Paper Money

Australian notes of occupied German New Guinea sell

The Jan. 4 floor session auction of world notes by Heritage Auctions resulted in sales of $1,348,808, including the 20 percent buyer’s fee, for 475 lots.

As expected, a set of extremely rare Australian World War I occupation notes for German New Guinea dominated the prices realized at $168,000. The 5-, 10-, 20-, and 50-mark notes ranged in grade from Paper Money Guaranty Very Fine 35 to About Uncirculated 53. The only note missing from the series was the 100-mark issue. This was the first time that two of the denomination had been offered at auction in a decade.

A South Vietnamese National Bank of Viet Nam 1,000-dong specimen note of 1955–1956 in PCGS Currency Gem New 65 Premium Paper Quality went for $40,800. The brilliantly-colored note was described as one of the most popular engravings on all of world paper money, and one of South Vietnam’s most desirable designs.

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Assignats are usually associated with the paper money of the French Revolution, when they were issued backed by seized property, and then depreciated rapidly. They also existed in Russia as assignatsionny rubl (assignation rubles) that were issued by banks established by Catherine the Great. They were the first paper money of Russia and circulated from 1769 to 1849, with a bit more success than their French counterparts. There were six issues of multiple denominations in total. Two examples saw the kind of results we have come to expect from Russian coin sales. A 10-ruble note from the third issue, dated 1788, sold for $33,600 in PMG VF-25 with minor repairs, and a 25-ruble note of 1803 graded PMG VF-30, Repaired, realized $28,800. 

When the assignation rubles were withdrawn from circulation in 1843, they were replaced by state credit notes. One of them, an 1857 25-ruble note graded PMG VF-25 and the best of the three notes the service has graded, reached $21,600 in the auction.

Collectors and dealers alike call many Hawaii Territory national bank notes “trophy notes.” Their predecessors, issued when the islands were an independent kingdom, are even more so, such as two in the sale. Both were undated $100 silver certificates of deposit printed by the American Bank Note Co. and issued in 1879. The first, selling for $45,600, and originally from the collection of Eric P. Newman, was an unissued and unsigned remainder graded Choice AU-58 by PCGS Currency. The second was an issued example of the same note that brought $31,200 despite being graded only Good 6 by PCGS Currency. The reason for the low grade but high price, Heritage explained, was that of the very few high denomination notes released, nearly all were subjected to the hardships of a tropical climate.

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