Banknote rarities to coin thousands: Vincent Duggleby finds treasures reflecting the world's economic history

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The Independent Online
THE only known example of a First World War Bradbury 5s note in private hands comes up for auction at Spinks on Thursday. The note, signed by Sir John Bradbury, the Secretary to the Treasury, is expected to fetch more than pounds 5,000 and is from the spectacular collection formed by George Webber, a Jersey businessman.

The issue of 5s (25p) notes was to be sanctioned by a special parliamentary bill in July 1918, a few months before the end of the war, in order to combat the hoarding of coins, which were then minted in almost pure silver. The government had second thoughts at the last minute and the bill was never introduced. Notes for 2s6d (12.5p) and 1s (5p) were also printed, bearing Bradbury's signature and later that of his successor, Sir Norman Warren Fisher. There are two Fisher 5s notes in the sale along with a Fisher 1s (estimate pounds 2,500-pounds 3,000).

Mr Webber built up his collection of banknotes and other financial instruments, which he describes as 'representative of world economic history', during the 1970s.

Another rarity to be sold is a Stockholm Bank 10 daler issued in 1666, which is estimated at pounds 3,OOO-4,000. The Dutchman Johan Palmstruck had been given permission to found the first Swedish Bank in 1661 and was responsible for the earliest form of paper currency in Europe, more than 30 years before the Bank of England arrived in 1694.

Very few Bank of England notes from before 1800 have come on to the market, but it is possible to pick up exchequer bills for a more modest outlay and there are two in the Spinks auction from June 1697, for 10s and pounds 5, which should fetch pounds 300 or pounds 400 each.

There is also a good selection of 19th century trials and specimens including 36 prepared for the Bank of England by the printers Applegarth and Cowper (estimate pounds 3,OOO-pounds 4,000).

Augustus Applegarth and his partner Edward Cooper came from Croydon and were engaged by the Bank in 1817 to produce notes that were proof against forgery. Over the next four years the Bank spent around pounds 40,000 on experiments by the pair in vain. Their own engravers were able to copy every aspect of the Applegarth and Cowper designs. The trials are complemented by an illustrated report dealing with forgery published in 1819 (estimate pounds l,200-pounds l,500)

Although Bank of England notes are now taken for granted, when the gold sovereign and half sovereign were replaced in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War by paper notes of pounds 1 and 10s it was the Treasury that produced them. During the Dardanelles campaign in 1915 a number of notes were overprinted in Arabic with the value in silver piastres for the British forces. The pounds 1 (120 piastres) is difficult to find in any condition; the Webber copy is virtually uncirculated and is expected to attract bids of more than pounds 5,000.

Banknote collectors are spoilt for choice, with three large sales in two days ahead of the European Congress of the International Banknote Society*. Following Spinks' auction on 8 October, Phillips has a sale of paper money and old share certificates on 9 October and later the same day Sotheby's has 1400 lots of coins, medals and paper money, including an interesting selection of 19th century provincial bank notes.

*IBNS Congress: Great Western Royal Hotel, London, 10-11 October.

(Photograph omitted)