MARK HOTZ, BANK NOTE REPORTER
Congratulations to Bank Note Reporter in its 50th year of publication. Columnist Mark Hotz wrote about his experience writing for the paper beginning in 1997, and his article is a great view into the history of the hobby (and changing technology as well). Here's an excerpt, but be sure to read the complete article online.
Congratulations to Bank Note Reporter on its Golden Jubilee of service to the currency collecting community. I am delighted to have been an integral part of the Bank Note Reporter contributing team since 1997 – half of its existence! This month, as part of that celebration, I am going to reflect on my experiences writing for 25 years and how the currency market and currency collecting have changed, in my view, over that time.
I first got involved with Bank Note Reporter through former long-time editor David Harper, who I got to know at the annual American Numismatic Association Summer Seminars, held each summer in Colorado Springs. At that time, I was instructing courses in U.S. Large Size Currency with Gene Hessler, and later a course on U.S. National Banknotes with Peter Huntoon. David Harper was there as an emissary of Krause Publications. We became acquainted and he inquired if I would be interested in writing a column for Banknote Reporter. I found that intriguing, and so this decades long association began.
I wrote an article about a local Maryland national bank, having found the proof sheet of its notes in the Smithsonian archive. I combined illustrations of notes with pictures of the bank building in the
then and now fashion that has come to characterize my Banknote Reporter articles. This turned out to be really interesting to me, since I had always enjoyed visiting small towns and liked historic bank architecture. The response from the BNR readership was very positive, so I started with the Hotz Off the Press – Notes on National Banks theme which continues to this day.
I must admit that I am glad I went that route. I really enjoyed visiting small towns, finding and photographing the bank buildings when they were still standing, and then finding comparable vintage photos to match. Most of these came from postcard views, which at first, I bought from postcard dealers and on eBay, and later found that I could do just as well downloading the images rather than buying countless postcards.
Early on, I had to make actual trips to these small towns, so many of the articles concentrated on areas close to my Maryland residence – this included Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, etc. I also tended to make special pilgrimages to banks from which I had a national bank note in my own collection. Sometimes I even took the bank note with me so that when I found the building, and sometimes could even go in, I was in some way completing a circle – the note had at one point in history emanated from that bank, and now after so many years it had completed the circle when I brought it back.
Readers often wrote to me asking if I could do articles on banks in their states, which frequently were very far away from me. With the advent of technology, this became possible, especially when Google Earth and Google Street View made it possible for me to virtually drive through small towns looking for banks and capturing photos I could use in my articles. In this way, I could present information on towns and banks that I could never practically physically visit.
As my own collecting interests matured, I sometimes found myself looking at national bank notes available at auction or at shows and deciding whether to buy a note based on whether the bank was still standing and how
cute the building was! To me, the smaller and ghostlier the town, the better the note. A national bank note from a ruined bank building or one that was abandoned was a real prize to me!
The advent of Third-Party Grading of currency, which started with Currency Grading of America (CGA) and PCGS Currency, and now is dominated by Paper Money Grading (PMG) and PCGS Banknote, has truly changed the way currency is bought and sold. Most major auction houses no longer elect to sell much in the way of ungraded currency, mainly to prevent grading disputes and to eliminate most returns. Items that are TPG graded are not returnable and this makes things a lot easier for auction firms.
Obviously, collecting national bank notes is my main interest, and that has changed also. What was once a market broken down into 50 different sub-markets by state has become a far more open space. Once a few collectors dominated any given state, and when they stopped collecting, the market for that state collapsed. This is no longer the case. A good note – whether rare or just really attractive and appealing – will find a good home regardless of location. I like a nice grade pen-signed note from just about any small town. Many collectors do not want to become pigeon-holed – stuck waiting for just a couple notes to appear to fill the few holes they have left.
The internet and Facebook groups have introduced new blood to currency and especially to national bank notes. Everyone is from somewhere, or has relatives that came from somewhere, leading them to look for notes from those towns.
To read the complete article, see:
Celebrating 50 Years of Bank Note Reporter
Here's an excellent example of Mark's work from his December 13, 2022 article on the Pulaski National Bank of New York.
To read the complete article, see:
Ending the Year in Pulaski, N.Y.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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