‘Red Head Guinea’ realizes £3,200 in Noonans sale
- Published: Sep 5, 2022, 8 AM
A Royal Bank of Scotland 1-guinea note dated Sept. 1, 1777, thought to be the first tri-colored bank note issued in Scotland and perhaps in Europe, was sold for £3,200 by London auctioneer Noonans on Aug. 24.
The note had been estimated to sell for from £1,500 to £2,000. The posted price, equal to $3,760, does not include a 24% buyer’s fee. It was described in the catalog as split and rejoined, Very Good to Fine.
The note is known as the “Red Head Guinea,” a reference to the appearance of the coin of that name on the obverse. The denomination ONE GUINEA is printed in white within a blue frame in the upper right corner.
“This is as much an historical document as it is a banknote,” said Andrew Pattison, head of Noonans’ banknote department. “Politics and finance originally came together to shape the history of Scotland with the collapse of the Darien venture. The Royal Bank of Scotland was able to prosper as a shareholding company because the Scottish regional banking system was not restricted by the monopoly of the Bank of England, as institutions were south of the Border. The modern banking system has its origins in the days when this note was issued, and it is a fascinating reminder of those times.”
The Darien venture was an unsuccessful effort in the late 1690s to establish a colony named New Caledonia on the Panamanian isthmus. It was to serve as an overland transit route from the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans. It failed miserably, with as many as 80% of the colonizers dead within a year, and cost Scotland about 20% of its circulating wealth. It was a major factor in the 1707 Act of Union with England, in which the latter agreed to bail out Scotland from its losses.
When the company formed to manage the payments saw it had money left over to invest, it petitioned the king for approval to start a bank, and in 1727 a royal charter allowed the creation of the Royal Bank of Scotland. This note was issued as the bank was prospering. It is signed by two of its directors, Charles Moore and James Simpson, and obliges the bank to pay Archibald Hope, whose name is handwritten, or the bearer, one pound and one shilling upon presentation.
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