December marks the start of winter, and it’s often quite cold in most parts of the country. So, in honor of the normal chill, I assumed we’d visit at least one of the “hippest” names on national currency, Coolville, Ohio. Coolville may be a tiny hamlet in southeast Ohio’s Athens County. on the Hocking River, there is a sits, about 18 miles southeast of Athens, home of Ohio University, and 17 miles southwest of Parkersburg, W.Va.
Many folks collect commercial banknotes from their home state, county, or city. Others collect by type. quite a couple of folks collect interestingly and unusually named towns. Among these are: Intercourse, Blue Ball, Friend, Shingle House, Picture Rocks, Weeping Water, Seven Mile, Buzzards Bay, Tom Bean, cotton, Pocomoke City, etc. Most of those in-demand towns are rare banks, others are just available but overpriced notes, like Blue Ball and Intercourse, both of which dwell in Lancaster County, Pa. They appeal to the prurient interests of some collectors but aren’t rare. In my opinion, Coolville is one among the good ones, combining both desirability and rarity as its notes are very hard to seek out.
A little bit about the town, and that I mean a touch bit because there isn’t all that much information available. Coolville is found on the West Bank of the Hocking River, a couple of miles upstream from its confluence with Ohio. The village was platted in 1818 by one Simeon W. Cooley, for whom the town was named. it had been incorporated as Coolville in 1835 and consisted of a smattering of homes, a grist mill, two stores, and a sawmill.
For our purposes, though, Coolville was the house of the Coolville commercial bank, which received charter #8175 in 1906 and operated until the Depression forced it into receivership in early 1931. Bank officers were J.E. Bailey, president, and L.M. Walden, cashier. As an issuer, it had been very small, spitting out just $265,000 in commercial banknotes over 25 years of business. as long as the bank closed in 1931, its issue of small size notes was tiny – a mere 318 sheets! The census of known notes from this bank has remained static a few times at just three large and three small notes.
I had been trying to find a Coolville note for several years, ever since I wandered into the town during a blinding rainstorm and parked across from the old bank expecting the rain to interrupt just long enough to require a photograph. the matter was that Coolville notes were just not available. It wasn’t until the January 2003 FUN Show sale by Currency Auctions of America (now a part of Heritage Auctions) that a Coolville note first became available at public sale. it had been an outsized size $10 note and a quote from the catalog description indicates the rarity:
While a literal few notes from here are recorded in Don Kelly’s census, all are closely held for many years, as our compilation of overflow 260,000 offerings of Nationals at public sale dating back to 1943 reveals no offerings whatever of any note from here at auction or on a hard and fast list during the past sixty years.
I was excited to ascertain it but stunned at the result because the note sold for $6,325 after spirited bidding. My go after a Coolville note would need to wait.
At the 2010 Memphis Auction, a second opportunity arose. Another large $10 note, this one from the Don Kelly Collection, was offered. it had been not as nice because of the first note, with some stains, and graded Fine-12. There was no lack of interest, however, and this note sold for nearly $5,000. I more or less gave up any hope of getting a Coolville at a price I wanted to pay.
But serendipity features a way of crossing my path, and that I finally got the prospect to shop for the tiny size note from the Don Kelly Collection, this point from Don himself, an opportunity I didn’t pass up. it’s the best of the three small notes reported. I used to be delighted! At that point there had never been an offering of a little side note from this bank at any public sale; that changed in 2015 when Heritage sold a Fine-15 small-size note for over $2,800.
But I still wanted to feature an outsized size note in my collection, and given the rarity of notes from this bank, I didn’t know if or when that might happen. However, I used to be delighted when just last month I used to be offered a really nice large note by Ohio dealer Harry Jones, and that I was eventually ready to complete my Coolville set. My large size note is signed by cashier Walden and vice-chairman A.C. Davis.
As for the town itself, there isn’t an entire lot to ascertain in Coolville. While it’s home to just about 500 people, it’s not really near anything and thus has got to be one’s actual destination. Combination highway US50 and State 6 skirts the town and allows for access. A meander into town along Main Street shows a couple of old buildings and a few tiny homes. The old bank is straightforward to seek out because it now is the Coolville government building and is that the only really imposing structure within the town. When the Coolville commercial bank opened in 1906, it had been housed partially of the president’s house; by 1910 the new brick structure had been completed on Main Street. I used to be ready to find a vintage photo of the bank when it had been in its clapboard house. Amid the well-kept homes are some vacant and abandoned commercial structures, and that I have included a photograph of 1, though it by no means is typical of the town. The town sports its own grade school also as a high school that serves neighboring communities.
I might add in closing that as we approach the start of 2021, the COVID-19 virus remains with us, long after most folks thought it might have just been a memory. Even now, we don’t know what the longer term holds. I wish you all the simplest for 2021, with continued healthiness and prosperity. I can only hope that 2021 is going to be a substantial improvement over the present year, the demise of which cannot come in time.