Spendable Santas | January 29, 2024

Rolman-Smith examining the North Carolina Executive Mansion Chandelier<br />

Lot 215: Desirable Saint Nicholas $2 Bank Note, New York, 1862

Have you ever imagined seeing Santa Claus on a dollar bill? Most of us living today would find that ludicrous, however, in the mid-nineteenth century you just might find this well known Christmastime figure in your wallet. This is possible because the New York based Saint Nicholas Bank decided to capitalize on its name and the obvious association to the central figure in Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 work, A Visit From St. Nicholas, later popularly referred to as ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.

Of course the concept of Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, goes back as far as 16th century England and perhaps even farther back through Dutch and German folklore. Despite this, the familiar image we have today can be directly attributed to Moore. From the twinkling eyes, cheeks like roses, round little belly, to the classic beard and pipe. Even the names of St. Nick’s reindeer and their tendency to fly from one rooftop to the next pulling the loaded sleigh comes from Moore’s draft.

Rolman-Smith examining the North Carolina Executive Mansion Chandelier<br />

Close up of lot 215

Back to this seasonal ritual being captured on the vignette of an obsolete bank note. While there were other depictions of the jolly elf used, the one prominently displayed on the bank note we are offering in our February Jewelry, Coins & Currency Auction is the ever popular rooftop scene, complete with eight reindeer providing the horsepower. Why only eight? Let’s not forget that Rudolph did not come to be until a Montgomery Ward marketing campaign created him some seventy years later.

Collectors have always appreciated the Saint Nicholas Bank notes and you only have to study auction hammer prices to realize this, with notes commonly crossing ten and even twenty thousand dollars, based on their rarity and condition. Hopefully a deserving collector spots this example and enjoys it a HO-HO-HO lot!

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