1927 Five Pound Kell/Heathershaw R39 Uncirculated
Chairman of Directors, Note Issue Department, Commonwealth Bank of Australia: James Kell
Secretary to the Treasury: James Heathershaw
Reference Number: Renniks # 39
Serial Number: Q/9 260265
John Wilson collection, Lot 4046.
Ex Noble Numismatics Sale 52, Lot 3447. (November 1996) Estimate: $12,000; Hammer: $15,100; Nett: $17,365
This may well be the finest example known of this incredibly rare five pound note dating just prior to the Great Depression.
James Kell was Governor of the Commonwealth Bank from October 10th 1924 until May 27th 1927.
James Heathershaw was Secretary to the Treasury August 3rd 1926, until April 28th 1932.
Five-pound notes featuring these two signatures were on issue for a much shorter period than that - between January 17th 1927 and May 1928. That relatively short print run was further split into two distinct categories - those notes where James Kell signed as "Chairman of Directors, Note Issue Department, Commonwealth Bank of Australia" (designated by Renniks as R#39), distinct from those notes where James Kell signed as "Governor, Commonwealth Bank of Australia" (designated by Renniks as R#40).
Research by Mick Vort-Ronald into the history of Australia's pre-decimal banknotes has determined that the number of R#39 £5 notes issued into circulation is "possibly 1,000,000". These were the first Harrison-series five-pound notes where the numeral used in the serial prefix was the same size as the numerals used in the serial number.
Auction research shows that less than 40 unique examples of this note are known in total. As can be expected for a paper currency note that had purchasing power greater than a week's average wages in 1927, the vast majority of the known notes have been graded as being in less than Very Fine quality.
Only 3 of the known examples have been offered for sale via auction in about Unc quality or better.
Of those three notes, this is the only example to have been consistently described as being in Uncirculated quality.
The body is crisp, the colours remain clear and distinct, the corners and edges are entirely sharp and original.
It was so highly regarded when it was first offered for sale in November 1996, the nett price paid was around 20% higher than the prevailing catalogue value at that time. It was also the second-highest of all of the Australian pre-decimal notes in that auction and was only exceeded by the desirable Collins Allen £20 in good VF quality.
This is a truly superior example of a truly rare and high-value note that was issued in a truly lean period of economic activity leading into the Great Depression.
Without question, it would be a worthy inclusion in the finest collection of Australian pre-decimal notes.
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