A sizeable auction of world banknotes was held in London in the first part of December 2012, in it were several rare Australian notes, the prices of which should be of some interest to Australian banknote collectors. World Banknote Auction 12024 was held by Spink Numismatics in London on December 13th, 2012.
The first few Australian lots were pre-Federation notes - a mixture of issued, unissued and specimen notes. While auction prices for these notes have been soft in Australia in recent years, prices realised have perhaps had a floor placed under them by vendors unwilling to "let them go" at prices below they believe reflects fair market value.
Only three of the six pre-Federation notes in Spink sale sale 12024 sold, and none of them went for more than £3,200, or approximately A$5,700 including the buyer's premium. While these prices are of course significantly lower than what such items have sold for in Australia in the most heady days of the banknote market, they do show that there is a price that cash buyers are prepared to come into the market at. Liquidity is obviously vital and necessary for any healthy market, it is a positive sign that there are still buyers keen to own historic notes such as these, even if only at figures some vendors are aghast at.
Black & White Printer's Proof - Pre-Federation Banknote
Lot 17 in Spink auction 12024 was a uniface black and printer's proof on card of a Union Bank of Australia ten pound, domiciled at Bathurst. It sold for £800 hammer for a nett price of around A$1,350.
Pre-Decimal Specimen Banknotes
Specimen examples of Australian Commonwealth and decimal notes are without doubt exceedingly rare, and are nearly always the most desirable of all Australian notes for collectors to aspire to. Their rarity, history and exclusivity saw market values increase significantly until the GFC took effect a few years ago.
Commonwealth or pre-decimal specimen notes are so rare and tightly held, our research indicates that just one such note was sighted at public auction in Australia in the past seven years. They were traded far more frequently at auction in the decade prior to 2005 however, with 40 Australian pre-decimal specimen notes sighted during that period.
It perhaps should not be a huge surprise that an auction held literally on the opposite side of the world from where most collectors of these items can be found, and in a market where buyers are demanding value, that the prices realised for items that have been unseen in recent years were significantly lower than current catalogue values.
I am not aware of many Australian note collectors that have a network of contacts that would notify them of notes such as this becoming available for sale in London, neither am I aware of any Australian dealers that are active in sourcing such notes from overseas at present. This to me then indicates that the notes would have ended up in the hands of a foreign dealer or collector, someone who will look to place them for sale in the Australian market in the coming months or years.
I'm not aware of KGVI specimen notes with the Coombs Wilson signature combination appearing at auction before, so we can safely say that the buyer/s have indeed landed several screaming bargains. Although it is probably fair to say that current catalogue values for these items are somewhat overstated at present, the fair market value for these notes (i.e. that which an informed buyer would be prepared to pay for these notes) remains significantly higher than the auction results from London.
The key conclusion to draw from the above auction results is that both buyers and sellers must perform due diligence when appraising items they are looking to buy or sell. Unfortunately, in volatile markets such as those that we are experiencing at present, it is not possible to appraise numismatic items such as these rare specimen notes simply by referring to a published price guide.