Paper Money

Communist China note from 1951 tops Spink June bidding

The June 3 to 5 Spink bank note sale in Hong Kong resulted in sales of 50 million Hong Kong dollars, just shy of $6.4 million in U.S. funds.

Topping all individual results, at HK $1,520,000 (U.S. $193,600), was one of the early renminbi issues of the Chinese communist government, a 1951 People’s Bank of China 5,000-yuan note. The face features a shepherd tending his flock in the foreground and a pair of incongruous but politically correct smokestacks in the rear. It was called Very Fine 35 by Paper Money Guaranty with the added Exceptional Paper Quality comment. This example is the only one of the 85 such notes graded by PMG to have the EPQ designation.

Ming Dynasty note

The next highest, at HK $500,000 was six centuries older, yet in PMG About Uncirculated 50 Exceptional Paper Quality condition, in superb quality for its age — a Ming Dynasty “Da Ming Bao Chao” (Great Ming Paper Money) 1-kuan note issued from 1368 to 1399. The note is a little over 14 by 8 inches in size and made of mulberry bark paper. In describing these notes, China’s Capital Museum says the text includes the message that any forger will be decapitated and that not only will the informer be rewarded with 250 taels of silver, but will also be given the property of the criminal.

Another first series renminbi, a 50-yuan note from 1948 in Paper Money Guaranty Extremely Fine 40 Exceptional Paper Quality, went for HK $430,000. This issue is known as the “Donkey and Mine Cart” note in recognition of the vignettes at left and right.

Specimen notes

Another section of the June 3 to 5 Spink bank note sale was 134 lots devoted to “Specimens from the Hong Kong Printing Press.” HK $50,000 nearly doubled the low estimate given a Choice Uncirculated 63 undated 20-cent specimen railway bond issued by the Chao Chow and Swatow Railway Co. Ltd. It is dated to the late Qing Dynasty/early Republic of China era, and is also an error note, given its mismatched serial numbers 24744 and 24734. The face has portraits of Cheong Yuk Nam and his brother Cheong Hong Nam. A blue steam locomotive is on the back.

The Chao Chow and Swatow Railway was the first rail line entirely financed and managed by Chinese merchants and therefore considered a historical milestone.

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