Paper Money

World notes star in auctions at FUN show, NYINC

The popularity of British Commonwealth bank notes was on full display at the Jan. 5 Heritage world currency auction in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as 16 of the 30 highest prices came from Commonwealth members.

Far ahead of all the others at $56,400 was a rare complete Gilbert and Ellice Islands type set of 1-, 2-, and 10-shilling notes and a £1 issue. Those western Pacific islands, now known as Kiribati and Tuvalu, were a British protectorate or colony from 1892 until they were invaded by Japan in 1942. Very few survive of any of the four notes. They are dated 1ST JANUARY, 1942, and were issued just before the invasion. Heritage says the notes are typewritten, although others say they are mimeographed. They are on regular paper and have lightly embossed seals. Paper Money Guaranty graded the 2- and 10-shilling notes Very Fine 25 and the others VF-30. 

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Two notes from British Guiana sold for $15,275 each. One was a PCGS Currency Gem New 66 $5 note dated 1.10.1938, the other a $20 note of Jan. 1, 1942, in PMG Fine 15 Net, Paper Damage and Rust.

Canadian paper money was well-represented in the elite rankings, with over a half dozen lots. A 1935 $50 note graded PCGS Currency Choice New 64 Premium Paper Quality went for $21,150 and a 1935 $1,000 note, also from 1935, realized $16,450 in PMG Choice Uncirculated Exceptional Paper Quality.

A PMG Gem Uncirculated 67 PPQ €500 note of the European Union from 2002 must have turned some heads when the soon-to-be discontinued denomination sold to an Internet bidder for $5,875. Part of the reason is that it is a rare Irish issue, as shown by the “T” serial number prefix. Only 150,000 were printed.

Stack’s Bowers auction

A piece of paper money selling for more than $100,000 does not occur too often, but in the area of United Sates currency, is not unexpected. It’s a whole other story when that threshold is passed by a world bank note, such as the next-to-last lot in the Stack’s Bowers Galleries Jan. 12 New York sale.

Calling the Zanzibar 5-rupee note of Jan. 1, 1908, with a grade by PCGS Currency of Very Fine 35 “highly coveted” was an understatement. It had a reserve of $36,000 and an estimate of $50,000 to $75,000. When all was said and done, it was sold to a telephone bidder for a price of $129,250 including the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee.

The very rare item is said to be the “finest certified uncancelled issued Zanzibar note.” It is the lowest denomination in the nation’s first series of five denominations. The others are in 10-, 20-, 50-, and 100-rupee denominations, all of which are also very rare. It is a uniface design that shows on its left panel a dhow, one of the one- or two-masted vessels with lateen sails common in the area of the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, with the sun on the horizon above it. The right panel depicts farmers at work in the fruit harvest. Decorative lathework appears on three of the four sides and counters bear the numeral 5 in each corner.

Notes of similar design but different dates were printed in 1916, 1920 and 1928; fewer than 500, in total, are estimated to survive.

In April 2011 Spink sold a set of 5-, 10-, 20- and 100-rupee specimens in an album for £180,000 (about $287,000 at the time).

A book of 36 Iranian specimens once belonging to a close adviser of the shah who fled to the United States in 1979 sold for $30,550. 

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