Paper Money

Venezuelan notes top lots in Stack’s Bowers NYINC auction

The leading lot at the Stack’s Bowers Galleries NYINC auction of world paper money, realizing $84,000, was this rare uniface Boston Banco Nacional de Venezuela 5-peso note of 1841. The note was printed by the New England Banknote Company. At Fine 12, it is the only piece of the type graded by Paper Money Guaranty.

Images courtesy of Stack’s Bowers Galleries.

Bank notes of Latin America, five of them from Venezuela, achieved nine of the top 10 results at the Stack’s Bowers Galleries 1,864-lot auction of world paper money at the New York International Coin Convention on Jan. 13.

The leading lot, at $84,000 including the buyer’s fee, was probably a surprise to the cataloger, who expected spirited bidding, but who nevertheless estimated it at only $1,000 to $2,000. It was described as a rare uniface Boston Banco Nacional de Venezuela 5-peso note of 1841, printed by the New England Banknote Company. The design features vignettes of a sailing ship and a woman at either side of the national arms over a large V in the center. At Fine 12, it is the only piece of the type graded by Paper Money Guaranty.

The other Venezuelan pieces included three rare pieces from the Banco de Maracaibo, all of which also far exceeded their pessimistic estimated prices: a 1917 400-bolivar note in Very Fine 20 at $36,000 (estimated at $2,000 to $3,000); a 1933 20-bolivar note graded Very Fine 30 Exceptional Paper Quality for $26,400 ($1,000 to $1,500); and a 1917 40-bolivar note in Very Fine 20 for $20,400 ($1,500 to $2,000).

The fifth lot was an uncut sheet of three notes from the first issue of Venezuelan national currency, the Estados-Unidos de Venezuela 1-peso note of 1811, in Very Fine 30 at $19,200. When the First Republic fell the next year, most of these were burned by a military officer.

The Venezuelan currency was from the collection of Richard L. Rosenman, a Canadian architect who lived in Venezuela for 23 years. A portion of the 261 lots were acquired by him at that time, when he discovered that local collectors were interested in coins but not paper. He placed ads in local newspapers that resulted in people bringing him the start of this collection — old bank notes that had just been laying around. In 1980, he authored and published the first book on Venezuelan currency, Billetes de Venezuela.

A large Gem Uncirculated 65 1932 Bank of Ethiopia 500-taler note printed by Bradbury Wilkinson & Co. realized $43,200. This popular note is available in lower grades but is not often seen in a condition this high. The design is notable for the warrior standing in an ornate frame at the left side of the face.

Perhaps the most interesting pieces in the sale were not actually paper money, but a pair of executive orders announcing Cuba’s never issued 100- and 20-peso notes of 1869. This was at the start of Cuba’s decade-long War of Independence against Spain. Each is titled “Executive Order Regarding Paper Money,” and is triple signed by the first president of the Republic in Arms, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes; Treasury Secretary Eligio Izaguirre; and Interior Secretary Eduardo Agramonte. The text above images of the proposed currency translates to: “Making use of the powers and authority that I exercise and of the ratification granted by the House of Representatives on June 15 of the current year, taking into consideration that it is of high importance to the cause of Independence and Freedom of the Nation, House of Commerce and the needs of the State in General.”

The two lots sold for $18,000 and $7,200 respectively.

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