Internment camp bank note highlights Downies auction
- Published: Oct 8, 2011, 8 PM
A paper money rarity highlighting Downies’ Oct. 25 and 26 auction in Melbourne is a remnant of a war-era prison camp in Australia.
The 1-shilling note issued by prisoners at internment Camp 7 at Hay, Western Australia, highlights the firm’s 309th auction. Internment camps, wartime warehouses of “suspect” humanity, were closed societies, and the note was created to fill a need for currency at one camp.
During World War II, in 1940 the British shipped off to Australia 2,542 “enemy aliens” (mostly political internees), aboard a hired military transport ship called the HMS Dunera, according to the 23rd edition of Rennik’s Australian Coin & Banknote Values, edited by Ian Pitt. Some 545 of those internees were dropped off at Melbourne, and the rest proceeded to Sydney where they boarded trains to one of two camps in Hay, New South Wales, according to Rennik’s. More than 900 prisoners, most Jewish, lived at Camp No. 7, including prisoner/artist George A. Teltscher, who designed three different denominations of notes (sixpence, 1-shilling and 2-shilling denominations) for use within the camp.
All of Teltscher’s notes are dated March 1, 1941. The different denominations of notes differ in color but share an otherwise common design. Surrounding the large center of the note is an design of looped and tangled barbed wire, with a legend WE ARE HERE BECAUSE WE ARE HERE BECAUSE WE ARE HERE carefully and cleverly woven throughout.
The last name of the camp leader, Eppenstein, is hidden within the fleece of the sheep on the shield on the note face, while the 25 sheep on the note’s back, representing the camp’s 25 huts, carry the names of the hut leaders hidden within their wool.
The notes also carry the message that they were legal tender in Australia, and so “contravened Australian law and their circulation ceased prior to September 1941,” according to Rennik’s.
When the national government closed civilian-owned canteens and began issuing its own internment camp money, notes that had been redeemed were destroyed, leaving only whatever examples people still had in their possession as physical proof of the inmates’ monetary efforts.
Three different signature combinations exist, not counting specimen notes, which are unsigned. The example in the Downies auction bears the signatures of M. Mendel and R. Stahl. In Good-Very Fine condition, the note has an estimate of $12,500 in Australian funds.
The note is one of many highlights among 3,078 lots of Australian and world military medals and militaria, Australian tokens and medals, coins of early Australia, and patterns and fantasies.
In addition, the auction contains predecimal and decimal coins, antiquities, ancient and world coins, and Australian and world paper money including bank notes and scrip.
A complete session of non-numismatic collectibles, including sports cards and memorabilia, post cards, gems, watches and paintings, is also part of the effort.
All lots are subject to a buyer’s fee of 19.25 percent, with a minimum charge of $8 per lot.
Some additional highlights:
Australia, bronze World War I death plaque, Pvt. Raymond Henry Ries (enlisted with 31st Battalion Nov. 23, 1915, and died of wounds June 2, 1918, at age 23), 120 millimeters, with extensive research including group photo, Lot 83, Extremely Fine.
Australia, bronze World War I death plaque, Maj. Stuart Hamilton Rickman (one of the “Old Contemptibles”), 2nd Battalion, the Rifles Brigade, died Aug. 27, 1914, age 42, after being wounded the day before while commanding his brigade in the Cambrai-Le Cateau, 120 millimeters, “rare to a commanding officer and very desirable,” “any death plaques to Old Contemptibles are very collectible,” Lot 122, “adhesive mounting substance on the uniface reverse otherwise EF.”
Australia, World War II 5-shilling internment camp token, Lot 185, “overall surface porosity due to bad storage, else About Very Fine.”
Australia, 1969 gold medal marking 50th anniversary of the first airplane flight from England to Australia, .750 fine gold, about 54 grams, by Stokes, 38 millimeters, edge numbered 4, “previously unseen in this metal,” Lot 212, Uncirculated.
Australia 1883-S gold half sovereign, Queen Victoria, Lot 583, lustrous EF/About Uncirculated.
Australia, 1858 gold half sovereign, Sydney Mint Type II, double “R” variety, formerly in the collection of the Reserve Bank of Australia (Downies Sale 290, November 2005, Lot 556), “evenly struck with good eye appeal and extremely rare,” Lot 603, Very Good.
Australia, 1856/5 gold sovereign, Type I, Sydney Mint, Queen Victoria, “overdates are rare in any Sydney Mint issues, this with a clear and distinct overdate, just a handful known to exist and extremely rare, particularly in this condition,” Lot 689, About EF/EF.
Australia, 1953 bronze halfpenny, Queen Elizabeth II, Perth Mint, “excessively rare as a Proof,” Lot 816, “nearly full red with the lightest obverse scratch else” About Fleur de Coin.
Australia, 1956 penny, Queen Elizabeth II, Perth Mint, Lot 840, Proof, About Fleur de Coin.
Australia, 1911 bronze cent, King George V, Lot 965, “choice full red” Uncirculated.
Australia, 1927 bronze cent, King George V, “amongst the finest known,” Lot 986, “superb nearly full red choice” Uncirculated.
Australia, 1923 silver sixpence, Lot 1049, “nearly a Gem, virtually flawless specimen-like strike.”
Australia, 1943-S silver sixpence, King George VI, Lot 1056, “choice white” Brilliant Uncirculated.
Australia, 1928 silver shilling, King George VI, “one of the nicest natural examples this cataloguer has handled,” Lot 1070, choice Uncirculated “with original surfaces.”
Australia, 1910 silver florin, King Edward VII, Lot 1077, choice Uncirculated.
Australia, 1912 silver florin, King George V, Lot 1082, Uncirculated.
Australia, 1944-S silver florin, King George VI, Lot 1139, Professional Coin Grading Service Mint State 64.
British East Africa, 1936 10-cent coin, Edward VIII, “rare,” Lot 2191, Proof, Fleur de Coin.
Great Britain, 1661 Charles II silver coronation medal, 43 millimeters, by J. Roettiers, Eimer 224 (as cataloged in British Commemorative Medals and Their Values by Christopher Eimer), Lot 2313, Good Very Fine “and scarce.”
German New Guinea, 1894-A silver 5-mark coin, Lot 2371, VF “with full eye.”
New Zealand, 1949 silver crown, “extremely rare, only a handful known,” Lot 2404, Proof, Fleur de Coin.
Some paper money highlights:
Canada, July 3, 1911, Bank of British North America $5 note, Montreal, specimen color trial, signed by general manager Hugh Blair McKenzie and printed by Waterlow & Sons, type listed as Pick-S431 (Standard Catalog of World Paper Money: Specialized Issues, edited by Colin R. Bruce II and Neil Shafer) but not listed as a specimen, very rare, Lot 2598, Uncirculated.
New Zealand, March 2, 1874, National Bank of New Zealand Ltd. £1 note, Dunedin, P-S291e, not listed in Pick as an issued note, “possibly the earliest note from this bank to exist and no doubt the rarest New Zealand banknote we have offered,” Lot 2628, VG.
New Zealand, Jan. 2, 1865, Commercial Bank of New Zealand Limited £100, Dunedin, by Perkins Bacon & Co., London, penciled notation “June 22nd 1865” in bottom margin, “possibly unique,” Lot 2634, Good Fine. ¦
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