Australia's first banknote fetches US$310,000

March 27, 2014 - 9:27:25 am

SYDNEY: The only surviving example of Australia's first official banknote exceeded expectations when it was auctioned for Aus$334,000 or $310,000, officials said Thursday.

The 10 shilling note, one of 100 issued in 1817 by the Bank of New South Wales now called Westpac on the day it opened, attracted bids from around the world, said Jim Noble of Noble Numismatics, which handled the sale.

"It's a record for a colonial banknote," he told AFP. 

"It will stay in Australia but I've no idea what the gentleman who bought it plans to do, he's a high up executive in a big organisation. 

"It would be exciting to see it on public display, it's a great thing."

The auction price easily exceeded its Aus$250,000 estimate, with Noble attributing the interest to its unique historical value.

"It's the only one of its kind, even Westpac does not have one."

Noble said the note was discovered in a private collection in Scotland in 2005, with Scots-born former New South Wales governor Lachlan Macquarie or one of his staff thought to have taken it there.

It was later bought by a private collector who sold it at Wednesday night's auction.

Macquarie arrived in Sydney at the end of 1809 to be confronted by a colony in crisis with no stable monetary system since the First Fleet landed in 1788.

As the new governor, he was given extensive powers to reshape the colony, but despite this his first request to London to establish a bank was rejected.

In 1812, to alleviate the shortage of currency, he imported £10,000 in Spanish coins from India and in 1813 manufactured and issued the "Holey Dollar" one of which sold at auction for a world-record Aus$495,000 last year.

But it was not sufficient and in 1816 he revived his plan for a bank, this time getting London's approval, and on April 8, 1817 the Bank of New South Wales opened for business. (AFP)

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