By Spink on Monday, October 12, 2009
On September 29th, Spink held a sale in London of A Superb Set Of The 1913 – 1914 Commonwealth of Australia Banknotes.
The notes were found in a chest of drawers in the North Yorkshire home of an elderly man when his home was being cleard out for an estate sale. He had been unaware of their existence until he was told by the auctioneer who was clearing his house, that a windfall might be coming his way.
Recognising that these notes were a rare find indeed, an astute Rodney Tennant of Tennants of Leyburn asked London coins and banknote specialists Spink to sell the six notes – all with early serial numbers and all marked Cancelled.
Spink offered them (in the separate catalogue) as lot number one of their banknotes sale of September 28. They did not quite make their £400,000-450,000 estimate, but the vendor’s family was delighted to learn that they had sold to an Australian private collector at £350,000.
Background from the Catalog:
From May 1913, the first distinctive Commonwealth of Australia banknotes were issued. They were controversial in that no portrait of the reigning monarch, King George V, was included in the design. It was also feared that the release of a ten-shilling denomination (reportedly the first by any government within the British Empire) would spread diseases from the lower to middle and upper classes. Specimen notes were prepared from regular note stocks by perforating them horizontally with the word ‘CANCELLED’. Such notes were taken at random from the print runs as required, so many bear relatively high serial numbers. It wasn’t until the issuance of the 1923 series bearing George V’s effigy that low numbers were reserved for specimen notes.
Distribution of the early specimens was strictly limited, generally to reciprocating government banks, law enforcement agencies including Scotland Yard, and major museums within Australia. In 1922, a set was even laid under the foundation stone of the new Commonwealth Bank in Collins Street, Melbourne. However, the allocation of such specimens to private individuals was almost non-existent.
Vort-Ronald states approximately 502,667 printed. Early serials of this note were hand-numbered in a special ceremony at the King’s Warehouse, Melbourne on 1 May 1913. Judith Denman, daughter of Governor-General Lord Denman, was presented with note number ‘M 000001’. Lord Denman received number ‘2’, and son Thomas number ‘3’. Prime Minister Andrew Fisher purchased ‘4’ and ‘5’. Notes from ‘6’ through to ‘500’ were allocated by ballot to Members of Parliament, although not all were taken up. Approximately 25 of these early numbers are known to collectors. Notes from serial ‘M 000501’ onwards are known to have been released for circulation. In 1915 the design was modified to include an elaborate underprint on the back of the note so as to deter forgers. This example is very rare as a cancelled specimen.
Due to the uncertainty of supply and wartime conditions, five different serial number combinations exist on the Collins/Allen one pound. The red serial number variety is the first and scarcest. Extremely rare as a cancelled specimen.
Vort-Ronald states approximatley 693,442 printed. Like the 1913 ten-shilling note, the first issue of the five pounds was short-lived due to extensive forging. In 1914 an elaborate underprint, or ‘mosaic’, was added to the back of the note. This example is the ‘non-mosaic’ variety and is very rare as a cancelled specimen.
The high-value twenty, fifty and hundred pound notes were withdrawn during World War II to deter black-marketeering. Issued examples are all very scarce to rare, and specimens even more so. This example is one of two known in private hands, the other bearing consecutive serial numbers ‘X 000017’.
No issued Collins/Allen fifty pound notes are known in collectors’ hands, and only three cancelled specimens – this example, a consecutive note number ‘Y 005494’, and a third number ‘Y 146511’, are recorded. The latter is additionally cross-cancelled in black to prevent fraudulent use.
Vort-Ronald states approximately 24,000 printed. No issued Collins/Allen hundred pounds of this variety (small blue serials) are known in collectors’ hands, and only two cancelled specimens – this example, and another with consecutive serial number ‘Z 006943’, are recorded.
The general grade is excellent, there are signs of light handling, all are perforated CANCELLED and pinholed, but the notes are fresh and original, a truly exceptional group.