But the real reason the city of Fairbanks was named after him was because he played a key role in the appointment of a federal judge, James Wickersham, a man Fairbanks met during the border dispute, according to University of Alaska Fairbanks historian Terrence Cole. To return the favor, Wickersham urged city founders to call the settlement Fairbanks.
“He said, `I owe everything that I am to him,“' Cole said.
Auction officials also note the bill's rarity. Only three banks in Alaska — out of more than 12,000 banks nationwide — issued the bills.
According to Johnston, the Fairbanks bill was just one of four notes of its kind in the $5 denomination that were issued in 1905 by the Alaska bank, which was acquired by KeyCorp and became part of KeyBank. One of those bills sold 15 years ago for close to $100,000 and the market has “really picked up for the rarest pieces,” he said.
A third bill is in storage at the University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks, collections manager of ethnology and history Angela Linn said Wednesday. The bill is in pristine condition and looks as if it just came off the printing press, she said, adding that its distinctive quirk is a curve in part of the edge.
The bill being auctioned is unfolded and there is no wear, either, Johnston said. Its color is a little muted because the family displayed it for so long. There also have been some minor restorations to the back corners, but Johnston doesn't expect that to affect the selling price, given the bill's rarity, pedigree and history.
It's probably one of the better national bank notes that will come to auction over this decade, he said.
“It's easily in the top five of what I've handled,” Johnston said.