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Unique Bank of England Notes sold at Spink for World Record Price

Bank of England £10 Page/Somerset consecutive pair (Token Banknote Yearbook BE158A, Duggleby unlisted) bought on eBay, resells for world record price.

Dear Kate,

Users of your website will recall the article I wrote for your news section recounting the amazing day last August, when I purchased a unique pair of English £10 notes on eBay for £1250. Well I can now tell you all about an even more amazing day!

After the purchase, I told Barnaby Faull, Banknote Director at Spink, about it and he immediately expressed an interest and said he was sure he could get a very good price for the notes. I was torn between keeping these unique notes and satisfying my wife who, rather coldly said after I had bought them, "You seem very good at buying all these so-called bargains, Laurence, but you don't ever sell them! I would like the house completely redecorated and you have just spent £1250 out of the budget!” So I thought I would make some sort of effort to sell them and told Barnaby he could try and auction them, but that the estimate was to be £5-6,000 and the reserve no less than £4,500.

In the meantime, I thought it was very important that Barnaby had the full facts about this extraordinary find and he very helpfully let me draft a full description of the notes for the auction catalogue. This was as follows:-

Lot 347. Bank of England, Page and Somerset, £10 (2), ND (1975-80), consecutive Page-Somerset signatures, serial numbers U35 732159/60, brown, lily at centre, Elizabeth II at right, reverse brown, Florence Nightingale and a scene from the hospital at Scutari (B330, B346). Only two other copies of the £10 (B330) with U prefix are known and neither has the benefit of a consecutive note signed by Somerset. The recent discovery of this unique pair of notes in the Bank of England series is a major event. They were withdrawn from a bank in 1980, put on one side in an envelope in a bureau and forgotten about until rediscovered last year. A lovely item (B330, B346) about uncirculated, unique Estimate £5,000-6,000

This was one of the most detailed descriptions of any lot in the catalogue and I firmly believe it was instrumental in obtaining this record price. Crucially, Barnaby put his money where his mouth was and stated twice that the item was unique. With all the authority of, and respect for, the world's most prestigious auction house for paper money, a statement like this carries enormous weight. It was also very important to stress in the description that these notes had been found as long ago as 1980, put in a drawer and only rediscovered last August. The background to this was that several dealers pointed out that lots of modern consecutive Bank of England notes with different Chief Cashiers’ signatures were coming to light and it was this fact that lent weight to their reservations about the estimated value. But this pair of notes had been discovered over 25 years ago and it is extremely unlikely that another pair will now appear on the market.

Barnaby then invited me to a soiree to mark the opening of Spink's new showroom last November and when I got there I couldn't believe my eyes. For there, in a very prominent position, the two notes were housed in a beautiful display case, superbly lit and described as a star lot in their next sale of World Banknotes. One of Spink’s clients at the function immediately announced he intended bidding for them and later Spink's photographer snapped me next to the display case containing the notes.

The months passed, Spink's sale was delayed from April to June and in the meantime several dealers and collectors said I would never get my asking price. On 14th June, the day of the auction, I arrived at Spink's offices only to be told by a well-known English dealer that the price was too high and the notes wouldn't sell. So, somewhat dejected (because after all this time I had managed to live without them and thought it would now be a great anti-climax if they failed to sell) I entered the auction room and waited and waited for Lot 347 to be announced. It was clear the market generally was very buoyant and some East African Q.E.II notes went for record prices, but I became extremely edgy as Lot 340, 341, 342 and so on came up and went under the gavel.

And then I got the shock of my life: Barnaby suddenly announced that he had several buyers for Lot 347 and he would have to start the auction for it at £6,200! A bid of £6,400 followed from the floor and in less than 30 seconds flat it was knocked down to a postal bidder for £6,600. This hammer price becomes £7,880.75 when the buyer's premium and V.A.T. are added, and it is this price which is now a world record for any post-war British note/item.

It probably helped that as consulting editor of the Token Yearbook, I was able to list and illustrate these unique notes as BE158A in the new 5th edition which came out last March and the publication of the acquisition in Inside IBNS may also have affected the outcome. After the sale, I was delighted to receive an email from IBNS director, Paul Walters, who had read my article about them with interest, amazingly recognised the notes amongst over 1000 lots in the auction and had bothered to send his congratulations on the result.

All I can say is that this wonderful hobby never ceases to amaze me, as collectors can never tell what exactly lies round the corner. So my message is keep searching for notes on eBay, check every humble note for that elusive rare prefix and never underestimate what tomorrow may bring. It is not every day that a unique item appears on eBay and is resold for a world record price, but it does happen and it might just be tomorrow!

Best wishes,

Laurence Pope
IBNS #7037

Last updated 27/04/2008