Monday, July 28, 2008

Rare Bank of Vancouver Note Sold for $28,750

John Mackie, Vancouver Sun
Published: Monday, July 28, 2008

A rare $5 banknote from the long-defunct Bank of Vancouver has sold for a record $28,750.

Marc Verret of C&P Numismatics in Quebec City auctioned the note at the Canadian Numismatic Association convention in Ottawa on July 18. It had belonged to an Alberta collector, who purchased it in an auction in the United States about 15 years ago. Verret declined to give the buyer's or seller's names, citing client confidentiality.

The Bank of Vancouver was launched in the midst of a real estate and industrial boom in 1910 by some of B.C.'s most prominent capitalists, including the lieutenant-governor, James Paterson, and future Vancouver mayor William Malkin, of Malkin Bowl fame. But the boom went bust, and the bank went out of business on Dec. 14, 1914.

The bank's headquarters was in the Flack Block, a beautiful heritage building at Cambie and Hastings that recently underwent a $20-million restoration.

It issued $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 banknotes, but only a handful remain, and they almost never come up for sale.

"I've only ever seen one Bank of Vancouver banknote in 25 years in the business," said Brian Grant Duff of All Nations Coins and Stamps in Vancouver.

"In the past I've only ever been able to find [uncirculated] proof notes where archives had them, and they came to market. I've had good success with those, but I've never seen a real banknote [for sale]."

B.C.'s premier banknote collector, Ron Greene, said he knows of only nine Bank of Vancouver circulating banknotes: six fives, two tens and one twenty. No fifties or hundreds seem to have survived, aside from proofs.

The $5 note that was just sold looks like it's been through the wringer: It's wrinkled, has some small water stains and has been written on in pen. But it's still quite striking. It's green in colour, and features a Vancouver harbour scene on the front and the legislature buildings in Victoria on the back.

"There aren't a lot of really great notes," said Greene.

"[But] there is one that is a lot nicer, and with a better serial number: i.e., No. 1. I had heard rumours of it 25 years ago, and it turned up about 10 years ago. It would reasonably carry a premium on it [if it ever came up for sale]."

Banks issued their own money until 1935, and when the bank went under, there was reportedly $325,000 in Bank of Vancouver notes in circulation. Most were probably redeemed by other banks and then destroyed.

Greene said there is $3,200 in Bank of Vancouver money still outstanding, so it's possible there may be other notes in collections no one knows about.

At its height, the Bank of Vancouver had a dozen branches scattered around the province with four in Vancouver, two in Victoria and one each in South Vancouver, Coquitlam, New Westminster, Chilliwack, Fort Fraser and Fort George (now Prince George), he said.

He said the bank's collapse was linked to the financial woes of the time.

"British Columbia entered a depression at the end of 1912-1913," said Greene.

"The money that was coming from England and from Germany, that was pouring into the province and created a boom, just got turned off. Both countries realized they were going to war."

It wasn't the only local financial institution that collapsed.

"The immediate cause [of the bank's failure] is probably that the Dominion Trust collapsed a couple of months before it," said Greene.

"There was a run on the bank at one point and they managed to weather that, but they didn't manage to weather the run on the Dominion Trust company when it failed."

The Bank of Vancouver was one of three British Columbia banks that sprang up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The others were the Macdonald and Company Bank (1858-1864), which went out of business after a robbery, and the first Bank of British Columbia (1862-1901), which was taken over by the Bank of Commerce.

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