quickly to locate a designer and printer for the bank’s notes, and after several unsuccessful forays, El Banco del Estado de Chihuahua contracted with the American Bank Note Company (ABNCo). Design work began in September 1914 with bank representatives choosing the vignettes to be used.

The accompanying lot, #1397, represents an interesting look at the bank note design process. The lot is a unique set of fourteen photographic proofs (also known as bromide proofs) made in 1914 by the ABNCo when designing notes for El Banco del Estado de Chihuahua. These prototypes consist of both obverses and reverses of all seven denominations issued by the bank, including the rare 1 peso denomination.

A variety of obverse vignettes were used for the notes; the reverse vignettes, with minor variations, feature the seal of Mexico. The obverse of the 500 pesos features an allegorical design of two women, “Work” and “Knowledge,” with two young boys and El Banco del Estado de Chihuahua’s monogram in the center. The obverse of the 100 pesos depicts an armored Ceres seated with two men representing agriculture and industry in front.

The obverse vignettes on the lower denominations depict scenes rather than allegorical designs. The 50 pesos features a train pulling into a station, the 20 pesos illustrates a harvesting scene, the 10 pesos shows a rancher driving cattle, and the 5 pesos displays a miner using a pneumatic drill.

Of interest is the 1 peso obverse, which features a logging scene as the central vignette. The same scene is found on the Canadian Bank of Ottawa 5 dollars note from 1906 (Charlton 565-20-06). The later issues from 1913 (Charlton 565-22-02 and 565-26-02) feature a similar scene with the bottom row of logs removed, possibly to avoid cluttering a smaller vignette space than the 1906 issue. However, for the Chihuahua peso, ABNCo designers removed six loggers that were standing on the log pile. On the bromide, this was achieved by pasting the reworked scene directly over the original vignette. Why this change was made is unknown, though it’s possible the six loggers, who are white, looked out of place on what was to become a Mexican bank note.


The central vignette of the 1 peso (note the whiter paper pasted over the original design)

Other examples of “vignette sharing” were commonplace for ABNCo notes. The following issues share vignettes with El Banco del Estado de Chihuahua notes:

  • Canada, Union Bank of Canada, 5 dollars, 1903-1912, SCWPM-S1493 and S1495, same obverse vignette (harvest scene) as the Chihuahua 20 pesos
  • Haiti, Republique d’Haiti, 1 gourde, 1914, SCWPM-131, same reverse vignette (harvest scene) as on the obverse of the Chihuahua 20 pesos (an example of an overprinted provisional issue, SCWPM-140a is in this auction as lot 2305)
  • Venezuela, Banco de Venezuela, 20 bolívares, SCWPM-S286, S291, S301, and S311, 1910-1936, same obverse vignette (rancher scene) as the Chihuahua 10 pesos

This is not an exhaustive list and I encourage others to provide more examples.

The other interesting aspect about the 1 peso note is its rarity. Although initial plans called for printing one million 1 peso notes, bank officials put the denomination on hold. Instead, an additional two thousand of the 500 pesos note were printed to cover the one million peso shortfall. Although ABNCo received word that plates should be prepared for the denomination, none were ever printed. Just three proofs as well as the bromide in this set are known. What should have been the most common note in the series became the rarest one instead.


The greyed out “L” on the 500 pesos

The other denominations are more common, and this bromide set provides insight into their design process. Edits were made on the notes throughout production. The 500 pesos obverse bromide displays this best. Above the central vignette, a banner with the decree date reads PAGARA AL PORTADOR EN EFECTIVO SEGÚN DECRETO DEL 12 DE DICIEMBRE DEL MIL NOVECIENTOS TRECE. The second “DEL” should be “DE”; the ABNCo designers realized this and greyed out the erroneous “L.” On the printed notes, the sentence reads correctly and the letters are slightly shifted to fill in the space.

Another design change on the 500 pesos is the change in signatories. Spaces are available for the interventor del gobierno (government controller), the cajero (cashier), and the presidente (president of the bank); however, presidente is crossed out and gerente (manager) is written below. All printed notes display gerente printed in place of presidente.1397_500pesogerente


Changes were made to both the signatories and the gold backing clause.

A major change between the working copies and the printed notes is the valuation. On September 14, 1914, the valuation of the 10 pesos read ORO MEXICANO. The 5 pesos bromide displays a similar valuation stating VALOR ORO MEXICANO, but by October 1, 1914, this was changed to VALOR ORO NACIONAL, as seen on the rest of the bromides as well as the finished printed notes.

Although the notes were printed and delivered in early 1915, El Banco del Estado de Chihuahua would not exist much longer. Prendergast notes that “because of the depreciation of Villa’s currency after his defeat at Celaya (April 6-15, 1915), within a year the bank found it could no longer operate.” By November 23, the bank had closed, having never issued the notes both the ABNCo and bank officials had worked hard on. Instead, the series found new life first as advertising and novelty items, and now as numismatic pieces to be bought, sold and researched.


A full history of El Banco del Estado de Chihuahua written by Simon Prendergast can be found online at His work has been invaluable to my interest and research on this bank note series.

Mexican Paper Money by Cory Frampton, Duane Douglas, Alberto Hidalgo, and Elmer Powell is an invaluable tool for both El Banco del Estado de Chihuahua specialists as well as Mexican bank notes in general.

Notes can be seen and purchased following these links:

Mexico, Banco del Estado de Chihuahua, Bromide “Photographic” Proofs Set, 1914  

Rarities, shipwreck notes in Sedwick sale

6 Apr

Rare U.S., world and even shipwreck recovered bank notes will appear in Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC’s Treasure, World, U.S. Coin and Paper Money Auction 21. The sale will be held live online on May 3-4 at

The U.S. paper money section contains federal and obsolete issues in addition to Texas, Confederate and Philippine notes. The top U.S. piece is lot 1782, an 1882 $20 gold certificate graded PCGS Apparent Gem New 65, estimated at $7,500 to $11,000. The note features then recently assassinated President Garfield on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse clutching electric bolts over the ocean, symbolizing the transatlantic telegraph lines of the time.


A 1882 $20 gold certificate graded PCGS Gem New 65 Apparent, estimated at $7,500 to $11,000.

The world paper money section features a key Puerto Rican note: lot 1994, a 1909 Banco de Puerto Rico $5 graded PCGS Fine 12 and pedigreed to the Eric P. Newman collection. Newman collected Puerto Rican currency because of their close ties to U.S. history and this example, authorized just after the Spanish-American War, fits the bill. The note has an estimate of $2,000 and up.


A 1909 Banco de Puerto Rico $5 graded PCGS Fine 12 and pedigreed to the Eric P. Newman collection, estimated at $2,000 and up.

A high grade 1922 Canadian La Banque Nationale specimen set will also appear in the sale as lot 1845. The set features all five denominations certified by PMG in grades ranging from UNC 62 to 66 and has a $2,000 to $3,000 estimate.


A 1936 Costa Rican 2 colones “Mona Lisa” note graded PCGS VF 30, estimated at $1,750 to $2,500.

Other important lots in the sale include:

  • Lot 1786, a series 1935E $1 silver certificate “star note” graded PCGS Grade A recovered from the Andrea Doria, sunk in 1956 off Massachusetts, estimated at $500 to $750.
  • Lot 653, three British India 10 rupees recovered from the SS Camberwell, sunk in 1917 by a German mine off the Isle of Wight, England, estimated at $100 to $150.
  • Lot 1869, a 1936 Costa Rican 2 colones “Mona Lisa” note graded PCGS VF 30, estimated at $1,750 to $2,500.
  • Lot 1819, a series 1912 Philippines 50 pesos graded PCGS VF 35 Net – Toning, estimated at $1,400 to $2,100.
  • Lot 1965, a complete set of eight high grade Mexican Banco Yucateco specimens graded by PMG, estimated at $3,000 to $4,500.
  • Lot 1844, a set of five 1929 Bulgarian specimens from 200 levas to 5,000, estimated at $3,000 to $4,000.

Bidders can register for the auction at The auction catalog is available for ordering at For more details, please contact Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC at

Sunken luxury: the loss of the SS Andrea Doria

3 Jan

The SS Andrea Doria name invokes tragedy now, but at the time of construction, she represented the hopes of Italian recovery after World War II. Construction began in 1950 with the ship launching in June 16, 1951. In terms of size, she was 697 feet long with a 90 feet beam and had a total tonnage of 29,100 tons. When fully furnished, she represented a source of Italian pride by being one of the finest ships on the Atlantic Ocean at the time. Even her namesake, the 16th-century Genoese admiral Andrea Doria, invokes a sense of Italian maritime power.


The SS Andrea Doria at sea.

During her three years of service from 1953 to 1956, she had many transatlantic voyages and became popular with passengers for her luxury accommodations and quick speed. Passengers had every form of entertainment at their disposal, from movie to swimming pools, orchestras to modern artworks and mosaics. A lot of money and wealth went into the Andrea Doria, both in terms of construction and her passengers.

On the night of July 25, 1956, the Andrea Doria was on the final leg of a voyage, destined for New York City the following day. Travelling through heavy fog, the bridge officers noted a radar blip ahead. Despite taking evasive maneuvers, the distance between the two ships was too little for any meaningful actions. Out of the fog, the bow of the MS Stockholm, a Swedish American Line passenger liner, plowed into the Andrea Doria’s starboard side, leaving a gaping hole. However, safety measures kept the Andrea Doria afloat for 11 hours, long enough for the survivors to evacuate. All together, 46 people died aboard the Andrea Doria while 6 crew members of the Stockholm were killed, most during the collision itself.

The below newsreel shows images of the doomed ship in the early hours of July 26, 1956. Divers descended upon the wreck just a day after its sinking to find it lying on its starboard side at a depth of about 250 feet, far too deep for recreational diving.

Divers descended upon the wreck just a day after its sinking to find it lying on its starboard side at a depth of about 250 feet, far too deep for recreational diving. Since then, through advances in diving equipment, technical divers are able to reach the wreck.

In 1981, adventurer Peter Gimbel, his wife Elga and a salvage team uncovered the Bank of Rome safe held onboard the ship. When the safe was opened in 1984, thousands of American $1 silver certificates, hundreds of Italian bank notes as well as American Express checks were found, still preserved despite decades of submersion. The Gimbels carefully preserved and encased the banknotes in protective Lucite holders before offering them on the numismatic market. Many silver certificates and Italian lira have since been graded by PCGS Currency according to shipwreck grading standards.


An example of a Andrea Doria recovered $1 silver certificate.

As the leading shipwreck coin and artifact dealer, Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC has a number of $1 silver certificates recovered from the SS Andrea Doria for sale. All notes are graded “A” by PCGS Currency, meaning they are almost entirely intact (despite 30 years of saltwater immersion), with prices dependent upon the eye appeal of the note. They come in a blue case along with a DVD of their recovery by the Gimbels and their crew. To view these notes, please click on the picture below and navigate to the Andrea Doria listing:


Today, heavy currents, silt clouds and the depth still make the Andrea Doria a difficult wreck to dive, earning it the nickname “the Mount Everest of wreck diving.” Regardless, the allure of the ship’s luxury and artifacts still on board bring divers back again and again. For many, a dive to the SS Andrea Doria will never happen. By buying these silver certificates, anyone can own a piece of history from a ship that launched with so much promise only to become a modern tragedy.


What You Can’t Live Without Buying in Treasure Auction #20 (part one)

21 Oct

Our upcoming Sedwick Treasure, World, U.S. and Paper Money Auction #20 has something for everyone, and I’ll outline some highlights in upcoming blogs. First off, let’s show off our paper money section, a collectible that we haven’t been able to offer in great amounts but should become a staple of future auctions thanks to the hard work and expertise of our new employee, Connor Falk.

Lot 1522, TA #20, November 2016

At first glance, this colorful 1996 Cayman Islands 10 dollar note is appealing for the beach scene on the reverse, an open treasure chest residing beneath a palm tree as a sailboat moves in the shallow waters. But there’s an interesting backstory on this note: it shouldn’t exist. The X/1 series of notes were test notes printed by De La Rue on experimental paper, analyzed and then destroyed. A small number escaped, making them among the rarest of Cayman Islands notes. Add the fact that PMG certified this note as Gem Uncirculated 65 EPQ and this lot is an impressive rarity sure to be the cornerstone of a Caribbean paper money collection.

Lot 1535, TA #20, November 2016

This 1889 100 pesos Colombian Bond is very rare with only four or five known and is the plate note featured in Compendio Historico del Papel Moneda en Colombia by Danilo Parra Ariza. It features a light blue underprint and a well-executed design including a vignette of a man with a burro cart. Other examples are known to have cancellation marks including punch holes and rhombus-shaped cuts, making this lot all the more attractive for its lack of major marks or cuts.

Lot 1536, TA #20, November 2016

This the 1889 10 pesos, similar in design as the lot above yet featuring a popular vignette of a dog.

Lot 1560 (obverse), TA #20, November 2016

Lot 1560 (reverse), TA #20, November 2016

A very scarce and popular note with a central vignette of a Carib Indian, also featured on other Guadeloupe banknotes and coins. The Caribs called Guadeloupe “Karukera” which translates to “island with beautiful waters.” Connecting with Guadeloupe’s maritime past, the reverse features a large compass rose. There are some folds and soiling, but the numerous and heavy folds that plague large notes like this one are not here, hence why PCGS certified this note as Very Fine 30.

Lot 1578 (reverse), TA #20, November 2016

Lot 1579 (obverse), TA #20, November 2016

These two Mexican notes are extremely popular and in demand due to the beautiful tri-color reverses honoring the colors of the Mexican flag. Printed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Mexican War of Independence, they are also the first commemorative banknotes in the world. Examples are scarce with notes in VF and higher rare while collectors give special attention to those with bright colors.
Check out Session 4 lots 1500-1623 for all of our bank note offerings.
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