Paper Money

Family chest unopened since 1926 has surprise

Among the most interesting parts of the Feb. 9 St. James’s Auctions sale in London is an offering of more than 2,000 bank notes from German East Africa that is as surprising for the story they tell as for the large amount of them. 

The notes, which are divided into 216 lots, include some individual rarities. Others are divided into lots ranging from a few pieces to over a hundred. Their remarkable aspect is that until recently they had been sitting in a chest unopened since 1926.

The chest belonged to the family of Casimiro Fernandes, who was born in Goa, Portuguese India, in March 1873. After his marriage he and his wife left India for Dar es Salaam, German East Africa (now Tanzania), where he took a job with the Customs Department. He took early retirement in 1912 and went into private business as C. Fernandes & Co. 

Although German East Africa came to its demise with the allied victory in World War I, Fernandes remained in business and prospered. In 1926, at the age of 53, he moved to Europe with his wife and five children. Among the possessions that accompanied the family on their journey was this chest of paper money, part of which is being sold now, with the balance to follow later in the year.

Among the more valuable notes being offered are a run of 200-rupee notes dated June 15, 1915. The note with the highest estimate at £1,500 to £2,000 ($2,200 to $3,000) is a scarce issue with the signatures of Kirst and Frühling and is graded Very Fine to Extremely Fine. 

Connect with Coin World: 

Five other German East Africa 200-rupee notes are offered in the auction as well. 

Also prominently represented are the 5-, 10-, 50-, and 100-rupee notes of June 15, 1905, and an interesting selection of notes with errors, cancellations and misprints.

The catalog may be viewed online at,, and

Community Comments