Dix Noonan Webb is offering an interesting group of parody banknotes in their February sale.
More than 30 ‘skit' notes dating from the 19th century will offered by Dix Noonan Webb in their auction of British, Irish and World Banknotes on Thursday, February 24, 2022 at their Mayfair saleroom (16 Bolton Street, London W1J 8BQ). This group of notes is the first part of the astonishing collection put together by Sir David Kirch - more will appear in future auctions.
As Andrew Pattison, Head of Banknote Department at Dix Noonan Webb, explains:
These documents, for it is technically incorrect to call them banknotes, are remarkable pieces of social history. They give us snapshots into the cares, fears, livelihoods, humour and pastimes of those who lived and worked in the British Isles for the last several hundred years.
Skit notes generally mirror designs of real banknotes of the era. Some, by accident or design, sail very close to the wind, and 19th century court records are full of attempts made by unscrupulous or ignorant individuals to pass them as real money. Many of the punishments were severe, including flogging and transportation to the colonies.
Some of these notes tie in with what we know about the grand story of kings and wars and politics - they warn of imminent French invasion or protest for better working and living conditions. Others are outwardly much more pedestrian, advertising the services of a small wine merchant, or a Christmas pantomime. Still others were never anything more than jokes or amusing gifts for friends or lovers, and are all the more charming for that. Researching skit notes would have been difficult, if not impossible in the days before the internet. Astonishing connections can now be made between the individuals and addresses named on the notes using all sorts of sources such as newspaper articles, court records, maps and ancestry websites. This means that at last, it is possible to tell the hidden stories of these remarkable pieces of paper.
Interesting examples include from Mendham's Tea Warehouse, Ipswich, a note promising to pay the bearer 5 Shillings on demand, hand dated 1803, no serial number or signature, vignette of a tea chest at top left, complete with a naive depictions of Chinese characters which is estimated at £240-£300. William Mendham was born in 1770 in Ipswich. In September 1792 he opened a new grocery and tea warehouse in Bank Buildings, Ipswich. He was quite successful and operated the business for several decades, and married Hannah Baker in 1793 and died in August 1838. The wording on this note is extremely interesting, unequivocally promising to pay the bearer 5 shillings. It is possible it was a real voucher of some kind.
From the Fleet Bank in England, is a 25 Pence note, dated 21 June 1811, with the signature of R. Denton which carries an estimate of £200-£260. Richard Denton was an engraver who appears to have produced these ‘Fleet Bank' notes from his cell in Fleet Prison! When a copper printing plate was discovered in his possession he was sentenced to six more months for the offence. He claimed he was doing it to make ‘a few pence for his family while confined'. This is a very passable imitation of a Bank of England note, the ‘Fleet' part of the title being printed in tiny lettering, and the vignette incredibly similar to that on genuine examples. There are numerous contemporary court cases where people (innocently or otherwise) were imprisoned or even transported for uttering (paying with) these notes.
A superbly engraved £1 note advertising the services of the hairdressing establishment of J. Etches of Nottingham is expected to fetch £200-£260. Jeffrey Etches was born in Nottingham in 1793 and he first appears in the Nottingham Directory as a hairdresser in 1825. He sold his premises on Warser Gate in 1844 and died in 1849. Hairdressers and Barbers of this era often operated as informal agents for servants and employers, hence the text on this note ‘Register Office for Servants'.
A scarce note for the Bank of Elegance, 36 Lowgate, Hull, promising to ‘supply on demand to my friends and the public, Boots and Shoes of the best Quality, at such prices that must give satisfaction, or forfeit the sum of Five Pounds'. Dating from 7 October 1869, it bears the signature of Robert Garton - a successful Yorkshire businessman who appears in records throughout the 19th Century, mostly in Hull. He had various businesses and premises, including one opposite the Hull branch of the Bank of England on Whitefriargate. Despite declaring himself bankrupt twice, in 1850 and 1864, he recovered and left a considerable amount of money when he died in 1898 (est: £150-£200).
Dix Noonan Webb has a strong reputation for selling Irish Banknotes, with one achieving a phenomenal price in the last sale. Another extremely rare specimen note that wasn't circulated will be offered in the February sale. An Irish Free State £100 note, dating from 10 September 1928 – one of only few examples known – is estimated at £12,000-£16,000. While an Irish Free State £50 note from the same date and hand signed by famed Irish statesman Éamon de Valera is expected to fetch £10,000-£12,000. The sale will also include the second part of the collection of the late Gus Mac Amhlaigh of Dublin.
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