Excelsior Bank (Sydney) ca 1884 One Pound Unissued Remainder
Reference Number: MVR# 1
Quality Grade: good EF
An affordable reminder of Australia_Ôs private banking system.
Australia's pre-federation banknote series is littered with a small number of un-issued notes that never saw the light of day due to the untimely demise of the entities that issued them - the Royal Bank of Australia; the Federal Bank of Australia; the Provincial and Suburban Bank are all examples of note issuers whose obligations were not fully satisfied by the time they went out of business, such was the boom and bust nature of the Australian economy in the late 19th century.
The notes of the Excelsior Bank are similar to those mentioned above, in that none were in fact ever issued into circulation. That is where the similarity ends however, as the reason they were not signed and issued into circulation is believed to have more to do with the prudence of the directors than their greed or lack of business acumen.
The Excelsior Land Investment and Building Company was established in Sydney in 1880, and remained in business until 1928. This continuous period of operation stands in complete contrast to a number of the other Building Societies across New South Wales and Victoria that went to the wall following the 1893 Banking Depression.
Various histories of the Excelsior Land Investment and Building Company have been able to identify a series decisions made and actions taken by the directors of the Excelsior that bear the hallmarks of nepotism, if not outright corruption when it came to working in with NSW politicians regarding allocations of land and the directions in which critical infrastructure such as the Sydney - Parramatta train line were to run.
Despite that nepotism or corruption, the fact that the Excelsior Land Investment and Building Company did not completely morph into the Excelsior Bank indicates that the directors of the Excelsior placed finite limits on the extent to which they were prepared to go in order to profit from their real estate holdings.
The exact reason why the Bank was not formally formed, and thus why the notes were not actually issued, is not known. What is known is that the notes were prepared by Perkins, Bacon & Co in 1883, and that the Excelsior was not in any financial difficulty at that time. Whether the directors decided that the reporting obligations of a bank were too onerous given the likely returns, or whether they lacked the hard capital required to fund the bank's opening is not yet known.
72 of these unissued notes were purchased by the Sydney banknote dealer John Pettit early in 2000, taken from the only book of 100 printed notes known for this "Bank".
It is understood that 28 of the unissued notes had been given out to family and friends of the Excelsior while it was in operation, which explains the remaining number of 72 notes.
This note remains a tangible reminder of the relatively free-wheeling banking system that was in place in Australia prior to 1910, when private companies saw the issuance of banknotes as a valid way of raising capital.
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