Paper Money

World notes draw bidders in two convention auctions

A price of $13,200 was a magic number of sorts for bank notes that blew by their pre-sale estimates at the Jan. 11 Stack’s Bowers Galleries world paper currency auction in New York. First among them was an Iranian 1904 5-toman note issued by the Imperial Bank with the city of Bushire as its payable location that was expected to bring $2,500 to $3,500 in Paper Money Guaranty Very Fine 25. 

Also selling for $13,200, on a $6,000 to $8,000 estimate, was a rare 1914 Government of Gibraltar £1 note from 1914 in PCGS Currency Fine 15 This note was meant to be used as a replacement for coins with the onset of World War I. It is the first of its type to be graded by either of the major third-party services, and the price was attained despite some splits and tears along the edge.

A China Empire Board of Revenue 1854 (Year 4) 5-tael note with barely any circulation but considered Very Fine 35 by PMG for “Holes, Annotations,” also realized $13,200; it had a $5,000 to $7,000 estimate.


1794 Flowing Hair dollarInside Coin World: Collecting silver dollars by type: The February monthly edition of Coin World features the nation’s legacy of silver dollars, stretching from 1794, when a small number of Flowing Hair dollars were struck, to today’s American Eagle silver dollar, produced by the millions every year.


A pair of east African issues with mid-range $10,000 estimates were closer to expectations when they sold for $13,200 each. One, a Sept. 2, 1912, 500-rupee note of the German East African Deutsch-Ostafrikanische Bank was called Very Fine 30 Net (for rust and an ink stain) by PMG. The price was in line with the $36,000 realized for an About Uncirculated version of the same note this past August.

The other was a fascinating and very rare PMG About Uncirculated 55 Italian Occupation 50-piastre specimen note of 1942 issued by the Cassa Mediterranea di Credito per l’Egitto (Mediterranean Credit Bank for Egypt). It is one of the few surviving notes issued by Italy during World War II as part of its ill-fated attempt to conquer Egypt and North Africa. The design, with a bust of the Roman Emperor Augustus (or Octavian) typifies the ludicrous parallels Mussolini tried to establish between his fascist Italy and imperial Rome. 

Selling for $12,000 but estimated at only $1,500 to $2,000 was an Iraqi quarter-dinar note from 1931 graded Choice Uncirculated 64 EPQ by PMG. The note shows a portrait of King Faisal II as a child.

Zanzibar note at Heritage

A price of $87,000, including the 20 percent buyer’s fee, was the winning bid for the highest priced bank note in the 684-lot Heritage World Currency Signature Auction in Orlando, Florida. 

The result belonged to a Zanzibar Government uniface 10-rupee note dated Feb. 1, 1928, in PMG Very Fine 30 condition. It was printed in London by Waterlow and Sons. 

The note was one of 88 from a collection of African currency, but as is common lately whenever a note from Zanzibar is offered, it became the highlight of the auction. As Heritage said, “In recent times, this coveted series has propelled itself into a class of its own.” One independent estimate states that probably less than 500 notes are known, for all denominations and years combined.

Zanzibar issued its first bank notes in 1908, and others in 1916, 1920, and 1928. Denominations included 1 rupee and 500 rupees (1920 only); 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 rupees in 1908 and 1916; and 5, 10, and 20 rupees in 1928. 

All are of the same design but vary in color. The left side of the face shows a typical Arab dhow sailing off shore, while on the right is a scene of native workers harvesting cloves. In the center is the obligation with the denomination written in words. The reverses are always blank.

Another of the more interesting results was $38,400 for an attractive PMG Gem Uncirculated 66 Exceptional Paper Quality Panama 20-balboa specimen note from 1941. The note, showing a team of four oxen at work, has an interesting back story: It was authorized by President Arnulfo Arias and was issued on Oct. 2, 1941. Arias was ousted in a coup supported by the United States a week later, and the notes were pulled out of circulation and destroyed. Arias was president again from 1949 until he was overthrown in 1951. Elected again in 1968, he was booted out after 11 days. 

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