Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Town’s scarce banknote goes under hammer

Scarborough Evening News
September 21, 2010

A “SCARCE” Scarborough banknote produced nearly 200 years ago when Scarborough printed its own money is set to fetch up to £120 at an auction later this month.

The valuable black and white one guinea note (or £1.05p in modern money) is emblazoned with the words ‘Scarbrough(sic) Bank’ and was produced in 1818, during the reign of King George III and the year before Queen Victoria’s birth and when Scarborough was less than a tenth of its present size.

The privately-owned Scarborough Bank was launched in 1792 by four North Yorkshire businessmen named Hayes, Leatham, Hodgson and Lister and was based in Queen Street, Scarborough. In 1802,the bank was owned by Lister & Co and became known as Lister’s and then, later on, as Moorson’s Bank.

For some time before 1816 Lister recruited a business partner named William Moorson, whose signature appears on the 1818 banknote coming up for sale at Spink in Bloomsbury, London, on September 29. But in 1822, four years after producing this note, Scarborough Bank went bust in spectacular fashion, with liabilities of £70,000.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, there were hundreds of privately-owned banks in Britain all printing their own money, as it was too difficult and dangerous to bring in big quantities of cash from London in those days before motorways and security firms.

Barnaby Faull, head of the banknotes department at London auctioneers, Spink, said: “All towns and cities in Britain used to issue their own banknotes. Merchants would get together and start up their own banks, but their notes, which were like IOUs, could only be used locally. So when these provincial banks like Scarborough’s went bust, their notes became worthless.”

The one guinea note coming up for sale at Spink would not have been owned by the average Scarborough worker as this note represented several months’ wages for many workers in those days.It is more likely to have been produced for a property deal or some other commercial transaction.

Mr Faull added: “Scarborough banknotes are scarce. I haven’t seen that many.”

The Scarborough note, which features the bank’s castle emblem in the top left hand corner, is in “very good” condition according to Spink. Six years ago an 1819 Scarborough £1 note came up for sale at Spink and before the auction it had been expected to fetch between £120 and £180, but sold for £240. In recent years, notes produced by English provincial banks in the 18th and 19th centuries have become sought after and increasingly valuable.

At Spink, in London on April 27 2004 an 1829 Wirksworth & Ashbourn Bank five pound note, from Derbyshire, was expected to sell for between £300 and £500, but it ended up selling for £3,335 which set a new world record for an English provincial banknote.

Spink are now offering a free valuation service for Evening News readers.

Mr Faull said: “Banknotes can turn up in unlikely places. Sometimes they were placed in old family Bibles for safekeeping and then perhaps forgotten, so that is always a good place to start the search.”

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