Paper Money

Panamanian notes are Stack’s Bowers sale highlights

Four rare 1941 bank notes from Panama were in the top 10 results at the Stack’s Bowers Galleries Aug. 21 American Numismatic Association world currency auction. The sale was conducted from the company’s office in Costa Mesa, California, rather than the ANA convention in Illinois.

The colorful notes, printed in New York by the Hamilton Banknote Company, were from the “Arias Issue.” Dr. Arnulfo Arias was president of Panama three times. His first term lasted from June 1940 to Oct. 9, 1941, when the military overthrew him. During that short time he authorized private banks to issue paper money, but the only one to do so was Banco Central Emision de la Republica de Panama. It was allowed to issue 6 million balboas worth of currency, and on Oct. 2, 1941, about 3 million balboas in face value were released. When Arias was ousted, the bank was closed and the currency was withdrawn and mostly destroyed.

The bank issued 1-, 5-, 10-, and 20-balboa notes. All of the notes in the auction, rare today, were graded by Paper Money Guaranty.

The finest uncanceled Republic of Panama 20-balboa note was among the pieces in the auction. The note, with an ox cart as its central vignette, sold for $43,200 in Extremely Fine 45 Exceptional Paper Quality.

The 10-balboa note, depicting the Old Panama Cathedral in Panama City, in Gem Uncirculated 65 is the best of 12 graded by the service. It reached $36,000.

The auction offered the highest graded 5-balboa note, with a statue of the native chieftain Urracá. It sold for $30,000 in Gem Uncirculated 66.

The 1-balboa note in the auction, in the same condition, is also the highest graded example. It features the famous armored bust of Vasco Núñez de Balboa. The note realized $14,400.

Two additional but lower-graded Arias issues were offered. A 1-balboa note in Choice Uncirculated 64 and a 5-balboa note in Very Fine 30 went for $9,600 and $9,900 respectively.

The top note in the Stack’s Bowers Galleries sale, an undated Reserve Bank of India Haj Pilgrim issue 100-rupee issue from 1959, realized $55,200. In About Uncirculated 50, it is the finest known. This type of note was printed by India after independence from Britain in 1947, since Indian currency was not allowed to be taken on the pilgrimage to Mecca out of fear of smuggling.

These notes were the same design as the regular issue, but red instead of green, and with the word “HAJ” printed on the obverse, and the serial number prefixed with the letters “HA.” They were for use by pilgrims in Saudi Arabia, and although they were not legal tender in India, they could be converted there back into rupees or English pounds.

India also issued a 10-rupee note and Pakistan also printed Haj currency.

A Dominion of Canada $2 note from 1897 in Gem Uncirculated 65 sold for $43,200. Its appealing design has six fishermen in a small boat spearing fish in one vignette, as well as a portrait of the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII.

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