Paper Money

Imperial Bank of Persia specimen notes sell in WBNA June auction

Among the 1,195 lots in the World Banknote Auctions World Currency Sale 43 were 10 large-format specimen rarities from the Imperial Bank of Persia. The 500-toman note realized $46,000 in PCGS Currency Gem Uncirculated 66.

Images courtesy of World Banknote Auctions.

Among the 1,195 lots in the World Banknote Auctions World Currency Sale 43, which concluded on June 8, were 10 large-format specimen rarities from the Imperial Bank of Persia.

The notes, known for their impressive size, original design, and historical significance, are highly sought by collectors worldwide. The 10 notes sold for a total of $98,957.50.

The Imperial Bank of Persia was established in 1889 by Baron Julius de Reuter and played a crucial role in the nation’s financial history. At its core, it was a British company focused on profits. It had a royal charter granted in Great Britain, with the purpose of supporting Iran’s economic development under the reign of Naser al-Din Shah. It was based in Tehran and operated branches throughout the country. Each bank note indicated a specific branch where it could be redeemed. A total of 28 branches functioned during the note-issuing era. Bank notes were issued from 1890 to 1932 and consisted of two distinct series. The notes in the auction were of the first series, issued until 1923.

The specimens are identical in design, called by WBNA “among the most beautiful banknotes issued around the turn of the century.” The left side of the faces have the Lion and Sun motif, which was the official symbol of the royal house and later became the state symbol. A portrait of Naser al-Din Shah, who ruled Iran from 1848 until his assassination in 1896, is on the right side.

The backs of all denominations also have the Lion and Sun motif in the center. The backs are in a variety of colors.

The notes grew progressively larger with each higher denomination.

They were printed in England by Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co. and then shipped to Tehran, where they were finalized for issue by applying the branch of issue, date of issue and an official seal from the Persian High Commissioner.

The three highest denominations offered were the 50-toman note, 100-toman note, and the exceptionally rare 500-toman note. Only the extremely rare 1,000-toman note was missing from the auction.

The 50-toman notes were printed with three serial number prefixes and had a total circulation issue of 39,500 notes. According to the final accounting of the first series in 1931, only 114 of these notes were outstanding and 122 notes listed as “stolen.” The one in the sale was graded Choice Extremely Fine 45 by Paper Money Guaranty and it sold for $8,050.

Of the total of 27,500 100-toman notes issued, 63 were outstanding as of 1931 and 90 reported stolen. The one in the auction realized $11,500 in Extremely Fine 40.

The rarity of the 500-toman note is such that at $46,000 in PCGS Currency Gem Uncirculated 66, it accounted for nearly half of the total result. Only 1,400 notes were printed for circulation. The only issued note listed as outstanding in 1931 has never been seen. A penciled annotation at top left dates this specimen to 1918.

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