Sunday, March 9, 2008

$1.9 Millions for Rare Australian Banknote

Katie Miller
10 Mar 08

The first banknote printed in Australia has become the nation's most expensive money, selling for a record $1.909 million at Broadbeach yesterday.

The 10 shilling note was the showpiece item of the International Auction Galleries Australian and World Rare Coin and Banknote Auction at the Sofitel.

The note was bought by Sydney trader John Pettit for a client with an extensive private collection.

"He's got one of the best Australian banknote collections and he wants this as the iconic piece in his collection," said Mr Pettit, of John Pettit Rare Banknotes.

The banknote was printed on May 1, 1913, and presented to Governor-General Thomas Denman's daughter Judith by Labor prime minister Andrew Fisher.

Ten shillings in 1913 would be just shy of $50 in today's money, which means the note sold for more than 38,000 times its equivalent face value.

Mr Pettit said he believed it was a good deal.

"When you look at what early Australian cars are selling for, to me this is not expensive for what it is," he said. "It's always going to be relevant to our history."

"It's a note that all collectors know because of the photograph of the Governor-General's daughter holding it up when it was being printed."

Mr Pettit said the whereabouts of the piece had been unknown until it turned up in a letter file in a drawer in England in 1999.

The historic banknote, with the serial number M000001, returned to its homeland when it was bought by an Australian collector eight years ago.

There were three bidders still in the running for the item at $1.85 million before the final two contenders battled it out.

The hammer came down at $1.66 million but a 15 per cent buyers premium was added, taking the final price to $1.909 million.

The sale made the piece Australia's most expensive banknote or coin, easily topping the $1,223,250 paid for an Australian 1924 George V £1000 banknote in November.

"This breaks the record well and truly," said Mr Pettit.

"We (the bidders) all obviously had similar thoughts as to what its ultimate value was.

"With the share market the way it is at the moment it is ushering more funds into our market and that's reflected in the record prices."

Mr Pettit said the private collector, from a location he would not disclose, was going to allow him to display the banknote for a time for his clients but it would not be on show to the public.

He said the 10 shilling note was one of 500 allocated to MPs, with note 501 onwards circulated publicly.

"I have just handled number four and five recently but number two and three are not known," he said.

"They were given to the Governor-General and his son."

International Auction Galleries managing director Paul Hannaford said the final price on the banknote had been a surprise.

"It was perhaps 300,000 more than we were expecting but that's the nature of it," he said.

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