Rare Irish Banknotes - A look at the variety and occurrence of the rarer Irish notes

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Rare Irish Banknotes - A look at the variety and occurrence of the rarer Irish notes

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Original [print] version (2016), published in Coin News as: Rare Irish Banknotes. Banknotes with dates of issue invite the attention of collectors, February 2016, p73.
This [electronic] version (2016) www.irishpapermoney.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=22 Numismatic Articles and Papers / Occasional Papers on Irish Paper Money

Recommended Citation
Mac Devitt, M. (2016). Rare Irish Banknotes. A look at the variety and occurrence of the rarer Irish notes. [Electronic version]. Accessed [insert date], from irishpapermoney.com/forum/ Occasional Papers on Irish Paper Money:
www. irishpapermoney.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=339

Rare Irish Banknotes
A look at the variety and occurrence of the rarer Irish notes
By Martan Mac Devitt

Many series of world banknotes contain rarities for various reasons. What makes particular notes rare are a product of the production and issue methods. Whether or not these rarer notes are valuable depends largely on how collectors approach their collecting of that country’s notes, and whether or not they are chasing the rarities, and in doing so creating a demand for them. Modern Irish notes are a case in point.

Dates and signatures make rarities
Whilst there are many rare notes in the various modern Irish series, not all of them have their rarity reflected in their collector value. Every Irish banknote has a date of issue and one or two signatures which change over time. This points collectors towards how to structure their collections, and creates a bigger demand for certain dates of banknotes, and for an example of each signature combination.

The most sought-after rarities are single date Type notes and rare Types, key rarities such as first and last dates, and rare varieties. Individual rare dates are only relevant for date collectors and tend not to have much of a premium in value. For example, the rarity of some replacement note dates is not reflected in their value, as collecting replacements by date is outside the scope of most collections. Some sought-after dates are common, and the aim then switches to obtaining the note in high grade.

Rare Type notes
The highest value Irish banknotes tend to be rare Type notes in the ‘Lady Lavery’ Legal Tender Notes (LTN) and rare notes by bank in the Consolidated Bank Note (CBN) series, reflecting the way in which collectors pursue the notes.

Relatively few LTN Type notes are rare. The rarest Type notes are the Type 1, Currency Commission 1928 10/-, £10, £20, £50, and £100 notes dated 10.9.28 (Type 1, one date for each denomination. See Coin News, December 2015 for a discussion on these); the Type 2, Currency Commission 1937 £100 note; and the wartime Emergency Tracer Overprint code £20 note (Type 5). Most collectors of Irish notes will likely have a slot in their album for one or more of these notes. Following these in rarity are £50 notes of Type 8 (1954), which are quite rare in gVf or better, and scarce in lower grades. Table 1 lists post-1928 rare Type notes along with the number and grade of the notes recorded in the Lavery Rare Notes Census (LRNC). Examples of other Type notes are more readily available and are not included in the LRNC.

Legal Tender Notes 1928–1977 and rare dates
The number of notes issued for each date in the LTN is generally the same for a particular denomination during each historical period: Currency Commission 1928–1942; early Central Bank, 1943–1950; later Central Bank, 1951–1977. However, the number of notes per date does vary, sometimes quite considerably, and this has produced some very rare dates.

Where an exceptionally rare date occurs, it appears to have been employed to use up spare blank notes (printed but not yet numbered and dated) of a particular printing session, left over from a replacement note operation most likely, or to tidy up a loose prefix (generated by left-over blank notes). For example, 10/- notes dated 12.12.45 and 13.8.46 are adjacent dates and share prefix 01J, this being the only prefix for these dates, giving a total of 100,000 banknotes divided between the two dates. The dates on either side of these two have approximately 500,000 notes each, the normal quantity per date for this period of production of the 10/- notes. These two dates occurred respectively at the end of one printing batch and at the start of the next. Both of these dates are very rare with only two examples of each note recorded.

However, as these two dates occur mid-way within Type 6 (1945–1950), their rarity is not reflected in their collector value, as they would only be sought out by date collectors. 3.10.50 is the last date of Type 6 Ten Shilling notes, with a normal printage. Because it is the last Type date, and would be on more collectors’ wants lists it would be expected to carry a higher premium in decent grade than either of the two rarer dates mentioned.

In practice though, there is always a premium on 1945 notes over other years of Type 6, and on 1946–49 dated-notes over notes dated 1950 and onwards in grades of VF–EF. This is the way in which Irish notes float on the market. It may be due to the fact that all Irish notes prior to around 1951 are scarce in higher grades. Irish notes prior to around 1970 are virtually unknown in UNC grade.

Changeover First and Last dates
Many collectors of banknotes tend to seek out the first and last issues of a particular Type. With regard to Irish LTN, this puts a focus on the first and last changeover dates of signature variations. Also, it puts a focus on first and last dates within sub-issues like the wartime ETO code notes. Many of these firsts and lasts are scarce, or rare as detailed in Table 2. Some banknotes are rare for several reasons, such as the 1929 10/- note, dated 31.12.29. This is the only Lavery LTN with a date in 1929. It is also the first date of Type 2 Ten Shilling notes, those with a linear prefix.

Although the printage of the 1929 10/- was relatively high at 2,000,000—similar to each 1928 date—the notes got used up, as did the 1930s Ten Shilling notes in general, and 1929 is one of the rarer dates for the Lavery series. Additionally, prior to the 1990s there was no particular focus on keeping the 1929 date in preference to others, unlike the 1928 dates. Thus, the single 1929 date is considerably rarer than either of the 1928 dates. Interestingly, though the 1929 note is less rare than some other rare Ten Shilling notes, it fetches far higher prices due to its being a key date in the series.

In the A Series LTN, generally the last date of issue of a particular Type was employed to use up the remaining blank notes (printed but not yet numbered and dated) of that Type. This has resulted in sometimes the very last date of a Type being by far the rarest date of that Type (an example of this is £10, 11.12.44), or an ordinarily common date of that Type (£1, 23.12.37 for example).

Generally, the end dates of earlier Types are rare. It is likely for instance that the sole reason for the existence of four dates of £100 notes in the last days of 1937 was a lack of demand for £100 notes in the 1930s, and that the unused banknote blanks were only dated and issued when they had to be used up with the alteration of the title of the Issuing Authority from “Currency Commission Irish Free State” to “Currency Commission Ireland”.

The 1937 £100 notes are rare due to the low printage of the Type, and the length of time they were in circulation, though the odd unsoiled note was spotted being reissued by a bank as late as 1995. The last date of these Type 2 £100 notes, 20.12.37 has a printage of only a few hundred notes, and no example has yet been seen of this date. Conversely, the later December dates of the 1937 £1 note, printed up for the same reasons, are the most common pre-1941 £1 notes by date, and by year. Table 2 lists all the rare changeover (first and last) dates of the Legal Tender Notes.

The Wartime Twenty Pound Note
The most sought-after Lavery banknote is the Type 5 £20 note, with wartime ETO code A. This banknote has always been the ‘Holy Grail’ note within the LTN series. It is the only major Type note which is likely to be missing from an otherwise complete collection. None had been seen by anyone working with Derek Young up to 1986, as he would have published its details in Irish Numismatics if it had been reported. The first instance of these notes being recorded in the LRNC was in 1994 when two examples were reported, with a third being added in 1995 recorded from an old collection.

A trickle of notes have been recorded since then. Currently, the count stands at 19 notes, with one of these being in a museum. Interestingly, the spread of recorded notes is more or less evenly across all eleven dates, strongly suggesting that all the notes were issued together, which is what would be expected. Thus, it is reasonable to consider that an example of each of the dates may have survived. Three dates have yet to be recorded: 5.4.43, 4.11.43, 10.1.44. Other than the museum note, all recorded examples are well circulated, with nice VF being the best grade seen. Two of the notes are in Poor grade, and would not be collectible were they any other Type note. See Table 1. Specimens of the £20 notes are also available to collectors, though they bring far lower prices than the issued notes would in a given grade.

Just four Type 5 £20 notes have been offered in auction since 1995. In 1999 two 1943 £20 notes were sold in a Dublin auction. Graded ‘About VG’ they each fetched £230 each including fees after heavy bidding from a packed room. The next time a war code £20 turned up was in 2011, again in Dublin. Graded ‘About VF’, with graffiti on reverse, and a 5mm edge tear it sold for approximately £5,500 including fees. Finally, a note in Poor grade fetched approximately £600 in 2014 in another Dublin auction.


Rare year notes
The most sought-after rare year notes are the Type 6, 1943 £50 (5 dates) and £100 notes (6 dates), likely because they are considered to be wartime notes. The £50 notes are significantly rarer than the £100 notes. Fewer 1943 £50 notes have been recorded in LRNC than Type 5 £20 notes. However, these 1943 notes are only part of Type 6, (1943–1953) and most collectors would seek only one note of the Type. Thus, there is little of a premium for a 1943 £50 or £100 note over a note of any other year in Type 6, and grade is what governs the value of the notes. Incidentally, there is a run of around 14 high grade 1943 £50 notes extant, dated 7.5.43, some in sequence. Other than these, very few examples have been recorded of 1943 £50 notes—however, the total number of notes seen for 1943 are similar to those seen for other years of Type 6 £50 notes. Most high grade Type 6 £50 notes are the 7.5.43 notes.

The 1943 £100 is much scarcer in high grade, with only a few examples recorded in gVF. In AU grade the 1943 £50 note would be expected to fetch in the region of £3,000 in auction including fees, against around £2,000 for any other year of Type 6. A gVF 1943 £100 would fetch around £3,000. In grades fine and lower, these 1943 notes do not have a significant premium over notes of other years of Type 6. This contrasts sharply with the Type 5 £20 note, which would easily fetch around £2,000 in VG, and in the region of £10,000 in VF.

The only other Type note that could be considered to be rare is the £50 note of Type 8 (1954), with J. J. McElligott, O. J. Redmond signatures. This signature combination is the scarcest in the LTN A Series, as Redmond was Secretary of the Department of Finance for just 18 months. All denominations except the £1 notes and £5 notes are scarce in grades higher than gVF are quite rare in EF grade or better. The £50 note (two dates in 1954) is quite rare in any grade, and a gVF grade example would be expected to fetch in the region of £1,800—which actually undervalues it when compared to a common bank CBN £10 note in similar grade! A gEF £20, dated 2.9.55 sold for £1,200 plus fees in auction in London in 2015. The first date of the £10 Mc Elligott, Redmond signature combination is 6.1.54. It is a good example of a key changeover date which also has a low printage. This is the only £10 note with a date in 1954—there are 10 dates in 1955 for Type 8—and it splits a prefix with the last date of the previous signature combination Brennan, Mc Elligott.

Throughout the A Series LTN the £50 notes are generally scarcer than £100 notes due to the £100 notes remaining in circulation until 1996, when the note was replaced by the C Series £100, while the A Series £50 was replaced by the B Series £50 in 1982. Thus, the A Series £50 had a near fifteen year head start on the £100 in being withdrawn.



Rare LTN varieties
There are two significant varieties within the Lavery LTN series: the Displaced Code Variety DCV within the ETO code wartime notes, and the mulberry variety notes. The mulberry variety notes are red serial-numbered notes where the ink of the numbers is much darker than normal, appearing almost black in extreme cases. They are generally not particularly rare, and will be the subject of a future article in this series.
The rarest variety in the Irish notes are the Displaced Code Variety (DCV) notes amongst the ETO war code notes (Types 4 & 5, 1940–44), on every second last dates of each of the codes. These notes bear the wrong code for a particular date, thus creating an anomaly of certain dates which exist with either one letter code or the other.

The existence of these notes points towards a printing process whereby the code was printed on the banknote blanks prior to them being dated and numbered. They occur with precise regularity through the war code Ten Shilling and One Pound note dates and are likely a result of the printing process using up left over set aside replacement notes. Very few examples of these DCV notes have turned up and they are very rare. Displaced code notes will be covered in the next article in this series on Lavery notes.

Consolidated Bank Note rarities
The CBN ‘Ploughman’ notes tend to be collected in a slightly different manner to Lavery Legal Tender Notes. Ploughman notes tend to be far more expensive than Lavery notes due to their relative scarcity (see Coin News September & October 2015 for an analysis of CBN). Collectors tend to collect the notes initially by the eight banks of issue, then by signature combination, with the initial aim of collecting a note of each signature spread across all the denominations of a bank—this can be done without needing any £10 notes.

£10 notes are expensive, with prices starting at around £1,000 in VG for the least scarce banks (National, Munster & Leinster). This puts the emphasis on £1 and £5 notes. Many collectors might stretch to one £10 note from one of the common banks. For advanced (and wealthier!) collectors, a £10 note of each of the banks would be sought (8 notes).

A few collectors would extend to all the signatures (12 notes). The scarcest Poughman note by signature variety is Type 3P, Provincial Bank of Ireland, Kennedy signature, one date 17.7.39 (3 notes recorded in PSS). However, the Northern £10 note (6 notes recorded in PSS) is far more sought-after, being the only Northern £10 note date. There are two other dates for the Provincial Bank Robertson (Type 1P—17 notes recorded in PSS) and Forde (Type 2P—38 notes recorded in PSS). Thus, what is relevant is that there are (as currently recorded) over nine Provincial £10 notes for every Northern. Therefore the Northern £10 is far more valuable because collectors primarily want one note of each bank.

Rare CBN dates
The CBN series has an occurrence of a very rare date amongst more common dates. £5 notes dated 29.1.31 for some of the eight banks are very rare with relatively tiny printages, whilst other banks have no disproportionately rare dates. It is not clear why this single instance of a very rare date occurs. This is the second date for the £5 note, printed for all 8 banks. This occurrence of scarce instances by bank of £5 notes dated 29.1.31 is somewhat odd, as the date is scarcer for some of the larger banks, with bigger total issues of CBN than for smaller issuing banks. Possibly banks which had a larger stock of notes in hand received fewer notes, favouring banks which had run relatively short of £5 notes.

Ploughman Scan Survey data indicates that the total printage of £5 notes dated 29.1.31 was likely to have been around 130,000 notes. At least 52,000 of that total went to the Provincial Bank of Ireland; around 14,000 were used by the Royal Bank of Ireland; 20,000 exactly by Bank of Ireland; up to 10,000 by the Ulster Bank; and up to 4,000 by the Northern Bank. The date is common for the for the first three banks, scarce for the Ulster Bank, and all Northern Bank £5 notes are rare, including this one. These five banks account for 110,000 notes, leaving 20,000 notes for the other three banks. Based on observed prefix gaps, possible printages could be as follows: Hibernian Bank, 6,000 (One note known, Good Fine); Munster & Leinster Bank, 10,000 (1 note known, Fine); National Bank, 4,000 (1 note known, Poor grade). The latter two banks were big banks with large note issues, and no rare dates outside of the Extraordinary Issue. It is intriguing that 29.1.31 is very rare for them, and for the Hibernian Bank.

Certain CBN dates for £1 notes from 1931 to 1933 are quite rare also, especially for the smaller banks, due to generally low printage quantities for the smaller banks. While many of these scarcer dates of the Ploughman notes are due to low production quantities, the rare dates among the Lavery notes tend to be a product of the printing operation as previously detailed. The only significant variety in the CBN which is likely to be sought out by collectors is the small prefix variety £1 notes, dated 26.7.33. Six banks issued this date. It marks a transition between two styles of numbering on the CBN, and therefore invites attention from collectors. This is a rare date for two of the banks, Hibernian Bank and Ulster Bank, with only a few notes recorded for each.


Terminators—100000 and 1000000 serial numbers
A Terminator is the last note of a prefix. Banknote series of many countries include terminator notes, including those of the Bank of England, Northern Ireland and other Sterling area note issuers. There are two kinds of Terminators for LTN, note number 100000 for unextended serial numbered notes, and number 1000000 for notes with extended serial numbers. These numbers were out of range of the numbering machines, and were hand-set on the Lavery Legal Tender Notes up until around 1975, when a replacement note was used instead of the terminator note for some One Million terminators. Non-extended serial numbers were used initially on all A Series and Consolidated banknotes. The six-digit serial number of each particular prefix consisted of a zero plus five digits, running in the range of 000001 to 099999, plus Terminator 100000. All pre-Type 7 10/-, £1, and £5 notes, and pre-Type 10 £10 notes are of this format, as are all £20, £50, and £100 note Types. All Consolidated banknotes are also of this format.

Extended serial numbers were first adopted on A Series banknotes in 1951. The six digit serial number of each particular prefix was extended so as to run in the range of 000001 to 999999, plus Terminator 1000000. Extended serial numbers commenced with Type 7 notes, in 1951 for 10/- and £1 notes, and in 1952 for £5 notes. Further, in 1960 the serial numbers of £10 notes were also extended, producing Type 10.

The extension of the serial numbers reflects the increased production and usage of notes of these denominations. It is a sign of the beginnings of both a widespread increase of wealth and of inflation. It also marks a significant change in the distribution of dates of issue of the notes. From the time of the extension of the serial numbers there tended to be far fewer dates per year, with a far greater number of banknotes issued per date. The higher denominations did not have their serial numbers extended, though after 1951 they too tended to have fewer dates, with more banknotes per date.

Consolidated notes had a different printer to A Series notes, and Consolidated Terminators were not hand numbered, instead being numbered by the same numbering machine as the rest of the Consolidated notes in a particular batch.

Hand-numbered Terminator notes are extremely rare, with only approximately 3,979 having been produced from 1928 to 1977. This breaks down to 303 Consolidated Banknote 100000 Terminators, plus 2,776 A Series 100000 Terminators, and 900 A Series 1000000 Terminators. One each of the A Series 100000 and 1000000 Terminators is known to exist in collections. Both are £10 notes.



Table 1: Rare Notes Census. A Series Legal Tender Notes & Consolidated Bank Notes.
Listed are rare key dates and rare Types. A full list of rare dates is in Irish Banknotes (1999), and on https://www.irishpapermoney.com


Table 2: Rare A Series Legal Tender key Changeover First and Last Dates.
Listed are rare key dates and rare Types. There are other first and last dates which are not rare, and other rare dates throughout the LTN series which occur in the middle of Types, and as such would not necessarily command much of a premium, if any.


Bank of Ireland Archives.

Annual Reports of The Currency Commission and The Central Bank of Ireland, Irish Government Publications.

Fitzwilliam Museum Library, University of Cambridge, UK.

The Banknote Yearbook, 9th Ed., (2015). Token Publishing Ltd.

Mac Devitt, M. (1999). Irish Banknotes. Irish Government Paper Money From 1928. Seachran & Whytes.

Mac Devitt, M. (2009). Irish Banknotes. Irish Government Paper Money From 1928. Updates. Seachran.

Moynihan, M. (1975). Currency and Central Banking in Ireland 1922–60, Gill & MacMillan in association with the Central Bank of Ireland.

Young, D., Irish Numismatics Magazine, various issues 1974–1984.

Young, D. (1977). Guide to the Currency of Ireland–Consolidated Bank Notes 1929–1941. Stagecast.

Young, D. (1972). Guide to the Currency of Ireland–Legal Tender Notes. Stagecast, Dublin, 1972.
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