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Flemington, NJ Man Pockets Rare Bill After Bidding Nearly $250K

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Jess Lipka was exhilarated at the chance of owning the rare $5 bill, even though his winning bid of nearly $247,000 terrified him.

"It's a lot of money," the 51-year-old Flemington, N.J., man said Tuesday. "I have to move around a lot of things and figure out how to cover it."

But he was determined to have the century-old note issued through the First National Bank of Fairbanks. Thus his steep bid at an auction by Dallas-based Heritage Auctions last week at the American Numismatic Association National Money Show.

Lipka is a coin and currency dealer, but he said the 1905 bill is for his private collection of old national bank notes of a category known as Serial No. 1 red seals. The note represents one of the few states missing from his cache, said Lipka, who has collected national bank notes for most of his life.

The bill was presented in 1905 to Vice President Charles W. Fairbanks, the namesake of the Alaska city and Theodore Roosevelt's No. 2.

The bill has been in the family's possession since. Charles W. Fairbanks IV of Santa Barbara, Calif., the vice president's great-grandson, recently decided to auction it.

Auction officials said it was one of just four notes of its kind. The minimum bid was $120,000 and Heritage expected it to fetch between $200,000 and $300,000, even though the color was a little faded because the Fairbanks family displayed the framed bill for decades.

Lipka's bid was the most he's ever paid at auction, he said. But now he has the note he first heard about more than 20 years ago.

"It's a great privilege, one of the highest privileges I've ever had, to own a great piece of Alaskan history," he said.

The proceeds for the sale will go toward ongoing restoration work of the historical Fairbanks House in Dedham, Mass, according to the great-grandson. The house, open to public tours, was built in the 1600s and is believed to be the oldest standing timber house in North America, according to the Fairbanks House website.

Fairbanks, 67, said he met Lipka at the Dallas auction and was glad to see him become the new owner of what was long a family heirloom. There's no doubt Lipka knows his currency, Fairbanks said.

"He certainly is a connoisseur of the numismatic trade," he said.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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