Andrew Crellin of Sterling & Currency published a recent blog article on Australia's earliest government-issued notes. With permission, here's an excerpt - see the complete article online. NOTE: NSW is New South Wales.
Over the years I've seen several of the notes issued by the NSW Colonial Police Fund - judging by the prices they realised at auction, I could see they were rare and highly prized, but I never really appreciated their importance until recently.
These notes are so early in Australia's settled history that very little has been written about them. They fall outside the scope of our standard guides to Australian coins and notes, yet they were essential to the foundation of our national economy. They are so important, they should be understood and acknowledged for what they are - the first official banknotes to be used on our continent.
The question I had about the NSW Colonial Police Fund notes was - are these the earliest known notes issued by a government body on Australia's shores? If they weren't, what was?
My task then was to work out:
Which government authorities issued notes in Australia before 1835?
What types of notes were issued by government authorities in Australia
Which of those notes still exist?
Which of those notes are available for collectors to buy?
Known Examples of Publicly Issued Colonial Currency Notes
Publicly Issued Currency Notes from Australia's colonial era are far rarer than the equivalent notes issued by private individuals. This is due to their enduring monetary value - whereas the financial viability of many of the issuers of private currency notes was uncertain and many currency notes lost their value as a result, publicly issued notes had much better backing and were far more reliable, so maintained their value over time.
Worthless scraps of paper that no longer have a redemption value are more likely to be set aside as collectibles than highly valuable media of exchange.
NSW Store Receipts: The earliest dated
store receipt from the NSW Commissariat that has been recorded as still being in existence is dated 1802. In his paper titled "Australian
Paper Currencies, Percy Marks stated that, as of 1919, it was held by the
London Record Office.?17 This information is being verified at present.
NSW Commissariat Notes: None of these notes are known to still be in existence, much less remain available to collectors. I am yet to see a record of any being held by a public collection in NSW, or elsewhere in Australia. A very small number of bills of exchange issued by the New South Wales Commissariat are known in private hands, these are different to the notes issued by the Commissariat, however. Notes issued by the Commissariat in Van Diemen's Land as well as the Swan River Colony are known in private hands, they are dated slightly later than the period discussed here.
Paymaster's Bill issued by 73rd Regiment, 1813
Paymaster's Bills: These are not explicitly listed as being held in any public collection that I have seen so far. That said, the Dixson Collection in the State Library of New South Wales does hold several paymaster's notes, issued by the 73rd Regiment in Launceston in 1813. One of those paymaster's notes is dated April 24th, 1813, which is either the earliest date seen on a publicly-issued note still in existence, or is incredibly close to it.
Police Fund Notes: A very small number of these notes in different forms (single and uncut) are held in the State Library of New South Wales; in the National Library of Australia as well as in private hands.
As the earliest-known paper notes issued by a government authority on Australian soil, the Police Fund notes occupy a unique position in our national economic history. They are a rare and exclusive artefact of the foundation of Australia's economy.
To read the complete article, see:
Australia's Earliest Government-Issued Notes
Wayne Homren, Editor
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