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$20 Redback Currency: Republic of Texas 1840

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  • Author: Republic of Texas
  • Date: 1840
  • Medium: Original Texas Currency
  • Condition: Very Good +
  • Inches: 14.25 x 9.25 x 4 [Whole Frame]
  • Centimeters: 36.25 x 23.5 x 10.2 [Whole Frame]
  • Product ID: 306143

Presented and sold in a handmade double-sided frame using only museum quality archival materials to preserve the banknote indefinitely.

This beautifully preserved Republic of Texas 20 dollar note was issued on January 25, 1840, according to the hand-written date near the center of the note. Just under the hand-written date is the signature of President Mirabeau Lamar. Each bill was hand signed by the office of President Mirabeau Lamar. Early bills issued during Sam Houston's presidency had been signed by the President's secretary because Houston was unable to sign so many documents due to an old war wound. Apparently Lamar did not have any problem signing so many documents. Considering these two had to hand-sign thousands of documents, their signatures are remarkably neat. The note features three beautifully engraved images combining classical Greek imagery with iconic scenes of the American West.

In 1837, only one year after Texas won its independence, the United States, Texas' most important trade partner, entered the Panic of 1837, a financial crisis that lasted until the mid 1840's. This event would have a profound effect on the Republic of Texas and its currency.  

Even in the absence of a major financial crisis, the young republic would not find itself in a particularly stable financial situation. According to Edmund Thorton Miller,  "Imports exceeded exports, and the adverse trade balance drained out gold, silver, and other money that was acceptable abroad. Claims against outsiders such as exports, loans, or donations were converted into merchandise imports because goods for personal, productive, and defense uses were more needed than gold or silver" (TSHA Online). The combination of poor trade balance and economic depression meant that Texas had little to back its currency with.

Without gold or silver to back their currency, the government of Texas relied on interest-bearing promissory notes which were issued to an individual and redeemable twelve months from date of issue at ten percent interest. Unfortunately, as faith in the Republic's financial system diminished, the noted rapidly lost value. In January of 1839, Mirabeau Lamar's administration issues a new type of non-interest-bearing paper currency that would eventually become known as "redbacks." 

Unfortunately, due to the already rampant inflation "when the redbacks first made their appearance, they were valued at only thirty-seven and one-half cents in specie... and in February 1842 they lost their legal tender power in the payment of taxes" (TSHA Online). Practically worthless during their time as legal tender, these notes have become valuable collector's items for their historic significance and aesthetic value.