1939 Five Pound Consecutive Pair Sheehan/McFarlane R45 Uncirculated
Front Design: King George V at left; Coat of Arms at right, title at the top. Denomination in each corner and at the centre, signatures below
Back Design: Bas-relief scene of commerce at left, denomination in the centre; at right and in each lower corner
Commonwealth Bank Governor: Sir Harry Sheehan
Secretary to the Treasury: Stuart McFarlane
Date Range on Issue: March 10th 1939 through to January 1942
Lot #198, International Auction Galleries Auction 65 (March 2007). Estimate: $40,000, Hammer: $41,500, Nett: $47,725. N.B. At this time, this pair was offered as part of a trio that included note R/26 103891.
Lot #176, International Auction Galleries Auction 68 (September 2008). Estimate: $30,000, Hammer: $31,500, Nett: $36,225.
It is incredible to see this pair intact and in mint condition more than 80 years after they were issued.
Nominal wages statistics recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that five pounds was pretty much the average weekly wage throughout World War II.
We don't need to be rocket scientists to conclude then that this consecutive pair of five-pound notes was equivalent to two weeks average wages at the time they were issued. That was an incredible amount of money at a time when staples such as clothing, tea, sugar, butter and meat were strictly rationed right across the country.
This particular pair comes from a run that looks to have filtered onto the market in the mid-2000s.
These notes have great paper quality and body - the intaglio remains raised in sections on the front, that's how fresh they are. The paper remains granular and gritty and retains lots of snap. Those characteristics are simply not seen on notes that have been heavily pressed. Our examination shows they have a light handling flick on the top right and the bottom left, as well as a teller flick on the right-hand side. We see no evidence of any bends or folds at all.
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 a similar safe storage place (which would no doubt have been an event accompanied by much cursing!).
Although I've handled rare and historic notes for a number of years now, I still marvel at just how notes with so much purchasing power can survive even in lightly circulated condition for more than eight decades - World War II and the Korean War to name just two challenging economic events.
No matter how this pair of notes were set aside, the notes remain an attractive and truly rare example of Australian currency issued at the outset of the Second World War.
This pair is well worth adding to any superior collection of Australian notes.
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