Paper Money

Unissued early note of India top seller in Spink sale

An unissued example from British India’s Bank of Hindostan with the denomination of 250 sicca rupees attracted the highest price in Spink’s Nov. 4 auction in London, realizing the equivalent of about $78,950.

Images courtesy of Spink

The Spink sale of world paper money in London on Nov. 4 included 535 lots, and of the many with five-figure estimated prices, one stood out, selling for £60,000, or about $78,950, including the buyer’s fee. The note was estimated to sell for £10,000 to £12,000 and bore a Paper Money Guaranty grade of Very Fine 20, with tears.

It was an unissued example from British India’s Bank of Hindostan with the denomination of 250 sicca rupees. It is considered among the first Indian bank notes. Though undated, it is from the period of 1823 to 1827.

The black and white issue is part of a series also including 50-, 100-, 500-, and 1,000-rupee denominations, all with the same design, of English text and the value in the center and a tiger seated at the bottom, within an ornate border containing Hindi, Bangla, and Persian texts. These, along with most other of the bank’s notes, were never issued.

According to the Reserve Bank of India, the short-lived Bank of Hindostan was established in Calcutta in 1770 by the Alexander and Company trading business and marked the start of British banking in India. Though it issued its own notes, according to an 1863 book on Indian banking by Nortcote Cooke, they were not accepted by the government as legal tender. The bank was successful enough that it managed to survive three panic runs on it, but finally met its demise when its parent company failed in a commercial crisis in 1832.

The sale also included a relatively large sample of collectible large- and small-size United States paper money from a private collection of U.S. and Canadian notes. There were no elusive rarities, but rather the kind of material most popular with collectors, notes with nicknames such as Woodchopper, Porthole, Black Eagle, Educational, and Jackass.

The highest price was the £9,000 ($11,850) paid for a Series 1880 $50 United States note (Friedberg 164). It was graded About Uncirculated 55 by PMG and categorized as one of the best examples seen on the market in recent years. (The next closest was an Extremely Fine 45 example that sold for $8,225 in 2014.)

For this note and others, prices reflect the fact that the market for U.S. paper currency is international.

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