Most of us are familiar with the 1934 Maori series from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. Ranging from Ten Shillings to Fifty Pounds in denomination, this Depression Era issue is both deservedly popular and scarce. Worth acquiring by any collector in almost all the available grades, it's an iconic issue. The striking design features a lovely Kiwi and King Tawhiao of the Maori on the face, with a scenic view of Milford Sound and Mitre Peak on the reverse. The notes are well known for their beauty, and coveted by collectors of all means. The two photos below show the face and reverse of the lovely Five Pound note, issued in a deep blue, it's perhaps the most striking of the series, both in design, engraving, and chosen color of issue.
But, long before there was a Reserve Bank of New Zealand, there was the private Bank of New Zealand. The world-wide depression required fiscal 'liberality' by the government, and so the private bank became the federal Reserve Bank of the nation, and issued currency according to the needs of the nation, not the bank's owners and stockholders, who were a bit more conservative in times of fiscal tribulation than Keynesian economics called for. Today, we would call this policy 'monetary easing', the euphemism for turning on the presses at the Treasury to ensure that 'happy days are here again', as the popular song of the Depression called for. So, let's take a look at the Bank of New Zealand and it's issue of 1924, issued in denominations of Ten Shillings to One Hundred Pounds.
As you can see, both the Reserve Bank and the Bank of New Zealand were clearly frontrunners in the concept and design of banknotes in New Zealand. Both the 1924 and 1934 designs are works of beauty and art. The familiar Kiwi of 1934, is gone from the 1924 series. The wonderful engraved portrait of King Tawhiao, however, is used to good purpose, providing a striking image on all denominations of this not-so-well known series. The reverse of the notes feature the usual filigree and geometry of the period, as well as two little vignettes of New Zealand. The left shows two Maoris in a volcanic landscape, and the right shows two little lost Kiwis foraging for food, a Maori war canoe on the water, and a volcanic background.
Like the American Bank Note Company did throughout Latin America, some designs just deserve to be repeated, don't they? Bradbury, Wilkinson, and Company was the designer and producer of notes for the Bank of New Zealand for nearly 75 years, and used their experience and expertise to good advantage.
Now let's go back just a few more years, to the 1917-1924 Series. Our two Maoris are making their appearance, but still not the first. Our two Kiwis are also scratching around for food, but it's not the first time for them, either. King Tawhiao is absent, and will not appear until the next series in early 1925.
Go back just a few more years, to the early 20th Century, and our hungry Kiwis and Maori idlers are still kicking around. Here are a couple of examples from the Bank of New Zealand and their Sixth Series of 1903. The Fifty Pound note is a lovely example, while the One Pound note is indicative of the condition in which these are generally found.
But, our Maoris and the Kiwis are long-lived, their hunger notwithstanding, for here they again, in their first appearance, on the face of the Third Issue of the Bank of New Zealand. This issue was the longest-running series, from 1870 to 1890.
And so, the Bank, the Kiwi, and the Maori came to be, in mid-Victorian days. These were the first designs of the Colony to depict not only local scenes and wildlife, but to acknowledge the Maori heritage of the islands. They were also the first evidence of the new Identity of the New Zealander, the English colonist, who, only 30 years after the Treaty of Waitangi, were beginning to see themselves not as Englishmen, but as New Zealanders. Kiwis to a man, if you will, and not unlike the American colonists of the 18th Century, destined to make their own way in the world.
Most collectors have a few Hong Kong notes in their collections, and at least one of them features the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank building on the reverse of the note. The bank even began featuring the famous bronze lions on the front of their notes beginning in 1993. Let's take a look at the three historical buildings that comprised the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation in Hong Kong. The HKSBC was formed in 1865, shortly after the Colony was established in 1841. It rapidly outgrew the warren of cubicles that comprised it's initial space, a leased warehouse. A new building was commissioned and completed in 1886. This huge edifice was a clearly Victorian Era monument, and it's workers sweltered in high collars and eyeshades under punkahs and electric fans, as they performed banking duties and administered branches in 7 countries and colonies of Asia and the numerous Treaty Ports of China. This $10 note from 1941 shows the old bank building, this is the less-imposing North face fronting on the main street along the harbor.
This photo shows the original building, the South face fronts along the harbor, and the North face along the harbor drive.
By the mid-1930's, however, stability in China and throughout Asia and made the HKSBC the largest banking firm in Asia. In 1934, the old Victorian building was torn down, and a new building erected, opening in October 1935. The photo below shows the new building in 1936, as it fronted on the open square built on reclaimed harbor land. When it was built, it was the first air-conditioned, or climate-controlled, building in the Far East.
The staid HKSBC directors, however, did not get around to changing the banks' currency designs until 1959. Talk about conservative Scots bankers ! The familiar design was last issued on April 2nd, 1959, and was the last note to feature the old bank. On May 2nd, 1959, a new, smaller, note was issued, with a slightly redesigned face but a new view of the new (1935 new!) building on the reverse. As you can see from the new note, the buildings on the Peak behind the bank were somewhat hastily engraved, but this is the first time the famous bronze lions, named Stephen and Stitt after two bank Directors, have been featured on the currency of the Colony. You can just make them out across Statue Square to both sides of the North entrance. In 1992 one of the lions, either Stephen or Stitt, were placed on the front of the currency, and they take turns today as the face of the HKSBC banknote. Together, they sit facing each other on the back of the note.
And so the HKSBC soldiered on, through WWII, when the building was used by the Japanese Army to govern the captured Colony, through 1949 when China fell to the Communists, and the next 30 years as Hong Kong built and cemented its' status as the financial powerhouse of the Far East.
By the 1970's, even this building had been outgrown, and a new design was commissioned. This time, however, the HKSBC directors were planning for 1998, and foresaw the end of British rule in Hong Kong. The building was warranted to be designed so that it could literally be dismantled and moved, presumably to Singapore, in the event of a hostile Chinese government takeover of the Colony. As it were, by 1998 the Chinese were no longer the enemies of the capitalist running dogs of Far East banking, and this has not yet been necessary, although the end of the 50 years of Autonomy for Hong Kong are fast approaching. It may still be necessary to move the building yet! The new building, completed in 1985, is composed of parts built in Scotland and other parts of Europe, brought to Hong Kong, and assembled on site. It features amazing internal architecture, which is the subject of a daily guided tour, and lovely quasi-public spaces and offices. Every square foot of the building was designed for, and approved by, Feng Shui experts so that the demons and spirits of the Far East, numerous as they are, will not enter the building or haunt the public square. Stephen and Stitt, for example, were deliberately sited for maximum Feng Shui effect. The lions, Stephen and Stitt, were re-installed at the North entrance, where they form a delightful tourist attraction in their own right. In 1992, the lions were placed together on the back of the note, along with a picture of the new building. Once again, the directors of the bank were late in commemorating such august changes by re-designing the banknotes, this time it was only 7 years, and not 24 years.
Today, the HKSBC building is a noted landmark on the Hong Kong waterfront. It never was, nor intended to be, the largest building fronting the harbor, but it certainly has been the home of the most important financial business ever to open in the Colony, let alone the entire Far East. The photo below shows the building at night.
The Real Cruise was the monetary standard in Brazil between August 1, 1993 and June 30, 1994. The country lived high rates of inflation during this time, under the rule of president Itamar Franco.
The provisional measure that created the Royal Cruise, equivalent to one thousand Cruzeiros, was issued during this time, as a response to the inflation. No coins with the denomination of Cents were issued, and the notes and coins of the previous standard were considered as Cents at the rate of 10 Cruzeiros per Cent. The designs of the Cruzeiro Real (CR) banknotes was the use of regional populations, characterised by their cultural and phenotypical elements. With these parameters in mind, the "Gaúcho" and "Baiana" banknotes were issued, with values of CR $5,000.00 and CR $50,000.00, respectively. The release of the CR $10,000.00 note was planned for 1994. The theme chosen to be worked and printed was that of the woman "Rendeira" (eamstress).
Cruzeiro Real: In July 1994, with the implementation of the "Real Plan", Brazil had aborted the whole project of launching the note "Rendeira". A Real monetary standard then emerged.
Description: The obverse shows Rendeira's effigy, with the words: "GOD BE LOUVADO" ("God be praised") and "RENDEIRA" ("seamstress"). Vertically appears the symbol and the name of the company responsible for the printing of these unissued banknotes: "CASA DA MUNDO DO BRASIL".
Chancelas: Fernando H. Cardoso and Pedro S. Malan. The reverse shows an image of three generations of women working in the making of lace, with the description "RENDEIRAS DE BILRO". The utensils and working tools appear, highlighting the pair of sandals, a container with line / scissors / needle, and cylindrical pads and bobbins used in sewing.
One of the countries that I collect more thoroughly is Angola. This is due not only to the design of the banknotes but also because of my Portuguese identity. If you look into the banknotes that Angola has nowadays, they are far from beautiful and have had the same design for the last 30 years. Fortunately, and although the value of the modern currency has not improved much, the designs of Angola under Portuguese rule were a bit better in their design. One of the most beautiful notes of my collection is Angolas 100 Angolares from 1951 (p85). Before we go into the details of the design, I'd like to mention that unfortunately the photo of my banknote is not the best and I only have it in VF condition, but lets discuss the colonial policy of Portugal in the 50's first.
At a time when all of Europe was facing de-colonization (mostly French Africa where some colonies were already independent) Portugal, a poor dictatorial regime far from the center of Europe was still considering all its African "possessions" as mere provinces of the whole country. Actually propaganda from back then was making us believe that the country was far bigger than it really was and from the picture below you can clearly see how ridiculous and preposterous most of it was. The map below is titled “Portugal Is Not A Small Country” and tries to argue that the whole territory of the empire would be bigger than Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany combined.
But not all of the regime was oblivious to the changes and the banknote is actually a good example of this slight change of policy. If in the past banknotes from Portuguese colonies would picture conquerors and animals, this series (1951) tries to include some characters in them. In the case of Angola p85 we have D. Francisco Inocêncio de Sousa Coutinho, which was governor of the Angolan Portuguese possessions from 1762 to 1772. This aristocrat was one of the first governors that tried to develop the provinces into something more than simply lands for the extraction of minerals and the slave trade. He was also one of the first men to expose the deplorable conditions of the black community in Angola, who were basically slaves of Portuguese settlers, with no basic rights in territories where war between tribes and harsh conditions were the norm.
Nevertheless this was still just a hidden colonialism tactic and if you see the symbols on the banknote as well as the back, you can clearly see what the regime still thought about the colony. On the front center part of this banknote you still find the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Portugal during the golden XVI century and in the back an image of an aristocrat with some maps talking with another aristocrat while the black population is depicted naked either looking in wonder at the Portuguese, and used to carry maps around and working on a fortification.
The situation got a bit better in the following decades with the Portuguese population also questioning their presence in Africa, which back in the beginning of the 70's was consuming a large portion of the countries resources for a war on 3 different fronts as the only European country still with large possessions in Africa. With the 25th April 1974 revolution, which ended the longest dictatorship in Europe, one of the first priorities was to give independence to all remaining African colonies that belonged to Portual. This process was far from perfect but better than many expected.
We all buy banknotes on Ebay, so why do we need to see an article about how to do what we already do? Well, you may not be using the Ebay features to your advantage, or, heaven forbid, spend too much money for the goodies you want. You can start keeping 10% to %30 of your money in your pocket, or even better, get more nice banknotes, if you follow the pertinent 'how to' below. We all know what Ebay looks like and does, so no pictures to waste bandwidth and no long intro to the features.
Buy It Now! BIN is general higher-priced material offered to and purchased by people who can't wait for an auction to end, or perhaps care what they spend, including me if I want to complete a Series or pick up a certain note. It is a good tool to find that Wesayso Republic 5 Pazooza note in the cleanest XF to UNC condition you can find, though, and I use it myself. As long as I'm checking the Auctions listings first, and using it for certain notes to complete a Series or some such, BIN is a very acceptable source of your collection, especially with higher priced material. Some caveats, beware of high 'sucker' pricing, and do be aware that graded material is going to cost double the price of the same note at auction. Do use the Sort by Price (low or high, your choice), and view your material carefully. Also, do look for the 'Make Offer' choice, and do make an offer instead of just paying full freight. You will save between 7% and 26% on your purchase, if you offer is accepted or you accept the counteroffer. At least that's my statistics over the past year. The dollars amount to over $400, which I have but into a few more banknotes or just not spent. Either way, I'm ahead, and you can be too. I've only had one offer rejected, the vendor just thought $5 off a $40 note was too much too bear. His loss.
Auctions are where the fun, and the effort, is at. It's also where the savings in your collection dollar lie, so use it as your main source of banknotes. So you're in the Auctions, looking at France and Nouveaux Franc notes as you typed in your search bar, and you see 243 auctions. I sort by price (lowest first, of course, beer budget, champagne taste !) and start looking for a nice clean copy of something I don't have. I'm an AU-UNC collector, but lately have gotten some good deals on VF-XF and XF-AU notes in nice clean condition, with complete enjoyment once they arrive. This is due to retirement and price, but not a real relaxation in standard. This is what I tell myself, anyway. So, sort your 243 auctions, take a general look, and add any number of them to your Watch List. Put all you want in there, take you time and look 'em over. Using the Watch List feature will save you looking at the same dross in the Auction listing the rest of the week, so use it. Do not bother considering to bid with any vendor with less than 98% positive feedback, unless he's a newbie and you can see he's trying hard. Do check the negative feedback, one buyer ordered 23 notes from a vendor I know, and gave 23 negatives for a single wrong note sent out by the vendor. You can ignore that ratio, but do look for complaints about overgrading, cleaned and pressed notes, all the stuff we don't like. (my next article is about doctored notes, so realize my hypocrisy knows no bounds). Now take you Watch List, sort by ending soonest, and decide which notes to consider for a bidding round. This is your chance to look hard at photos, descriptions, the note itself, so don't rush. Now comes the fun part. You can either be physically present at you computer on the close of the auctions, or you can use an algorithm to place proxy bids in your absence at the final moment of the auctions. I prefer to be there, myself, but the automated bidders have a lot to recommend themselves. Did you notice I did not say go to your first auction and place a bid? That nice UNC from Columbia with a $0.99 open? Surely I can just bid a couple of bucks and get my name on the board, then I'll come back later, you're thinking, right? Don't do it. Never, ever, ever do this. All you're doing is wasting time, and bidding against yourself when you return at closing time. Let the other guy chase being the highest bidder with $4.25, or $65.50, whatever, if you are in the first rounds you are just losing money. You will also avoid shill bidders and the 'recreational bidder' by not opening your bids early. The recreational bidder is the guy who just adds a dollar or two to a someone else's top bid, just to play with it. A dollar or two isn't much, but they add up. Don't give 'em a break, or a bid to play with.
Wednesday evening, it's finally here, the first couple of auctions on your list. You're at the computer, ready to go. And now it's showtime, or almost. Now the auction is nearly over. There is 8 minutes to go, and the six prior bidders are quiet, but the action is going to be in the last minute. Do be sure you are logged in and ready to bid, that lapse can be fatal to a purchase. (Don't ask me how I know this.) Showtime is soon, but not yet. Look at your note, and figure how much you want to pay for that note, and type your bid in the bid window. Do not yet place the bid, you've got eight minutes, right? Patience is a virtue, and bidding against yourself is a sin. You've already done all this homework, hopefully, or you can just price by 'feel', your choice. Everything works. I ignore postage fees in my bidding if it's under a certain amount, say $3 or so. Attending a local show costs me $20 in gas and another $15 in a meal, and I still might not get the note I'm bidding on. So just figure the price of the note. I use the catalog, values on Ebay, (including BIN), and Realbanknotes.com for my price guides. This is part of your Watch List research, you've got a day or two, or a week, before the auction ends to do some homework.
The 8 minutes is now 3 minutes, and your bid is typed in the window and you're ready to hit the 'Confirm' key, sending your legal bid to Ebay. Not yet, keep waiting. If you really, really, want this note, go ahead and raise your bid to any level you want, but I generally don't do that, just stick with my top price and a bit. Whatever, just keep waiting. At less than 1 minute, get ready to pounce. This is called 'sniping'. You are silent, hidden, with your finger on the button. You are One Bid, One Note. A killer in concealment. At ten to fifteen seconds, no more than 4 or 5 seconds, hit your 'Confirm' button and send your bid. Ebay will now sort out all the amounts and submittal times and declare the winner. You stand a very good chance of being the winner. Winning bids are one advance over the next lower bid. You will never win any auction paying more than a few bucks over the next bidder. If you bid $53.46, and the lower bid is $53.45, you will be top bid at $53.46, but in general the advance rules hold and pennies won't count, important as they may be. Let's be honest, you will lose to a higher bid, or an identical bid made before yours. That's fair, nothing to cry about. You can't win them all. But, I guarantee you, you will win more than you did before, and more importantly, you will have spent the least amount of money in doing so. Most other bidders are bargain hunters just like you, only a few are 'any price' bidders, so just be $2.50 ahead of the next-high bidder and you've got that Wesayso Republic note with the smiling President-for-Life portrait for your collection. Congratulations !
I've just started buying graded notes from select eras and countries, and can tell you the difference in cost between BIN and my 'snipe' can be 70% in cost. I like putting that money I saved into another nice note for the collection. Or maybe go out for a good dinner, always a positive activity, even for us nerd-like anti-social banknote collectors. ( I have yet to meet a collector who wasn't an outgoing nice person) You will save, over time, between 10% and 30% of your collection budget. Consider your time to be that money, we all want to be able to buy more banknotes.
A final word about Buy It Now, BIN. Do examine the offers for the 'Make Offer" option. Then do make an offer instead of paying full freight. You will save between 7% and 26% on the asking price, according to my own statistics of last year. That amounts to over $400 in money saved for me, which I plow back into more banknotes for the collection or just save it up for later. I'll have a little put aside for that upcoming Wesayso Republic note with the black margins commemorating the recent death of the President-for-Life, something to look forward to. I have had only one Offer rejected, then vendor just thought $5 off a $40 note was too much to bear. His problem, not mine. So do use the feature. If you have to Buy It Now, go right ahead, but Make Offers where you can and save a buck or two.
Because I have a great personal affinity for South America, it is with some regret, but with a total lack of surprise, that I am announcing Venezuela's new issue of paper money. This new issue, initially dated at August 18th, 2016, is comprised of Bolivares, the national currency of Venezuela, in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, and 20000. The designs will seem familiar as they mimic the previous issue, with some minute changes in design details, a major change in colors, and a huge change in denominations.
Though the inflation of Venezuela's money is absolutely horrific for the country (is inflation ever a good thing?) there is at least one minuscule benefit: at least for a time, it seems like the store owners might be able to put away their weight scales. Inflation in Venezuela has been so terrible that in some instances money is not counted, but weighed!
The banknotes of this issue are not being introduced all in one shot. As of today only the 500, 5000, 10000, and 20000 Bolivares banknotes are in circulation. These are quite readily available on eBay, including sets of the four notes that are circulation at the moment. These current banknotes do have some appeal, though the design is not completely overhauled. The vivid colors do make then an attractive set for paper money collectors.
This is a bit of a rant, centered around one of my personal pet peeves. Take it as you will, but I do wholeheartedly consider this issue from the angle of buyer and seller, so please take that into account. After all, at some point in the future I do plan on becoming a seller myself!
Though the vast majority of sellers on eBay do offer reasonable shipping fees (some sellers knowingly taking a bit of a loss on that front), in the last few years I've personally had to pass up on some purchases I would have otherwise made, had it not been for shipping fees. In my case, specifically, I will use the example of purchases being shipped from the US to Canada, as this is my most frequent shipping scenario. Of course, sellers are free to charge what they want, but there seem to be more and more instances, in my case, where a truly unreasonable shipping charge is put forth.
Being the ardent collector I am, this does cause me some frustration. In the last week, I've passed up on about 5-6 fantastic banknotes because of shipping. The two latest examples include a $60 USD banknote (Buy It Now) with a $32.50 shipping charge, and a $42 USD banknote (Buy It Now) with a $41.50 USD shipping charge. Its almost a bit of an insult to see postings like this. So, in some cases I contact the sellers, and for the most part they are very reasonable.
I recently bought a beautiful, though beat up, old Finnish banknote from the late 1800's. The shipping, from Finland, was originally $15 USD. When the auction ended my winning bid was just over the $7 USD mark, and the seller shipped the note for $5 USD, and I am thrilled with the purchase and the sellers willingness to be reasonable. On the flip side, I've also contacted sellers that are charging $20+ USD for shipping for banknotes under $40 USD, asking them for regular shipping (envelope + $1 USD stamp) while mentioning that I have 1100+ feedbacks as a buyer, all positive, and that I live just across the border from the US. Quite a few sellers refuse to budge.
As I've mentioned before, they are free to do so. But they I ask: why even offer shipping to Canada at all? With the exception of very expensive banknotes, it makes no sense and, to be honest, is a bit offensive.
So, I don't mean to sound vengeful, and I do not intend to be as such. I write this as heed to the sellers that practice shipping policies along these lines: there is some consolation, in the fact that I've also recently seen some pretty nice banknotes, some scarce, some in unusually good condition, sell for far far below their usual eBay sales values. Why? Because the seller has eliminated competitive bidding from anyone outside the United States. Just now I watched two $40 USD banknotes sell for under $10 with free shipping within the US simply because international shipping was $20+.
So, I'll sum up this messy rant. Sellers, for everyone's sake, please plan your international shipping accordingly, and be prepared to take minor risks for buyers that present an excellent purchase record. If you do not wish to trouble yourself with international shipping fees, and you are not willing to spend a dollar here and there to facilitate more sales, I suggest you simply not offer international shipping in lieu of exorbitant and inflated fees. Unreasonable shipping can backfire, and it does -- it can completely eliminate competitive bidding, so keep that in mind.
What do you guys think?
Well my friends, its been another exciting year at RealBanknotes.com. It is very rewarding watching the site grow, watching our membership expand, and providing paper money collectors with more tools and information via our website -- and yes, it is ours, as it is designed to be a community project, and not just a solo effort. And if it wasn't completely obvious in the past, I am a huge "data geek" and so I keep track of several statistics on the site, and track its growth and progress. As such, every new member, and every new gallery image is just an extra little bit of good news for me, and it seems I've had quite a bit of that in 2016. The following are just a few statistics from 2016, for anyone who cares:
All-in-all, 2016 was the best year yet as the website continues to grow year after year, each year being better than the previous. With the November 2016 update to the website, a lot of changes came about. The site is now mobile friendly, and several tools have been added to everyones account. Among them is the ability to create collections, with the option to add lots of information on the banknotes within a collection, the ability to create multiple collections, a new internal messaging system, and a new article submission system.
As per usual, the plans and ideas for the site definitely surpass the number of hours that I can commit to adding new features and, as usual, features will be added a few at a time, and when time permits. Unfortunately the site is a hobby, and so work still is ahead on the overall priority list. However, we've got something fantastic here (if I may say so myself) and its something that will continue to get better and better. The following are my goals for 2017:
These goals alone are a massive undertaking, with the maintenance of social media accounts and a massive amount of data entry. There are, however, secondary (bonus) goals for the future, and we'll see how many I can accomplish in 2017.
If you are interested in helping out the website, there are several ways to do so. Keep in mind that all help is much appreciated, and your assistance helps me free up more time to code and make the website more usable and more user-friendly. Here is what I ask of you:
Well, I think that's enough rambling about this and that. Cheers to you all, I wish you a fantastic 2017, happy collecting and I hope to see you all on the site and on the forums.