Paper Money

Rare early Greek bank notes at MDC Monaco

The 10-phoenix bank note of 1831 was the first paper money issued by Greece after it gained independence from the Ottoman Empire. Issued by the National Finance Bank, this 10-phoenix note of 1831 is the only one ever known to be placed in public auction. It will be offered by MDC Monaco on Oct. 13.

Original images courtesy of MDC Monaco.

MDC (Monnaies de Collection) Monaco is holding a 366-lot auction of world paper money on Oct. 13 that will feature what the firm describes as “an exceptional Greek banknotes collection, and many Top Pop banknotes.”

An opening bid of €10,000 has been set for one of Greece’s first and rarest currency issues, a 10 phoenix of 1831 from the National Finance Bank graded About Uncirculated 53 by PMG. The note is the only one ever submitted to PMG for grading, as well as the only ever placed at public auction.

The face of the note is printed in red ink. It has the denomination as a number and in words, a reference to the authorizing resolution, the printed date, and a handwritten serial number (35587) and signatures of two members of the bank’s committee. The text is in a decorative border. There is an irregular cut on the left side that the Numismatic Collection at Greece’s Alpha Bank says served for checking whether the note was genuine and discouraged counterfeiting. The reverse is blank except for the handwritten denomination in words, the inspector’s signature, and the banknote serial number, reduced by 500 compared to that on the face (3587).

Greece fought its war for independence from the Ottoman Empire from 1821 to 1830. Its first paper money, 100, 250, 500, 750, and 1,000 grossi (or piastres) were actually bonds that came to be used as currency.

A history provided by Alpha Bank mentions that the Fourth National Assembly made the phoenix the first currency of the new Greek state, and the first coins were minted in 1828. The 10-phoenix banknote of 1831 was the first paper money issued. It, along with 5, 50, and 100 phoenixes, were printed at the mint in Aegina, fittingly the island where the first ancient Greek coins are said to have been minted.

As part of the authorizing resolution, at least one-third of the value of all transactions with the government had to be conducted using banknotes. Since people had never used anything other than coins for daily commerce, the currency was not met with enthusiasm. Resolution 7 of January 27, 1832, declared that paper phoenix banknotes would no longer be used in transactions, and they were taken out of circulation a few months later.

Other Greek currency lots include the aforementioned 100, 250, and 500 grossi, and some late 19th century issues of the National Bank of Greece, including one from the first issue of Greek banknotes with printing on both sides, a 500 drachmai of September 22, 1872 in Very Fine 25. It is one of three graded by PMG and starts at €5000.

The sale is posted on the MDC website, under Upcoming Auctions.

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