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The Kirtland Safety Society Bank (Kirtland, Ohio). ORIGINAL BANKNOTE (five-dollar bill) signed "J Smith Jr" and "S Rigdon."

Accomplished in manuscript (filled out) and issued on February 10, 1837; manuscript serial number 742.

7 X 17 cm. (3 X 7 inches). A beautiful example, in very nice condition indeed. The paper is strong and clean.

By way of comparison, note that a similar example but having glue stains sold recently on eBay for $2,250 (eBay Item # 1271441856).


I do not believe that the Joseph Smith signature was actually written by the Prophet himself. A knowledgeable LDS specialist collector advises me that it was probably written by W. W. Phelps, explaining that secretarial signatures for Joseph Smith frequently occurred on $5 notes and higher denominations. Indeed, he denies having ever found a Kirtland banknote above a three-dollar denomination which bore a satisfying "Joseph Smith" signature. Smith evidently became tired of signing these larger denomination notes (issued in very large numbers), and left the tedium to his secretaries.

It may be amusing to note that I sold another Kirtland $5 note last year with an earlier date than this one, but a later serial number (February 7, 1837, serial number 1035). It is reported that the Kirtland "bank" did not maintain adequate specie to back its notes. Did its officers also simply make up serial numbers as they went or start new series each time they sat down to sign? The example illustrated by Al Rust was issued the same day as the one now at hand, bears all the same names, and was note No. 755. (Alvin E. Rust, Mormon and Utah Coin and Currency [Salt Lake City, 1984], p. 7


THE ORNATELY-ENGRAVED PLATES for these banknotes were brought from Philadelphia by Oliver Cowdery, who arrived back in Kirtland on January 1, 1837. Unfortunately, Orson Hyde showed up the same day from the Ohio state capitol with news that a charter could not be secured. The "Kirtland Safety Society Bank" with its pretty new money was thus illegal. The name was quickly changed to the "Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company." Joseph Smith would be the treasurer, and Sidney Rigdon, secretary. In order to make the bills legal, they would stamp the extra words, "Anti-" and "ing Co." around the word "Bank" in the engraved name of the institution. This didn't last long, however, as explained by Alvin Rust . . .

Only a few of the $1, $2, and $3 Bank notes were hand-stamped Anti-Banking Co. . . . Perhaps it took too much time to hand stamp the words Anti- and ing Co. on the original Bank notes, so the practice was discontinued. . . . The Bank notes from $5 through $100 were never hand stamped Anti-Banking Co. [Rust, p. 2]


SIDNEY RIGDON (1793-1876) was First Counselor to Joseph Smith from 1833 until Smith's death. He was also one of the most influential figures in the development of early Mormonism. In terms of doctrine, priesthood organization, the Word of Wisdom, Missouri persecutions, and so many other factors, Rigdon's importance to the new faith can hardly be exaggerated. By the time he signed this piece of paper, he had long-since replaced Oliver Cowdery as the second most powerful individual in the Church (in practical terms).

**SOLD** $2,175



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