Paper Money

Notes of Sarawak, India star in Spink New York auction

Three rare, never before auctioned examples of 50-rupee notes printed by the Government of India under British Administration in the early 20th century were among the top results at the Spink world bank note sale in New York on Jan. 17. No previous sales are recorded for any of the three in the Track & Price census of world paper money. 

First among them, and also the most expensive piece in the 248-lot sale, at a price of $18,000 including the buyer’s fee, was one dated 28 JULY 1920. This uniface note was printed in black and pink and bore a grade of Very Fine 20 by Paper Money Guaranty. A companion dated 3 JULY 1922 was a Fine condition note with a radar serial number of 87678. It brought $13,200. The third was from April 30, 1919, also graded fine by Spink, but with a few more margin splits. It realized $10,800.

Elusive, especially in issued form, a Government of Sarawak $25 note bearing a date of 1 JULY 1929 and rated Extremely Fine 40 Premium Paper Quality by PMG was the second highest result, at $16,800. It is stamped CANCELLED four times in the margins.

The face of the predominantly blue note has Charles Vyner Brooke, who from 1917 to his abdication in 1946 was the third and last White Rajah of Sarawak, in the center above a coat of arms. Palm trees and fronds are engraved on the sides. The back displays a government building.

Brooke is a currency subject with an actual familial connection to the world of numismatics. He was distantly related to the Christensen family. In fact, the “B” in the name of the late William B. Christensen, one of Henry Christensen’s sons, stood for Brooke, which goes a long way to explain William Christensen’s obsession with Sarawak numismatics (a subject of many long lunches). 

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