One of the first major paper money auctions of the year will be organized by Stack’s Bowers during the New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC), held from January 12 to 14 at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Manhattan. A show that traditionally has been held at the Waldorf Astoria, it has now moved up the street to an entirely new venue. We have covered some of the other auctions organized during this week in other preview articles. In this one, we cover the Stack’s Bowers auction of World Paper Money as well as the special Eldorado Collection of Columbian Paper Money, which is offered in a separate auction session and also has its own catalog. All lots discussed in this preview article, as well as all other lots in the various auctions can be viewed at the website of Stack’s Bowers.
The first lot we will take a look at is lot number 30070, an extremely rare $1 bank note from the very first issue of British Honduras — a country that after independence would become known as Belize. The only English speaking country in Central America, both British Honduras and Belize are very popular bank note collecting fields. This piece, Pick-1, is a $1 dated 1894, graded Very Fine 20 NET, and is one of the few survivors of issued examples of this entire issue. These circulated for a short time, and were soon replaced by a new issue, causing examples of the first issue to be redeemed and destroyed. Most examples you will see are Specimens, with issued examples of the utmost rarity, and all of the few examples known to exist are $1 notes. To our knowledge, this is the first issued example to show up at public auction for at least several decades, and it is probably the only chance for at least a few more decades to acquire a bank note from this issue.
The next item we look at is quite unusual. For many years (almost a century) Indian bank notes were issued to the public in booklets of anywhere between 10 and 100 notes stapled together. This is the reason that the vast majority of Indian bank notes, even in Uncirculated condition, will show staple holes on the left side of the note. Lot 30234 is a very rare original booklet of 25 pieces of one-rupee notes issued in 1935 under King George V (Pick-14). While a somewhat scarce note as a single item, complete booklets come up for auction extremely infrequently, and are often plagued by rust or other problems. This particular booklet, while not graded, is in very choice condition and an extremely historical item from the Indian subcontinent — no doubt worth a strong premium over the value of the individual notes.
Perhaps surprising to many, the Central American country of Panama has issued very few bank notes during its existence. Except for early provisional issues and a very short-lived issue printed by the Hamilton Banknote Company (quickly recalled within weeks of issuance) the country has mostly used U.S. dollars for its money circulation. Lot 30349 in the Stack’s Bowers auction is a Very Fine five-balboa of the 1941 issue (Pick-23a), a very scarce denomination that seldom comes up for sale in a public venue (Specimens are sometimes seen, and the one-balboa is seen a bit more frequently). Bank notes from this 1941 series are generally used by collectors to represent the country in their collections, and survivors in any grade are always in demand.
Much like Panama, the now American territory of Puerto Rico also had a very limited issuance of its own bank notes. However, unlike Panama, there are one or two bank notes that are quite affordable — but, of course, there are also plenty of rarities. Lot 30390 is such a rarity, a five-pesos from the Banco Español, dated 1896 and graded Very Fine 25 (Pick-26a). Printed by the American Banknote Company, issued, uncancelled survivors of this type are very rare and seldom come up for sale in any condition. Originally issued with a counterfoil attached to the note (seen on Specimens of this issue), this was cut off and retained at the bank of issue, causing the irregular left edge seen on this bank note. This is a major rarity with an American connection issued at the time when Puerto Rico was still in the hands of the Spanish, just a few years before the Spanish-American War.
The Eldorado Collection of Columbian Coins and Paper Money is sold in various sessions (we covered the coins in this collection in another article). Columbia has had a long history of bank note issuance, with many private banks ordering their own bank notes from American printers. The country has a loyal collector following and there are quite a few rarities that are very difficult to find. While the Eldorado Collection includes a large number of Specimens and Proofs (many of which came from the archives of the American Banknote Company, sold at auction in the early 1990s) there are also some rare examples of issued bank notes included in the collection. One such note is lot 10044, a five-pesos dated 1919, but not issued until 1923. Initially printed for the Casa de Moneda de Medellin, this provisional issue was overprinted on the back and was in fact issued by the Banco de la República. Graded Choice Very Fine 35, this is a very rare provisional issue and a note with a fascinating history. It is a bank note that no doubt will cause spirited bidding when it crosses the auction block in New York.