“Lady Justice” on Fractional Currency

With the widespread counterfeiting of the second issue of fractional currency, the third issue came into being. It is by far the largest issue with the most varieties and includes the smallest note every printed, both in size and denomination by the United States, the three-cent notes.  It is also the issue that has five of the six most expensive notes ever sold, the Fr. 1351-1354 and the Fr. 1373A. The first third issue fifty-cent notes had the depiction of Justice holding scales and a sword. They were first released on December 5, 1864.  The first were Fr. 1357, red back fiber paper notes with hand signed signatures of Colby-Spinner and reverse surcharges of “S-2-6-4.” Only 3060 were printed which occurred on November 14, 1864.  Some think that this could have been an experimental issue, but no hard evidence exists. The Fr. 1357 notes, unlike all others in the series, do not have the “1” or “a” plate position indicators. In February, 1865, the backs of the notes were changed to a green back. A total of 9,737,135 Justice notes were printed. One of the problems with the series is that most Justice notes do not have four good margins; maybe two or three, but rarely four. For that reason, fully margined Justice notes command a premium.

Due to counterfeiting of the Justice series, “Lady Justice” was replaced on January 1, 1866 with Spinner notes, which had the vignette of F.E. Spinner. 

An interesting side note here—The Spinner notes were originally supposed to have the vignette of Secretary of the Treasury, Hugh McCulloch and Spinner was slated to be on the five-cent, but McCulloch’s die was lost and he refused to sit for another portrait, so Spinner was escalated to the fifty-cent and he gave approval, albeit probably tacitly while he was otherwise engaged for Clark to put his portrait on the five-cent note. I can prove this—can you prove me wrong?

Another note—most of the information for this came from Rob Kravitz’s book A Collector’s Guide to Postage and Fractional Currency.