Friday, July 30, 2010

Eureka! Audubon's First Engraved Illustration Discovered

>The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Sandy Bauer
Inquirer Staff Writer
Fri, Jul. 30, 2010

For more than half a century, scholars and biographers of famed bird artist and ornithologist John James Audubon had been stumped.

In an 1824 diary entry, the young French immigrant, who lived for several years at Mill Grove in Montgomery County, mentioned that he had given a drawing of a running grouse to a Philadelphia engraver for use on a New Jersey banknote.

It would have been a key moment - the first published illustration for the struggling artist, then 29 years old.

But if so, where was it? Nobody could find it. And as time went by, many began to dismiss the story as a typical Audubon exaggeration.

But Robert Peck, curator of art and artifacts at the Academy of Natural Sciences, decided to give it one last try.

What he and Eric Newman, a numismatic historian from St. Louis, found has rocked the world of Audubon scholars, who are calling their discovery "a eureka moment."

Their quest began about a decade ago, when Newman visited the academy as part of a tour of libraries and important collections. He and Peck met. They had lunch.

A year later, Peck wrote to him. Had Newman ever seen a New Jersey banknote with a bird on it?

Newman was an expert on the early paper currency of America and had written a definitive work on the subject. He didn't know of any, but he began looking.

Meanwhile, Peck investigated the Audubon side of the mystery.

That first diary reference had been on July 12, 1824. Audubon had since moved from Mill Grove, but he was back in Philadelphia to garner support - from the academy, the preeminent scientific institution in the country at that point - for his bird watercolors.

That never happened, due to what historians contend were jealousies involving another bird artist, Alexander Wilson.

But Audubon wrote that "I drew for Mr. Fairman a small grouse to be on a banknote belonging to the State of New-Jersey."

"Mr. Fairman" would have been Gideon Fairman, a principal in a Philadelphia engraving firm that specialized in making paper currency for financial institutions.

At that time, each bank made its own currency.

Right there!

On a trip to Chicago, Peck checked another diary, and found an entry from 1826. Audubon was in England, where his landmark book, The Birds of America, with full-size printings of his bird watercolors, was eventually produced, beginning in 1827.

He noted that he presented a friend "with a copy of Fairman's Engraving of [my] Bank Note Plate."

But had the money ever been printed? Or was it a plate that never got used?

Newman combed through every book written on New Jersey paper money. "That didn't help me at all," he said.

Then he checked the 10,000 different banknotes issued in the United States for grouse pictures. "I couldn't find any."

Finally, he reexamined his own collection of "sample sheets," printed with various images that bank presidents might want on their bills.

Mostly, such sheets contain portraits of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, images of draped Lady Liberties, and, above all, eagles.

But finally, on a sheet issued by Fairman's firm, likely in 1825 - there! on the lower right! - was a grouse.

More tidbits

As was typical, the image wasn't signed. But while other wildlife artists of the day were producing static images, this had unmistakable Audubon touches - the unusual choice of species, the running posture that revealed a knowledge of the bird in the field, and hints of its grassy habitat.

"All the circumstantial evidence lines up," Peck said. "He writes in diary twice he did this drawing for Fairman. And that it was of a grouse. And that it was for a New Jersey banknote.

"And here, suddenly within months of Audubon saying he gave it to Fairman, the grouse appears on one of Fairman's sample sheets."

More searches led to more tidbits.

Eventually, Peck and Newman put together a likely scenario: Bills may have been printed for the New Jersey institution, the State Bank at Trenton, which employed Fairman's firm to design and print many of its bills.

But the bank began to fail in July 1825, and its notes were worthless by 1826.

Meanwhile, the State Bank of Camden had issued bills similar to the Trenton notes and also printed by Fairman.

In those days, with so many small banks and so much different currency, conditions were ripe for counterfeiting. Forgers altered Trenton notes to look like Camden notes.

The Camden bank eventually recalled its currency and burned it along with bills from the Trenton bank.

"The failure and scandal . . . all that is documented as part of banking history," Peck said. Whether the burned notes actually contained Audubon's grouse is likely, given the timing, he said, but unproven.

Peck and Newman also found later designs with Audubon's grouse - a $3 note for the Bank of Norwalk in Ohio and a $5 note for the Bridgeport Bank in Connecticut. But there's no evidence that either bank followed through and printed the bills.

The academy announced Peck and Newman's findings Thursday. They're being published in the fall journal of the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic, based at the Library Company of Philadelphia.

As word got out, scholars began calling with congratulations - and more tidbits.

"It's been one of the holy grails for Audubon researchers, to find out if that exists," said Nancy Powell, curator of collections and exhibitions at Mill Grove. Now, "it lets us know a little more about him and his art and how he developed it."

"It's the eureka moment where you find that missing piece of the puzzle," said Roberta Olson, curator of drawings at the New York Historical Society.

The society has all 435 original watercolors for Audubon's Birds of America. One is of a similar grouse - the pinnated grouse - and the society dates it to 1824, the same year Audubon supposedly made the image for Fairman.

To Olson, everything fits. Other wildlife artists of the day had found that making drawings for banknotes gave them not only money to live on but a certain cachet. So why not Audubon?

Peck said he thought Audubon's little grouse drawing worked against him. To be sure, it was different from all the eagles, and was not the sort of thing counterfeiters might use or copy. It also showed his prowess as an ornithologist, something he longed for in the stuffy Philadelphia science world that had rejected him.

But the grouse was, in a word, odd.

Bank managers who wanted emblems of security, nationalism, or patriotism might have shied away from it.

"A skittish grouse known for its shy behavior, and running, would not instill in the customer a great sense of confidence," Peck said. "But Audubon was so swept up in his own love of birds and his knowledge of their intimate behavior."

Peck and Newman know they may never learn the whole story. So much is gone.

The engraver went out of business in 1830. The Trenton and Camden banks failed.

The birds - also known as heath hens - have gone extinct. It's yet another detail that resonates among scholars of Audubon, whom many credit with the birth of the conservation movement in this country.

But neither Peck nor Newman can resist the tantalizing possibility that banknotes with Audubon's grouse on them were printed and still exist . . . somewhere.

Given the Trenton and Camden bank connections, they can't help but imagine some tucked away in a Philadelphia attic or stuffed into a Camden wall for insulation.

"That is always possible," Newman said. "Always."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Indonesia Issues Revised 10,000 Rupiah Notes

July 21, 2010

Bank Indonesia began issuing new 1,000 Rupiah coins and 10,000 Rupiah notes on July 20, 2010.

The new note is similar to previous issue, except the overall color has changed from reddish purple to a bluish purple, and improved security features.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hong Kong to Circulate New Series of Banknotes Starting in Q4

Hong Kong Government News
July 20, 2010

The new series Hong Kong banknotes in $1,000 and $500 denominations, with advanced security features, will go into circulation in the last quarter of 2010 and early 2011.

Consistent with the current series, the new series will consist of five denominations, each adopting the same colour scheme. The $1,000 and $500 notes' designs were unveiled today, while those of the remaining three denominations - $100, $50 and $20 - will be unveiled around the middle of next year.

Security features

The five more important key features of the new banknotes are:

* a dynamic colour-changing pattern - colour shifting between green and gold with a shimmering horizontal bar seen to be rolling up and down when the note is tilted.

* a colour-changing windowed metallic thread - colour shifting between magenta and green and the "H" and "K" on the thread are made up of microtext.

* a standardised enhanced watermark - comprising a multi-tonal watermark of a bauhinia flower and highlight watermark of the denomination numeral and dot pattern, a standardised design for the three note-issuing banks.

* a fluorescent see-through pattern - perfect registration of the patterns on the front and back, with two fluorescent colours visible under ultraviolet light.

* a fluorescent serial number - the vertical serial number is fluorescent red under ultraviolet light.

Braille and tactile lines have been added to help people with visual impairments differentiate the denominations. A new note-measuring template will be made available through voluntary agencies to serve the visually impaired community.

Monetary Authority Chief Executive Norman Chan said for the past six years Hong Kong has seen a continuous drop in the counterfeit rate.

"We should not be complacent and must ensure that we are staying ahead of counterfeiters. There is a need to revamp the design of our banknotes and introduce latest available security features to minimise the risk of being counterfeited," he added.

Publicity drive

All existing banknotes continue to be legal tender. They will continue to circulate alongside the new banknotes and will be gradually withdrawn from circulation when they become unfit for circulation.

An extensive education programme will be launched to raise public awareness of the new banknotes. Seminars will be conducted for banks, retailers and money changers; and special outreach seminars will be arranged for centres for the elderly and the visually impaired.

Exhibitions will be held in different districts and an interactive online-learning programme is available on the authority's website. Leaflets illustrating the new security features are available at the Monetary Authority's office, the note-issuing banks' branches and District Offices.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hong Kong Banknote Exhibition Opens

Hong Kong Government Press Release
July 16, 2010

A new exhibition tracing the history of Hong Kong's paper money was launched today (July 16) at the atrium of the Hong Kong Pavilion at the Expo 2010 Shanghai China (Shanghai Expo).

"Stories Behind Banknotes", organised by HSBC, is one of the six thematic exhibitions to be staged at the Hong Kong Pavilion during Shanghai Expo, and will run until August 15.

The Commissioner of the HKSAR Expo Affairs Office, Mr Patrick Chan, and the President and Chief Executive Officer Designate, HSBC Bank (China) Company Limited, Ms Helen Wong, officiated at today’s launch ceremony.

Mr Chan said, "HSBC's exhibition of the banknotes issued by the bank in the past 145 years, in the Hong Kong Pavilion at the first-ever World Expo hosted by our country in the city of Shanghai, has special meaning.

"The banknotes featured in this exhibition are precious and very interesting. Many are rare, and some have never been publicly shown before."

"Stories Behind Banknotes" provides a unique insight into the social and economic transformation of Hong Kong since HSBC issued its first banknote in the city in 1865.

Among the 56 banknotes featured is the "duress note" issued during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in World War II. Other rare notes from Shanghai and other note-issuing branches across China are also displayed.

HSBC Chief Executive Officer Hong Kong Mark McCombe said, "The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited has been the principal issuer of banknotes in Hong Kong since the bank issued its first banknote in 1865, the year of its establishment.

"Currently, approximately two out of every three banknotes in circulation in Hong Kong are issued by HSBC. HSBC's banknotes and their constantly shifting designs illustrate the trade and financial development of the region and provide a valuable insight into the culture and character of the city."

HSBC is a diamond sponsor of Hong Kong's participation in Shanghai Expo.

In parallel with the "Stories Behind Banknotes" exhibition, Hong Kong will organise its first large-scale financial forum on the Mainland as one of the major programmes for Shanghai Expo.

The high-level financial forum, to be held at Pudong Shangri-La Hotel on July 21, will be attended by the Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Professor K C Chan, and experts in the financial services sector from Hong Kong, the Mainland and overseas.

The main aim of the Finance Forum is to promote broader exchange and deeper co-operation in financial services between Hong Kong and Shanghai. It will examine important issues related to China's continued opening up and the internationalisaton of its financial markets.

So far, three other thematic exhibitions have been staged at the atrium of the Hong Kong Pavilion – "Green Living in Hong Kong", "HKIA: Global Connectivity. World-class Service" and "One Country, Two Systems".

The "Stories Behind Banknotes" Exhibition will be followed by "Passion for Hong Kong: Exhibition of Works by Professor Jao Tsung-i" from August 16 to September 30, and the "Creativity of Hong Kong Industries" Exhibition from October 1 to 31.

For more details on Hong Kong's participation in Shanghai Expo, please visit .

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Indian government approves new symbol for rupee

BBC News
15 July 2010

India is to have a new symbol for its currency, the rupee, after the government approved the winning entry in a national competition.

The symbol is a cross between the Roman letter R and its Hindi equivalent, and was designed by a teacher at the Indian Institute of Technology.

A panel of artists, officials and bankers picked the new design.

The Indian government hopes it will soon be as recognisable as the dollar, the pound or the euro.

Correspondents say choosing the symbol reflects India's ambition to be seen as a global power.

The winning entry was one of five shortlisted in the public competition announced in March 2009. Designers were given a brief to come up with a symbol that captures the ethos and culture of India.


Until now the rupee has generally been shortened to the letters Rs or sometimes INR (Indian rupee).

India's government says these are not symbols but mere abbreviations.

The new symbol will be the "identity of the Indian currency", information minister Ambika Soni says.

"It will distinguish the rupee from other currencies."

The winning design is made up of half the letter R with a horizontal line on top and in between to make it also look like its equivalent in the Devanagari script, which used in a number of Indian languages including Hindi and Sanskrit.

It will soon be introduced on computer keyboards and banknotes in India and is expected to take a year or two to be fully implemented.

The winning entry was submitted by D Udaya Kumar, a newly-appointed teacher of design at the Indian Institute of Technology. He will receive prize money amounting to $5,350 (£3,500).

Experts say implementing a new currency symbol can be an expensive exercise.

According to one estimate, when the euro was introduced in 1999 it cost Europe's biggest companies more than $50bn to update their computer systems to deal with the changeover.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Gibraltar Issues New Banknote Series

Government of Gibraltar
July 8, 2010

New currency notes have been issued by the Gibraltar Government. There will be a £100 note for the first time.

The announcement was made July 8, 2010 by the chief minister of Gibraltar.

There are five currency notes in the series - £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100 note.

The currency notes will be released into circulation in two phases. The £10 and £50 notes were released today and the £5, £20 and £100 notes will follow in early 2011.

The front of each banknote shows the image of Queen Elizabeth II and coat of arms.
The reverse of each of the banknotes carries a vignette which shows an aspect of Gibraltar through the ages.

The oldest part of the Moorish Castle date back to the 11th century. The castle consisted of three wards rising from the area of what is today Casemates Square to the Tower of Homage, which was built in the 14th century. Even today it dominates the old City. The Upper Ward of the castle and the Tower of Homage are featured on the back.

The Great Siege of 1779-1783 was the 14th and last attempt to take Gibraltar by force, by means of a siege. The heroic defense of Gibraltar under General Eliott against the might of France and Spain resonated throughout Europe. The back depicts the valiant General in a scene depicting him directing the defence of Gibraltar.

Admiral Lord Nelson called at the port of Gibraltar on a number of occasions prior to the famous Battle of Trafalgar of 1805, fought close to Gibraltar, where he won a great victory but lost his life. The back shows the dismasted HMS Victory, the Admiral's flagship, being towed to Gibraltar after the battle, bearing the body of the dead Admiral.

Casemates Square originally formed part of the Lower Ward of the Moorish Castle. It was the heart of La Barcina, part of the 15th century Spanish city, at the confluence of the roads leading to the Land and Sea Gates to Gibraltar. The British built a large Barracks at this strategic point, Casemates Barracks, that gave the square its present name. It is now a gastronomic, shopping and leisure hub.

The King's Bastion stands at the centre of the medieval seawall that protected the old City. It was fortified by General Boyd (who is buried in the Bastion) in 1773 in time for it to play a key role in the defence of Gibraltar during the Great Siege. Gibraltar's first electricity generating plant was sited in the courtyard of the Bastion. The Generating Station was demolished to give way to today's leisure centre, a stunning innovative use for a historical military fortification.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Zimbabweans wash dirty U.S. dollars with soap, water

By ANGUS SHAW Associated Press
July 6, 2010, 8:16AM

HARARE, Zimbabwe — The washing machine cycle takes about 45 minutes — and George Washington comes out much cleaner in the Zimbabwe-style laundering of dirty money.

Low-denomination U.S bank notes change hands until they fall apart here in Africa, and the bills are routinely carried in underwear and shoes through crime-ridden slums.

Some have become almost too smelly to handle, so Zimbabweans have taken to putting their $1 bills through the spin cycle and hanging them up to dry with clothes pins alongside their sheets and clothes.

It's the best solution — apart from rubber gloves or disinfectant wipes — in a country where the U.S. dollar has long been the currency of choice and where the lifespan of a dollar far exceeds what the U.S. Federal Reserve intends.

Zimbabwe's coalition government officially declared the U.S. dollar legal tender last year to eradicate world record inflation of billions of percent in the local Zimbabwe dollar as the economy collapsed.

The U.S. Federal Reserve destroys about 7,000 tons of worn-out money every year. It says the average $1 bill circulates in the United States for about 20 months — nowhere near its African life span of many years.

Larger denominations coming in through banks and formal import and export trade are less soiled. But among Africa's poor, the $1, $2, $5 and $10 bills are the most sought after. Dirty $1 bills can remain in circulation at rural markets, bus parks and beer halls almost indefinitely, or at least until they finally disintegrate.

Still, banks and most businesses in Zimbabwe do not accept torn, Scotch-taped, scorched, defaced, exceptionally dirty or otherwise damaged U.S. notes.

Zimbabweans say the U.S. notes do best with gentle hand-washing in warm water. But at a laundry and dry cleaner in eastern Harare, a machine cycle does little harm either to the cotton-weave type of paper. Locals say chemical "dry cleaning" is not recommended — it fades the color of the famed greenback.

Storekeeper Jackie Dube hasn't yet taken up advice of friends to start washing the often damp and stinking U.S. dollars she receives for the garments and cheap Chinese consumer goods she sells in Harare. It's time-consuming, she says, but notes stinky bills are a problem.

"I get rid of the worst of the notes as soon as I can in change," she said.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Walla Walla, Washington Territory - $5 1875 Sold for $161,000

Heritage Auction
July 3, 2010

1875 Walla Walla, WA $5 brings $161,000 to lead $5.1 million Heritage Memphis Currency Auction June 17-19 2010


Walla Walla, Washington Territory - $5 1875 Fr. 403 The First NB Ch. # 2380

A wonderful note which is new to the market and offered here to the collecting community for the first time. It comes from the only bank in the state of Washington to have issued First Charter Territorial examples, and becomes only the third First Charter Territorial reported from Washington state.
The other two examples have been ensconced in major private collections for some years, with one grading Very Good and the other Extremely Fine. Neither has ever been offered at public sale, but we do know that the higher grade specimen traded hands several years ago at a number well into the six figure range. The example we offer tonight is outstanding in every respect, displaying bright paper, a vivid red overprint, and superb colors which look nearly as nice as they did on the day this note was printed 130 years ago. In fact, PMG has noted "Exceptional Eye Appeal" on the Very Fine 25 holder, an appellation we have seen only once or twice before on any PMG graded note. For the collector putting together a set of Territorial notes, for the Washington collector assembling an ultimate state type set, or for the collector who simply appreciates the very finest in National Bank Note rarities from all states, this note is one which absolutely should be brought home tonight