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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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$10 Kingdom note commanded $268,000. Photo courtesy of Doyle Galleries.
“If you want to know what a man is really like, take notice of how he acts when he loses money," said French philosopher Simon Weil. Even the hint of losing cash throws some into panic.

On a Sunday morning in 1875 a report reached Honolulu that the Bank of California had failed. The Honolulu bank was closely tied to it and uneasiness filled the islanders.

A small crowd of depositors gathered in front of the Honolulu bank and demanded their money. Samuel Mills Damon, the bank’s manager, had just returned from Maui and headed directly for the bank.

Even though it was Sunday, Damon opened the bank doors. He also posted a notice saying any depositor wanting his money back would be given it immediately.

Damon also summoned the leader of the crowd inside and insisted on paying him the total amount of his deposits. As the money was being counted, the man stammered then insisted on leaving his savings right where they were.

Damon stood at his post all day long ready and willing to dole out more cash if need be. No more demands were made. By the next morning, public confidence was restored.

That kind of financial know-how and people skills led to Damon eventually becoming the sole owner of the Bishop & Co., Bank of Honolulu. It was in operation for 37 years.

Not only was Damon a savvy businessman he was also a savvy coin collector. Working in a bank proved to be a gold mine in accumulating a world class collection.

Coins from all over the world came through the bank. Everything from “slugs” of gold, Spanish coppers and silver pieces, to French gold coins from the era of Napoleon I, English sovereigns and coins from Peru, Chile, Italy, India and China. Many came directly from the pockets of sailors sailing worldwide.

The Hawaiian Section of Damon’s collection contained rare samples relating to the early era of Hawaii’s monetary and fiscal history. They were offered for sale recently for the first time in 100 years.

Included was one of the most important pieces of Hawaiian paper money in existence, the $10 Kingdom note. Undated but released in 1880, the note is so rare only about two or three issued and un-cancelled pieces are known to exist. It bears serial #1, the very first $10 bill issued by the Kingdom of Hawaii.

A cowboy lassoing cattle is the dominant vignette on the face of the note. James David Smillie created it, son of engraver James Smillie.

That name is familiar to students of U.S. currency as his relatives worked for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The face of the note is black with a light orange tint.

When you get something this rare and this historically important coming out of a collection this important, collectors line up. That’s exactly what happened on March 23 at Doyle, New York.

The note measured 2 7/8 inches by 6 1/4 inches. It sold in the Coins, Medal and Bank Notes sale from the estate of Samuel Mills Damon. Estimated to bring $40,000-$50,000, it commanded $268,000.

Here are some current values for other important lots sold in the auction.

Coins, Medals, Bank Notes

Gold Medal; Germany; 1681; $15,600.

Gold Coin; Japan; 20 Yen; Meiji 3; 1870; $45,000.

10 Roubles; Russia; 1756 CNB; $16,800.

Five dollar note; paper money; pictures whaling port; Hawaii; circa 1839; Ladd & Company; Koloa, Kauai; $24,000.

Silver Dollar; Hawaii; pristine condition; may be the most important Hawaiian coin in existence; one of the highest grades; 1883; $192,000.

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