The Ella Overby Hoard, Starbuck, MN

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By Mark Drengson

Photo courtesy of Pope County Tribune, Nov 12, 1970

Mrs. Ella Overby passed away at the age of 86 while living alone at her home in Starbuck, MN on October 26, 1970, after suffering a heart attack while raking her lawn. Oliver Nygaard, a nephew of her late husband Melchior "Mike" Overby (1887-1962), was appointed special administrator of her estate. Mr. Nygaard had handled her business affairs since the death of her husband in 1962.

Mrs. Overby lived a very frugal existence. Her modest home in Starbuck was totally lacking any modern conveniences except electricity. There was no central heat or plumbing. Since her only heat came from her coal-burning kitchen range, she lived and slept in the kitchen in the winter months, and moved to an upstairs bedroom during the warmer months. Due to her advanced years, and lack of hearing, she rarely associated with anyone except Mr. Nygaard.

While going through the house after Mrs. Overby's death, Mr. Nygaard discovered approximately $96,000 in currency and coins. Much of the currency was old, dating back to the late 19th century, while the overall composition of the hoard was particularly heavy in World War I, World War II and later notes. Many of the notes were National Bank Notes issued by banks in Starbuck, Glenwood and other nearby communities, as well as towns throughout the United States, and even a note from Hawaii!. There was also a substantial amount of gold notes and other large size currency.

The large size notes were eventually sold via private auction, while most of the small size notes were redeemed at face value. The large size notes were split up into 3 lots. The non-Minnesota Nationals were sold to currency dealers John Hickman & John T. Waters. The Minnesota Nationals were sold to the biggest Minnesota collector at the time, Mort Melamed, who is said to have added 60 notes to his collection from the hoard. The large size type notes were sold to dealer Dean Oakes.


Some of the National Bank Note highlights found in the hoard include:

  • 2 - $20 Series 1875 notes, one a G-VG note from the FNB of Homer, NY (Charter 2398), and the other a F-VF note from the FNB of Le Mars, IA (Charter 2728)
  • $10 1882 Date Back from the Conrad NB of Kalispell, MT (Charter 4803) in AU condition
  • $20 1882 Date Back from the FNB Miles City, MT (Charter 2752)
  • $5 1882 Red Seal from the FNB of Medical Lake, WA (Charter 9030)
  • $10 1902 Red Seal from the FNB of Sheyenne, ND (Charter 8886)
  • $20 1902 Red Seal from the Grand Valley NB of Grand Junction, CO (Charter 6137)
  • $10 1902 Red Seal from the FNB of Sand Point, ID (Charter 8341)


It appears that no complete listing was kept of all of the National Bank Notes discovered in the Ella Overby hoard, but some summary stats are available:

  • The hoard totaled nearly $96,000 in paper money, with about $18,000 in large size notes, of which $7245 was large size National Bank Notes.
  • There were notes from 31 states, which illustrates how extensively National Bank Notes circulated, even to such a small northern Minnesota community.
  • There were 432 large size Minnesota Nationals in the hoard, from 105 different banks in 84 towns.
A breakdown of these Minnesota Nationals by Type shows:
Series Type $5 $10 $20 $50 $100 Total
Series 1875 - - - - - 0
1882 Brown Back 3 3 1 - - 7
1882 Date Back - 9 1 - - 10
1882 Value Back 3 - - - - 3
1902 Red Seal 2 13 2 - - 17
1902 Date Back 11 28 1 - - 40
1902 Plain Back 154 149 52 - - 355
Total # of Notes 173 202 57 0 0 432
  • There were 270 non-Minnesota large size Nationals in the hoard.
A breakdown of these non-Minnesota Nationals by Type shows:
Series Type $5 $10 $20 $50 $100 Total
Series 1875 - - 2 - - 2
1882 Brown Back 2 12 6 - - 20
1882 Date Back 6 8 2 - 1 17
1882 Value Back 1 1 2 - - 4
1902 Red Seal 4 25 11 - - 40
1902 Date Back 3 65 18 - - 86
1902 Plain Back 26 52 23 - - 101
Total # of Notes 42 163 64 0 1 270
  • The 270 non-Minnesota and 432 Minnesota notes make a total of 702 large size Nationals in the hoard.
A breakdown of these 702 Nationals by Type shows:
Series Type $5 $10 $20 $50 $100 Total
Series 1875 - - 2 - - 2
1882 Brown Back 5 15 7 - - 27
1882 Date Back 6 17 3 - 1 27
1882 Value Back 4 1 2 - - 7
1902 Red Seal 6 38 13 - - 57
1902 Date Back 14 93 19 - - 126
1902 Plain Back 180 201 75 - - 456
Total # of Notes 215 365 121 0 1 702


  • Included in the hoard were 158 notes from the First National Bank of Starbuck, including several uncirculated cut sheets.

Thanks to Ella Overby, we have many National Bank Notes (in very nice condition) from this popularly named bank and elsewhere for collectors to enjoy.

$10 Series 1902 Plain Back from the Ella Overby hoard, issued by the First National Bank of Starbuck, MN with signatures of Edward S. Olson, Cashier (1924-1935), and Gustav I. Engebretson, President (1918-1935).

References

  • 'The Ella Overby Hoard and the First National Bank of Starbuck, MN' (Pamphlet issued by The Higgins Museum in Okoboji, IA)
  • Jim Wheeler, "Thank You Ella Overby, for a Minnesota Nationals Hoard", Paper Money Journal, Number 88, July-August 1980, p206-208.
  • Peter Huntoon, "The Paper Column", Bank Note Reporter, April 1974, p2 (Overview of the Non-Minnesota Nationals in the Overby hoard).
  • Pope County Tribune, Nov 12, 1970, '$100,000 found in Starbuck home'.
  • Pope County Tribune, Mar 11, 1971, 'Overby money sold to Iowa currency firm'.