Paper Money

Notes of Zanzibar star in Spink NYINC January auction

The rarest of the Zanzibar notes in the Spink January sale, a 500-rupee note, sold for $140,000 more than expected, at $240,000.

Images courtesy of Spink.

Whenever paper money from Zanzibar appears at auction, it is nearly a given that it will be the highlight of the sale.

So when seven Zanzibar pieces were listed at the end of the 316-lot Jan. 14 Spink bank note auction at the New York International Numismatic Convention, and they realized a total of $710,000, with four of them more than doubling their estimates, it was not exactly a surprise.

All Zanzibar notes are rare, even the lowest-priced ones. They all have the same uniface design, a dhow at sea on the left and a group of people harvesting cloves at right. They differ only by color.

The rarest of them, a 500-rupee note, sold for $140,000 more than expected, at $240,000. Only one other is believed extant and in private hands. It bears the date 1 SEPTEMBER 1920 and has SPECIMEN hand-stamped above its hole canceled red serial number A8012. As evidenced by the Magistrates Court stamp on the back, it was used as a court exhibit note.

Paper Money Guaranty graded it Choice Very Fine 35 and described it as previously mounted, with a tear.

Three other higher denomination pieces, all dated 1 AUGUST 1916 and marked SPECIMEN similar to the above, also surpassed $100,000. Their estimated prices are given in parentheses: A 100-rupee note in PMG Choice Extremely Fine 45, previously mounted and with a corner missing, sold for $120,000 ($70,000); a 50-rupee note with the same markings but called Choice Fine 15, previously mounted, with a corner tear and ink, went for $150,000 ($70,000). A-20 rupee note in Very Fine 30 with stains and annotations realized $130,000 ($50,000).

The other three notes were a 10-rupee note of Feb. 1, 1928, in Very Fine 20 at $32,000 ($20,000); an Aug. 1, 1916, 5-rupee note in Choice Fine 15 at $26,000 ($15,000); and finally, a 1-rupee note bearing a 1 SEPTEMBER 1920 date and described as Choice Fine 15 with an edge piece missing sold for $12,000 ($3,000).

A few other important results were: $16,000 ($10,000) for a Bank of England £500 note from Liverpool with a 30 SEPTEMBER 1936 date in PMG Choice Uncirculated 63, called one of the finest examples extant; a Government of Sarawak uniface black and green $1 note dated 1 JULY 1919, with the third and last White Rajah, Charles Vyner Brooke at top left and an allegorical woman with beehive and anchor representing Industry and Commerce at center in PMG Choice Fine 15 with minor rust, at $16,000 ($7,000); an extraordinarily colorful and rare $25 Mongolia State Treasury note of 1924 in PMG Gem Uncirculated 65 for $12,000 ($4,500 to $7,500).

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