New Zealand's oldest bank note up for sale

By Sarah Harris

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand's oldest bank note. Photo / Supplied
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand's oldest bank note. Photo / Supplied

A slice of Kiwi history could be yours, although it'll cost you at least $41,500 ... and possibly much more.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand's oldest bank note is being auctioned in the United States next week.

Director of bank note auctions Manning Garrett said the 1934 note could be expected to go for well over the estimated value of US$50,000 to US$100,000 ($69,000 to $138,000) based on Australia's first Commonwealth issued banknote being sold for AU$1.8 million in 2008.

The reserve bank note. Photo / Supplied
The reserve bank note. Photo / Supplied

"It is unequivocally New Zealand's first government-issued banknote," Garrett said.

"There's a big international following for banknotes like this.

"If you asked a hundred collectors there would be a hundred different reasons they collect things. But usually it's just as simple as they just like it."

The 10 shilling note has the serial number Z000001 showing it is the very first note off the press.

An inflation calculator estimates that ten shillings from 1934 would be worth $11.81 today.

The American auction house Stack's Bowers Galleries starts the bidding on August 12. An opening bid will cost you US$30,000 ($41,500).

The auction states that the note can be traced back to the secretary of the treasury from 1929 to 1935 A.D. Park. He was presented the note by the Directors of the Reserve Bank when these notes were first issued in 1934.

"This is a highly significant item and arguably the most important banknote known to exist for all of New Zealand.

"These ten shilling notes feature a kiwi and a Maori chief and are quite rare. This would be a valuable note just for its condition alone. However, the serial number Z000001 moves the note into a category where it isn't just a rare collectible item, it is also a tangible piece of New Zealand's financial history."

Garrett said the note, which is in pristine condition, was sold after the original owner died around 30 years ago. This auction is the first time the note has been exposed to the international public.

"In the 1980s is when it first hit collector hands. It's just gotten to the point where it's ended up in the US.

New Zealand's banknote history

• From the 1800s until the early 1930s, British and Australian paper money was commonly used throughout New Zealand.
• As late as the 1920s there were six different Australian banks circulating currency throughout New Zealand and the banknotes weren't always interchangeable with each other.
• That problem, mixed with a growing population, made a new national currency an important priority.
• And in 1934 New Zealand's first banknotes were issued. Australia issued its national banknotes 21 years prior in 1913.

"We hope it's going to go back to New Zealand."

The Royal Numismatic Society of New Zealand president David Galt said that the Maori chief on the note is the second Maori king Tawhiao and the pictured North Island brown kiwi was based on a painting by a Dutch artist.

"Banknotes are designed with the intersection of art, commerce and history.

"It is significant as it is the first 10 shilling note that was actually issued.

"It's going for a lot more than you'd pay for a comparable bank note of an ordinary serial number."

Galt said the notes had been designed in a hurry and that particular style only lasted six years.

"It was a bit of an emergency design."

The featured Maori chief Tawhiao was born in 1825 to become king in 1860. He led a delegation to Queen Victoria in England to bring justice to the Treaty of Waitangi in 1884 but was denied an audience with the Queen. Two years later he established a bank Te Peeke o Aotearoa as an expression of Maori autonomy which was in business for 19 years.

Garrett said Australia, London, the USA and New Zealand are likely to be the top contenders for the note.

"Simply put there are just a lot of wealthy people in Australia who like bank notes."

Stack's Bowers usually have between 3000 to 4000 bidders sign up for a bank note auction.

Live bidding begins at 1pm NZT August 13.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is not interested in purchasing the note.

- NZ Herald

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