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Unique Australian 1952 £50 banknote sells for $750,000

Western Australian-based business The Rare Coin Company, in Albany has just sold the only Australian 1952 George VI £50 unissued specimen banknote of its type known in private hands to a WA client for $750,000, setting a new benchmark for this classic Australian rarity.

The only other example is displayed in the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) museum in Sydney.

Presented in superior about Uncirculated-grade (aUNC), the banknote last surfaced for sale in 2006, when it was sold to another WA buyer for an undisclosed sum.

Previously Unreported

This magnificent banknote, featuring the portrait of Sir Henry Parkes, known as the ‘Father of Federation’, remained unreported until the 1990’s. It is believed to have been one of a proposed new series of Australian banknotes. It was first shown at the International Coin Fair in Singapore by its purchaser, coin and banknote company Monetarium (Australia).

At the time, it was also reported in the Australian Coin Review magazine’s March and May 1996 editions and displayed at the Numismatic Association of Australia (N.A.A.) Coin Fair in Sydney, in March the same year.

Then Monetarium spokesperson Barrie Winsor told Coin Review at the time “that the recent publicity surrounding the launch of a Parkes one dollar coin helped bring this new discovery to light”. The Parkes portrait later appeared on the commemorative five dollar polymer banknote issued in 2001 to mark the Centenary of Federation.

History in the Making

Unissued 1950s specimens with the Coombs/Wilson signature combination heralded one of the most monumental changes to Australia’s currency in more than 40 years.

It was intended to keep King George VI on the one pound, while other denominations were to feature famous Australians for the first time.


Recent contact with the RBA by The Rare Coin Company revealed that it has very little information in its archives about this note, but it appears to have been designed “in house” by Note Printing staff.

The note was originally mounted in a similar manner to the specimen notes of Edward VIII, which appeared in London during the late 1980s. It was presented in a buff-coloured folder which had the words “Fifty Pounds” inscribed on the front.

The signature combination is that of Governor of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia from 1949 to 1960, H.C. Coombs, and Secretary to the Treasury from April 1951 to October 1966, Sir Roland Wilson, and the serial number is 000000. According to an article in the March 1966 Australian Coin Review, the Coombs/Wilson signature combination did not commence until April 1952, which meant this note must have been printed after that date.

Earlier Designs

Earlier designed £50 banknotes circulated from 1914 until 1945 when, along with the £20 and £100, they were withdrawn to stop black marketeering after World War II. New designs bearing the portrait of King George VI had already been prepared but were never issued, and were later destroyed. The matter of reintroducing the notes was deferred on various occasions from 1949.

Proposed 1950s Designs

Archival records show that further designs, including the £50 Henry Parkes note were considered during the early 1950s. As previously mentioned King George VI was to be retained on the one pound, while other denominations were to

feature prominent Australians. However, the monarch passed away suddenly in 1952 and Elizabeth became queen. A new series of Queen Elizabeth notes was issued from 1953 and the designs prepared during the 1950s were never released. Most were destroyed in 1958, except for rare examples retained as records.

Market Performance of Unique Pre-Decimal Banknotes

Last year The Rare Coin Company sold a unique £1000 George V Type II unissued specimen banknote to a collecting family in WA for a record price of $1,350,000. No others are known to be in private collections and the design is unrecorded. The Company bought the note at auction in September 2008. This was the first time it had appeared at auction since it was sold in 1994 by Sydney coin dealers Monetarium to a collector for the then world record price of $250,000. In November 2007 The Rare Coin Company also bought and sold the only known cancelled £1000 note in private hands for the then world record price of $1,250,000.

These record prices underpin the resilience of the Australian numismatic market and continued strong demand for premium quality rarities despite global economic instability.


Unissued Notes

The process of planning, designing and printing new note designs could often take many years. Some notes, such as the £50 only reached the concept or design stage, while others went into full production, but were not issued due to changes in economic circumstances or Government policy.


Especially printed in limited numbers as an example of a given issue, specimens were generally destined for note printing archives, however on some occasions were also presented to various VIP’s and skilled people involved with their production.

Grade-about Uncirculated (UNC)

Banknotes with this grading have not circulated but have a teller counting flick or centrefold.

For any further information please telephone Rob Jackman on (08) 9892 8000.

Rob Jackman – Managing Director
The Rare Coin Company
12 Sanford Road, Albany
Western Australi
Ph (08) 9892 8000

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