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Spink sale one for the record books
By Kerry Rodgers
December 21, 2017

Spink London’s Sept. 27-29 world paper auction was one for the record books. A three-day general world paper sale (1,909 lots) was accompanied by three specialized catalogs: Shamshir & Lion Collection of Persia (86), Medici Collection of Italy (305), and Bruce Smart British Commonwealth Part II (227).

All told, 2,527 lots were on offer. They included many eagerly sought rarities. Five-figure sales were commonplace. Space and the editor’s tolerance allow just a few top-priced pieces to be highlighted.

The Shamshir and Lion notes comprised the first significant Persian collection Spink has handled. Its breadth and scale were impressive, with prices easily matching content. Fifteen lots, or 17 percent of this catalog, sold for more than $10,000. The average price realized per lot was $7,566.

Top price was the $75,524 [£56,400] fetched by an issued Imperial Bank of Persia 100 tomans payable at Yezd and dated June 18, 1918 (P-8). Described as “extremely rare as an issued note,” only 100 examples were outstanding by the first half of the 20th century. It came graded PCGS Very Fine 20.

Other top notes included:

• Imperial Bank of Persia, 50 tomans, Teheran, June 1, 1918, P-7, PCGS Very Fine 20: $57,888 [£43,200];

• Imperial Bank of Persia, specimen 500 tomans, Teheran, ND (1919), P-9s, PCGS 58 PPQ: $41,808 [£31,200];

• Imperial Bank of Persia, 100 tomans, Teheran, June 14, 1924, P-17, PCGS Fine 12: $33,768 [£25,200].

The Medici Collection included both private and state issues from throughout Italy. It was the most extensive offering from that country ever handled by Spink. While the prices may not have been as eye watering as those from Persia, they nonetheless necessitate a revision of Italian bank note catalog values.

Top price was achieved by a Treasury Biglietti di Stato 25 lire of 1902 sporting King Vittorio Emanuel III at left, P-22. The leading Italian catalog lists it as R5 and, despite being graded just about F, it took a most comfortable $11,246 [£8,400].

An exceptionally rare Banca Toscara di Credito 50 lire, Firenze, of Jan. 2, 1880, P-S774, romped to an easy $8,844 [£6,600] in VG, while a Federal Biglietti Gia Consorziale 1,000 lire (law of 1874), P-9, took just $8,040 [£6,000] in “a presentable fine.”

The second installment of the Bruce Smart Collection of British Commonwealth produced far better results than did Part I. Perhaps there is greater interest in Commonwealth countries H-Z than A-G. Certainly African countries were to the fore.

First place went to a Southern Rhodesia £5 of Dec. 15, 1939, P-11a. In PMG Choice Very Fine 35, it is regarded as “likely one of the finest extant,” which does much to explain its $15,276 [£11,400] price tag.

And a Bank of Zambia trio, 10 shillings, £1 and £5 of 1964 (P-1a, -2a, -3a) took out the No. 2 honors when it sold for $14,472 [£10,800]; the three came PMG graded 65 EPQ, 64 EPQ, 65 EPQ, respectively.

Other serious prices from the Smart Collection included the $14,472 [£10,800] paid for a very a rare Volkskas Ltd., Southwest Africa, £5 dated Sept. 1, 1959 (P-15b). It was graded PMG Extremely Fine 40 EPQ and ex. Amon Carter collection. The same price was taken by a Trinidad and Tobago $20 of Jan. 1, 1943 (P-10) in PMG Very Fine 30 EPQ.

A consecutive pair of Bank of Rhodesia and Nyasaland £5s dated Feb. 1, 1961, P-22b, and both graded PMG Choice About Uncirculated 58 EPQ, sold for $12,864 [£9,600].

With those three specialized collections out of the way, it was the turn of the rest of the world. It produced the star of the entire three-day auction: an extremely rare Straits Settlements specimen $10,000 (type of 1919) (P-15s, Goon SS16Ns, Tan S15s). With faint mounting traces but otherwise EF, it raced away to score $98,088 [£73,200].

Straits Settlements also took $54,672 [£40,800] with a specimen $100 dated June 8, 1909 (P-4c, Tan S5c) in fresh god VF. The date is absent for the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, Tan and Goon.

Two lots made $32,160 [£24,000] apiece. First up was a pair of excessively rare Iraq obverse and reverse die proofs for a 100 dinars of 1931 (P-6) both in good EF. Second came a rare and desirable New Zealand £50 of Aug. 1, 1934 (P-157) graded PMG Very Fine 30.

Individually the four sales realized: Shamshir & Lion $650,661, Medici $233,897, Smart $520,751, Main $2,454,226, for a grand total of $3,859,535.

All prices cited have been converted at a rate of 1GBP = 1.34USD and include the buyer’s premium of 20 percent.

Full catalog details and prices realized are available from

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