OLD BANK NOTES
In their efforts to deter forgers, designers have tended to make their notes highly ornate, inadvertently providing a wealth of interest for the collector.
Paper money, printed on strong mulberry bark, was in use in
China from the 7th century. Over production and counterfeit banknotes had
devalued the currency, so much so that the emperor ceased production in 1455.
was the first European country to adopt paper money in 1661, and in 1694 the Bank of England issued notes in return for deposits.
Paper money helped spark the American Revolution. Many colonial banks in the early 1700s issued their own paper money. But England cracked down on the practice, leaving many American businesses high and dry, and swinging popular support to the revolution.
Until the outbreak of World War
1, paper money was principally used by
merchants, financiers and the rich rather than ordinary people, for whom coins were the common currency.
As a result, 17th- and 18th- century notes are fairly rare. However, a considerable amount of paper money was produced in the 19th century.
In August 1914, the Bank of England called in gold coins, fearing that they would be hoarded during the coming war, and replaced them with emergency £1 and 10 shilling notes. These first issue notes, known as 'Bradburys' from the Secretary to the Treasury who signed them were printed on flimsy postage stamp
paper, and because of this very few have survived in good condition. These were soon replaced by notes of better quality and design, and many of these from the 1920s to the 1940s can be found for relatively little cost.
Another rich field for collectors is bank notes issued from the late 18th century to the 1920s by privately owned British provincial banks, many of whom went bankrupt or later merged with bigger banks.
Many old bank notes are associated with past economic disasters or political crises. The most notorious are German notes issued in the 1920s when rampant inflation made a packet of cigarettes cost a million marks. Thousands of tht high-denomination notes issued then can still be found, but are virtually worthless.
Of greater interest are 19th-century foreign bank notes, particularly US Confederate notes and pre-Revolutionary Russian notes, which are much sought after by collectors.
Although commonplace today, bank notes were not much used until the beginning of World War 1. These early engraved designs are not as ornate as those on modern notes.
DEVELOPS POLYMER BANK NOTES
Australia was the first country to introduce and adopt the polymer banknote technology. In 1988, the Reserve Bank of Australia introduced the first polymer bank note for circulation - an Australian "Bicentennial" 10 dollar special issue. Between 1992 and 1996, Australia adopted polymer technology for all five banknote denominations - $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Australia has enjoyed a very positive and successful experience with polymer bank notes. The new technology has provided a high level of banknote security and increased longevity.
PAPER MONEY BANKNOTE COLLECTOR'S NOTES
A lot of paper money has survived from late Victorian and Edwardian times - few people could bring themselves to throw it away - and is easy to find at auctions and from specialist dealers. Because there are so many old bank notes around, most collectors tend to specialize, usually in notes from a particular country or period of history. For the beginner, however, a good way of starting is to buy a job-lot of miscellaneous notes, usually for a very reasonable price, and then to study them to see what interests you most.
BANKNOTE CONDITION AND GRADING
Condition is an important factor in deciding the value of notes. A very rare item will obviously be desirable even if it is battered, but generally you should try to buy printed material in the best condition you can afford.
Most catalogues and price guides follow a type of classification also used for coins and postage stamps. Completely pristine notes without any kind of crease or blemish are described as UNC (uncirculated). The grading then goes: EF (extremely fine); VF (very fine); F (fine); VG (very good); G (good); and P (poor). The wording is somewhat misleading, as VG implies that a note has small folds, stains, pinholes and tears, although no serious blemishes. Most collectors aim at F or better.
Forgeries of bank notes do exist but it usually takes an expert to detect them. Some forgeries can be valuable in their own right.