Paper Money

Rare 1935 Bank of England note in Sept. 29 London auction

One of only about two dozen £1,000 notes thought to have survived after they were withdrawn due to a Nazi plot during World War II is offered in a Sept. 29 auction.

Image courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb.

Bank of England £1,000 notes were withdrawn from circulation during World War II because of a Nazi plot to flood Britain with forged currency. Only about two dozen survive, and one is to be auctioned by Dix Noonan Webb in London on Sept. 29, 2014.

The note, dated Oct. 15, 1935, is expected to fetch £18,000 to £22,000 ($30,700 to $37,600 in U.S. funds), according to the auction firm.

When it was printed, the £1,000 note was not something anyone would have carried around in a wallet routinely, which may account for its excellent condition, according to the auction firm.

The £1,000 note had significant purchasing power. For example, the average price of a house in the United Kingdom in 1935 was £530, so the note would have been enough to buy one average home and another one slightly further down in the property price scale. The face value of the note was worth more than five times the average annual salary of £192 in the United Kingdom at the time.

The £1,000 note was the highest denomination ever issued by the Bank of England. Its demise was prompted by Operation Bernhard, the German plan to destabilize the British economy by flooding the country with counterfeit notes during World War II.

The original plan was to parachute the money into Britain, but it was found more practical to use the notes to pay German agents operating throughout Europe. The Bank of England reacted by withdrawing all notes in denominations of more than £5. The £1,000 note was last issued in 1943 and ceased to be legal tender April 16, 1945.

When the £1,000 notes were withdrawn from circulation and destroyed, just 63 remained unaccounted for, and today about two dozen are thought to exist. The example to be auctioned at Dix Noonan Webb was consigned by a British private collector.

For more information about the note and the upcoming auction, visit the firm’s website or email the firm.

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