1928 Five Pound Riddle/Heathershaw R42
A crisp note with great body, colours and edges - it is clearly a superior example.
In my experience, most pre-decimal note collectors start out by picking up the most attractive and affordable notes they can get - mainly from the Elizabeth II and George VI periods. As they develop confidence with the market, novice collectors slowly work their way progressively up the rarity and value scale.
Although there are a few scarcer notes in the Elizabeth II, George VI and George V legal tender series, the gold-bearing (Harrison) series of banknotes issued between 1922 and 1933 is the first series that really poses most collectors with a challenge.
The gold-bearing ten shilling and one pound notes are reasonably readily available, while the five-pound and ten pound notes are far more difficult to obtain, even in heavily circulated condition.
The gold-bearing series of notes were the last to be printed with relatively heavy paper, and they arguably feature a wider range of colours than all of the Australian pre-decimal notes that were printed from 1933 onwards. This particular five-pound note still retains the soft orange and mauve hues that all high-grade examples exhibit.
When you hold this crisp note in your hands, I swear you can actually feel the value it has!
The average weekly wage in 1928 was slightly more than £5, while the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the equivalent amount today is just shy of $1,500. That is an incredible amount of purchasing power to have during the Great Depression that followed just a few short years after this note was printed.
I've long believed that it's either discipline or happenstance that sees high-value notes survive the decades intact - they're either set aside by families that have enough wealth to ride challenging times out, or they're lost down the back of a couch or similar safe storage place (an event no doubt accompanied by much cursing!).
Although I've handled rare and historic notes for a number of years now, I still marvel at just how a note with so much purchasing power can survive even in lightly circulated condition for close to nine decades - not only through the Great Depression, but World War II and the Korean War to name just a few challenging economic events.
Heavily circulated notes from this period generally have limp paper, with some degree of fluffing evident on the folds. The colours are faded and subdued, and the corners and edges are rounded. This particular example has strong paper, minimal folding, bold colours, and sharp edges and corners - it's easy to see that it's only circulated in a minor way.
Back in the heady days of the last banknote market boom, an R42 was a highly prized note to obtain. Examples in Extremely Fine condition or better really were very seldom seen and were always purchased by collectors that had been consistent in getting their KGVI and QEII notes in UNC only.
No matter how this note was set aside, it remains an attractive and rare example of Australian currency from the heady days of the Roaring Twenties - well worth adding to any superior collection of Australian notes.
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