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Australia's first banknote going under hammer

12 march 2014, 14:23
The only known specimen of the first official banknote issued in Australia, uncovered in Scotland, is expected to fetch at least Aus$250,000 (US$224,000) at an auction in Sydney this month, AFP reports according to the officials.

The ten shilling note, issued on the order of New South Wales governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1817 by the Bank of New South Wales (now called Westpac) on the day it opened, is expected to attract bids from collectors around the world.

"We have put a conservative estimate of a quarter of a million dollars on it in the catalogue," said Jim Noble of Noble Numismatics, which is handling the sale.

"But there has been such excitement over its condition, rarity and major historical significance that it's impossible to guess what it will make.

"Even Westpac itself doesn't have one and all the experts believed none had survived."

Noble told AFP that the note was discovered in a private collection in Scotland in 2005, with Macquarie or one of his staff thought to have taken it there. It was later bought by a private collector who is now selling it.

"It is a very significant item, a wonderful historical item," he said.

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.

One hundred ten shillings notes were issued on the first day, with sample 55 the only survivor.

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