Paper Money

Specimen album of first Israeli notes in auction

A rare specimen album of some of the earliest Israel bank notes is among the highlights of Heritage Auctions’ world paper money sale at the Jan. 7 to 10 Florida United Numismatists convention in Tampa. 

The five specimen notes, all in Uncirculated condition, are in an 11.5-by-7.5-inch gray album with the cover printed in Hebrew. Two lines in Hebrew translate to “The publishing division of Anglo Palestine Bank” and “Examples of the bank notes.” A piece of scotch tape appears in one corner of the album’s cover.

Each specimen note is mounted in a clear window within a black page so that both sides can be seen. The five notes are in the denominations of 500 mils, and 1, 5, 10, and 50 Palestine pounds. 

A smaller mounted information page printed in German is also included, saying that these American Bank Note Co. specimens are from the Aug. 1, 1948, series that was in use until September 1951. It also gives the printing amounts for each denomination, advises that they were withdrawn from circulation in June 1953, and says that the bank released less than 10 of these albums. 

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Israeli currency specialist William M. Rosenblum commented that while this is not the rarest specimen set, it is among the most popular both because it is the first, and also that the 50-pound note is virtually impossible to find as an issued note in high grade. He also says that the fact that the name of the American Bank Note Co. is not printed on the cover does not surprise him since neither its name nor the ABNCo monogram are on the notes themselves. Neither is the word “Israel.”

The magazine Jewish Heritage offers an intriguing explanation in its section on Israel’s money. One of the first issues the founders of the new state had to deal with was its money. The money could not be printed in Palestine because it was still under the Mandate and no foreign firm would contract with a state that did not yet exist. Finally, S. Hoofien, Anglo-Palestine Bank’s chairman, convinced American Bank Note to take the job. Since State Department approval was required for printing bank notes of a foreign country, the notes were printed without a legal tender designation. The legend “Legal tender for payment of any amount” was overprinted later. Additionally, the ABNCo specified that its name should not appear on the notes. Hoofien’s name, however, does.

Also, since the name of the new state was not yet known, officials were in a quandary as to what to use for the denomination. They eventually settled on “Palestine pound” since that was what the already known currency of the British Mandate was called. 

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