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Captured Confederate paper

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In 1862, off the Bahamas, the Blockade runner Bermuda was captured by the USS Mercidita, and in the cargo was a shipment of paper from Britain made from seaweed pulp, and destined to be printed as confederate notes. It was watermarked CSA, and went to the US Government in Philadelphia. When paper was in short supply, the 2nd and 3rd issue Fractional specimen notes were printed on this paper. That is why you will often see a specimen note of Fractional Currency (especially the wide margins) with the distinctive CSA, or part if it. I happened to buy a half sheet of the unused paper from the Milton Friedberg auction in Orlando in 1997... it is quite a piece. Does anyone else have a sheet or half sheet? I know they are scarce... just wondering how scarce. I am thinking of framing it... what could be more of a conversation piece than a blank sheet of paper? Lee Davis

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There are no known examples of any wide-margin single fractional specimen note that contains all 3 letters of the CSA watermark. (Narrow-margin specimens were cut from wide-margin specimens, as only WM plates were produced.)


If you were to overlay the sheet layout for wide-margin fractional specimens on a sheet of CSA paper, you will see that there would not be any single specimen note that could contain the entire 3-letter CSA watermark. There are, however, some uncut pairs/multiples that show the 3-letter CSA watermark.


Individual blocks cut from full CSA sheets periodically come-up for sale at reasonable prices (~$100) on auction sites. Images of these generally show the full CSA watermark, as these blocks were cut from sheets specifically to provide the 3-letter watermark (unlike specimens produced by the Nat'l Currency Bureau).


The captured paper was not all used by the government in producing fractional specimens. Adding-up the government's production numbers for specimens and dividing by the average images on a specimen plate one quickly realizes that only a few thousand sheets may have been used, certainly not what was contained on the manifest of the Bermuda. Some may have been used in printing bonds or other financial instruments or even forms/etc. used in the transaction of business for the government or even sold/auctioned to the pubic, not something that I have knowledge of. Researching this further may be an interesting topic to pursue.


Quite a number of years ago, an group of 100 sheets showed up at Memphis and individual sheets were sold to various collectors/dealers.


A simply trick to produce an image of this watermark is to place the specimen or blank specimen paper on a black background and take a photo with a digital camera. While scanning with a black background will show the watermark, it generally isn't as pronounced due to the bright light reflection from the paper fibers.

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