John T. Hickman was truly an evangelist, ever laboring to record the survival of notes and entice new collectors to take up the quest of “hometown paper money”. What began as a modest shoebox accumulation of data grew to a refined database of over 135,000 notes before his death in 1995. To date, over 207,000 national bank notes have been reported and the end is not yet in sight.

Shortly before John passed away, he confided that when he started the census he expected there were between 35,000 and 50,000 surviving National Bank Notes, At that point his census numbered 135,000 notes!  He said, “If I’d known there were so many I’d never have started counting them.” He was kidding – if John were alive today he’d still be counting them, savoring every detail of their survival.

John Thomas Hickman was born in 1927 in Macon, Georgia, and moved to Des Moines, Iowa. He acted as the Iowa distributor for two Chicago companies which manufactured bank equipment. His regular calls on banks gave him entree to those who signed Nationals.

Personal Recollections of John Hickman
“I first met John Hickman in Milwaukee in the early 1970s at the Central States show. After the show had closed for the evening a group of paper money collectors and dealers gathered in the lobby of the motel. I recall Vernon Oswald (“Ossie”), a person who enjoys telling stories, having a tough time getting a word edgewise. John Hickman took complete command of the assembly. John presented the subject of the National Bank Notes in an authoritative and captivating style. In the years which followed we met at the St. Louis show and sometimes in Memphis. I made him a standing offer: I’ll buy lunch if you will talk!  What a bargain I got.”

“John Hickman changed my view, my world, and my life. Nationals became more than bits of paper and ink. John turn them into histories of hometown triumphs, tragedies, and intrigues. Because of John Hickman, National Bank Notes became my passion. Thank you John, for your gifts of friendship and Inspiration.”

Present Status of the John Hickman Project
At present the serial number database contains over 207,000 notes. Ultimately the total is expected to exceed 400,000. For some states the census is excellent. For others the coverage is less impressive. The figure of merit for excellence is an average of 20 or more notes per charter number. Reaching this number for all states should be attained when the database population reaches 250,000 notes. Several states have an average of fewer than 10 notes per charter.

Your help will be welcomed. The Officer database is essentially complete for the years 1867-1935. Records are incomplete for 1863-1866 and are likely to remain that way for some time to come.

Seven specialized segments of the full National Bank Notes database have been published, most recently in September 2002.

For more information about John Hickman, Please read this reprint of an article from “Paper Money Whole” No. 179

1) lazy Twos (1500+ notes)
2) Series 1882 Value Backs (1800+ notes)
3) Series 1902 Red Seals (4300+ notes)
4) $50, $100, $500 Nationals (8000+ notes)
5) Serial Number 1 Nationals 96000+ notes)
6) 14000 Charter Number Banks (1100+ notes)
7) Charter Number 1 – 100 Banks (4800+ notes)

Note: Sets of these reports are available to supporters of the Higgins Museum. Contact the author for details.

John Hickman’s “Quid Pro Quo” Policy
John believed firmly in sharing information with collectors and dealers. He realized that serious collectors will respond in an enthusiastic fashion when they have a clear picture of what is possible to collect. When asked for information concerning nationals John would reply “information is gladly given on a quid pro quo basis. “In short, let’s trade information”.
Note all collectors embrace John’s sharing policy. Their mental midget mentality somehow leads them to believe that their treasures are more valuable if they remain ‘secret’. Time has a way of cleansing this part of the gene pool.
You can best honor John Hickman by adding to his legacy. The author Don Kelly may be contacted by e-mail: or by visiting

Hickman – a connoisseur of historical cash – dies
Expert on US Currency of the Past
– Des Moines register -06/30/1995

By Melissa Myers
Register Staff WriterIn the numismatic world, John Hickman might have been called “a flaming rarity,” one of many zippy terms he often used for categorizing and pricing National Bank Notes, which were issued by the Treasury Department from 1862 to 1935
Mr. Hickman, 68, called “America’s resident expert on Nationals” by Wisconsin publisher Chet Krause, died of cancer Tuesday at Hospice Kavanagh House in Des Moines
Mr. Hickman co-wrote the “Standard Catalog of National Bank Notes,” which Krause’s company published. Dealers and collectors call it the premier guide for Nationals hobbyists, and Krause said Mr. Hickman had assembled and identified bank and serial of about 150,000 of these Notes. As a result, he was able to assign rarity to each significantly advancing he hobby. “He was the only one that went into that kind of statistical information,” Krause said.
Ben Maricenee, owner of Ben Maricenee Rare Coins in Des Moines, said that before the computer age Mr. Hickman carried two suitcases full of statistical information so he could help collectors who had question abut a particular Note.
“National Bank Note collecting has grown by leaps and bounds because of John’s work”. Maricenee said, “and it didn’t make any difference whether he was talking with an 8-year-old or an 80-year-old person, he was very free with his knowledge”.  Born in Macon, GA., Mr. Hickman moved to West Des Moines more than 40 years ago. His interest in numismatism began during his 25 years as an Iowa distributor for Hedman Co. He later became a partner in Hickman-Oaks Inc. and until his death was president of Hickman Auctions, Inc.
Mr. Hickman was instrumental in starting the William R. Higgins Jr. Foundation Museum and Library in Okoboji, which holds the most complete collection of Iowa Nationals as well as Major collections from Missouri and Minnesota
  A navy veteran of World War II, he was a member of the Iowa, American and Central States numismation associations and Professional Currency Dealers Association, which honored him with an Outstanding Achievement Award. He also was the recipient of two Nathan Gold Memorial Awards for the advancement of paper money collecting and two Chester County Currency Club awards for outstanding work in National bank note research. Mr. Hickman, who lived at 708 20th St in west Des Moines, is survived by his wife, Doris Juanita, three sons, Rick of West Des Moines, Matt of Humble. TX, and Kevin of Walnut Creek, CA; a daughter Alice Barz of Atlanta, GA; and five grand children.
Services will be at 1:30 pm Saturday at McLarens Funeral Chapel, where visitation will be from 4 to 9 pm today. Memorial contributions may be made to the Higgins Museum Foundation or the American Cancer Society.

Mr. Hickman, was a leading cataloger and dealer in National Bank Note issues who trumpeted the merits of the notes as “history in your hand.” Hickman spent 20 years in service to the Higgins Museum, from 1975 to 1995, initially in the capacity of acquisitions agent and subsequently as curator of the collection.

Book chapter on John Hickman.