Date collecting Irish Banknotes

Publications arising from the latest research on Irish Banknotes.
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Date collecting Irish Banknotes

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CN Jan 2016
Date collecting Irish Banknotes. Banknotes with dates of issue invite the attention of collectors.

Original [print] version (2016), published in Coin News as: Date collecting Irish Banknotes. Banknotes with dates of issue invite the attention of collectors, January 2016, p75.
This [electronic] version (2017) Numismatic Articles and Papers / Occasional Papers on Irish Paper Money

Recommended Citation
Mac Devitt, M. (2017). Date collecting Irish Banknotes. [Electronic version]. Accessed [insert date], from Occasional Papers on Irish Paper Money:

Date collecting Irish Banknotes
Banknotes with dates of issue invite the attention of collectors
By Martan Mac Devitt

The dates of issue on Irish banknotes are an extra security feature. Each date corresponds to a certain number of banknotes, which varies according to denomination. Banknotes issued in Ireland always bore a date of issue, and likely followed practice in Scotland, from where much banking expertise was introduced to Ireland during the development of the Irish banking system. Back in the 1700s when only Private banks issued notes the date was likely the actual date on which the note was issued, when a date and serial number was filled in by hand.

Printed dates on Irish banknotes
The Bank of Ireland was established by Royal Charter on 10 May 1783, and was Ireland’s first large joint stock bank. It also employed the process of each banknote bearing a date and serial number, both filled in by hand, when it commenced issuing notes. As the bank grew in size and stature and became effectively a central bank, it’s note issue became the de facto currency of much of the island due to its stability. The notes became more formal, and more difficult to forge.

Around 1816 the bank introduced a new series, Series C (attributed to John Oldham who later went to work at the Bank of England), with printed dates and serial numbers. These are the first Irish notes with printed dates. Research suggests that each date corresponded to 100,000 notes, with a double dash in place of leading zeros. Bank of Ireland notes up to £10 have been seen from this era. This number of notes per date continued to be used by the bank for all its note issues up until its 1922 small sized £1 notes, which was then extended to use up to 1,000,000 notes per date. All subsequent note issues of later Irish joint stock banks followed this system of pairing a particular date with a corresponding number of notes, as did the Currency Commission and the Central Bank of Ireland.

Bank of Ireland introduced prefixes on its notes around 1833. Each prefix and date marked 100,000 notes. This is believed to be the first usage of a prefix on an Irish banknote.

Other joint stock banks varied the number of notes per date at different times. For example The Northern Banking Company was using block numbers and four digit serial numbers on its £1 notes in 1866, and then later on in 1912 it was using a single prefix letter with a five digit number. The National Bank was using a continuing number up to six digits without prefix on its Series D (1922–1926) £5 notes, running up to over 400,000, spread across 7 known dates, having previously used a single letter prefix with a number up to five digits on its C Series large sized £5 notes up to 1919. Provincial Bank of Ireland was modernising its note designs in 1918–1919, producing a split prefix, V, shared by two dates on banknotes of differing designs, both short-lived. They produced two very rare note issues in the process!

Bank of Ireland £1, 9 Sept 1816. The earliest known Irish banknote with a printed date and serial number.

Bank of Ireland 30 /-, 9 Dec 1833. The earliest known Irish banknote with a prefixed serial number.

Northern Banking Company £1, dated 17th August 1866.

Dates on modern notes from 1928
Following established practice, the Currency Commission Ireland adopted the usage of dates when it first produced the new Legal Tender Note (LTN) issue for the Irish Free State in 1928, and also employed dates on the Consolidated Bank Note issue in 1929. All subsequent Irish note issues bore a date of issue. According to the Central Bank of Ireland (1998) the dates were chosen at random. However, there are a number of instances where it is likely that some bias was used to influence the choice of dates. All dates on Irish government banknotes are working days, with Sundays excluded. Additionally, the choice of 10.9.28 for all of the denominations of the first Lavery notes was the actual day they went into circulation. This happened again at least once with the first issue of the Carolan design B Series £50 note dated 01.11.82.

There is another interesting modern date of issue, that of the first of the C Series notes. A £20 note dated 10.9.92 was produced, with a print run of only around 60,000, using a replacement BBB cypher. It is noteworthy that the date is 10 September, reflecting the first date used on the Lavery notes in 1928. The collecting community doesn’t consider this a coincidence! It is also interesting that the first standard issue date for the new £20 note is different, 21.09.92, with a print run of 12,000,000 notes, the normal number per date for B Series and C Series notes. There is also a BBB replacement note for the 21.09.92 date, which continues on the numbering from the 10.09.92 date. When the 10.9.92 note was first noticed by collectors a few days after the new series entered circulation it caused great interest, and a scramble to obtain an example in UNC. The best yet seen though is a good VF. The new series had started with a very rare date. The 10.09.92 £20 note may have been a trial run of the new series (Mac Devitt, 1999), printed as a replacement so that it could be integrated into the normal issue procedure.

The occurrence of rare dates throughout a modern series presents the date collector with an extra challenge, especially when trying to collect the notes in strict UNC.

Legal Tender Notes, A Series by date
As every Irish Legal Tender Note bears a date, this gives the collector a lot to be interested in and a great basis for starting a collection. Some collectors have inevitably attempted to collect every date of certain denominations, usually 10/- and £1 notes. These two denominations have been intensively collected by date since the end of the 1960s. By 1998, an example of a note of every date except one had been collected for each of the two denominations; the last remaining dates were 10/-, 15.5.45 and £1, 12.4.45. Both are quite rare, and are the first date of Type 6, the first issue after the removal of the special marking wartime ETO code. Various theories had been suggested to account for the non-appearance of either of the two dates, the most accepted being that they might have been printed with ETO codes in error, a marking that had been discontinued and withdrawn from circulation, thus making the two missing dates unissuable. These two dates are also unusual in that they are ‘first date of a Type’ rarities, when the usual pattern of such a Type rarity would be for the last date to be rare.

Then, in 2009 an unused gVF example of the 12.4.45 £1 finally did turn up, long after we had stopped really looking for it! Interestingly, the 12.4.45 £1 note was bought from a dealer together with another very rare date, 3.9.41, suggesting that both had been kept by an individual who knew their rarity. The dealer had acquired the notes together from the same source. Finally a date-set of Lavery £1 notes was complete, with all 257 dates safely in the album. This suggests of course that the corresponding 10/-, 15.5.45, will also be found, as all the theories as to why the two last notes might not have been issued relied on them both being flawed for the same reason. We are still waiting for the 10/- date to turn up.

£1, 12.4.45. The last Lavery £1 note date remaining to be recorded.

Missing dates of A Series (Lady Lavery) Legal Tender Notes.
Thus far, examples of the following dates have yet to be recorded for A Series banknotes:
10/- notes: 231 dates issued, 1 not recorded. 15.5.45.
£1 notes: 257 dates issued, No missing dates.
£5 notes: 193 dates issued, 2 not recorded. 24.5.51, 15.9.55.
£10 notes: 136 dates issued, 1 not recorded. 16.3.33.
£20 notes: 96 dates issued, 21 not recorded. 5.4.43, 7.6.43, 4.11.43, 10.1.44, 17.10.45, 13.12.45, 16.1.46, 23.7.47, 26.9.47, 3.10.47, 16.3.48, 21.7.48, 7.9.48, 14.10.48, 26.11.48, 7.3.49, 19.5.49, 17.11.49, 18.3.50, 14.9.50, 22.5.51.
£50 notes: 48 dates issued, 9 not recorded. 5.4.43, 2.7.43, 29.1.46, 26.2.46, 22.5.46, 18.6.47, 26.7.47, 16.5.49, 4.9.50.
£100 notes: 43 dates issued, 3 not recorded. 20.12.37, 30.3.43, 20.11.47.
Most of the £20 and £50 note dates in this list are not rare, relative to other dates of the denomination.

Consolidated Banknotes
In practice, we have seen that Irish notes even of the greatest rarity have a tendency to turn up sooner or later, so the notion that it should be possible to collect all of the Legal Tender Note dates is still valid. This is far less likely for Consolidated Ploughman notes, as the 1940–41 £1 notes and the last 1939-dated £5 notes are part of the Extraordinary Issue, printed as a standby in the event of a run on the banks on the outbreak of war in 1939, a run which didn’t materialise. Records indicate that the Extraordinary issue notes were almost certainly never issued. Consolidated £20, £50 and £100 notes are also not available, being fully redeemed issues. Thus, it is not necessary to aspire to acquiring any of these dates.

However, it would be feasible to date collect all of the £1, £5, and £10 Consolidated notes that were issued, and this has been done. There are relatively few £10 notes, 22 dates, of which all but three have been recorded in the Ploughman Scan Survey. One of these is an early date, 5.12.31, National Bank. It is unusual for such an early date not to have turned up, especially as it is not the last date of the Type. There are 49 dates for the £5 notes of which 7 are not recorded. All of these are last date notes, part of the Extraordinary Issue. The £1 notes are a bit more of a challenge, with 124 dates, of which 10 are Extraordinary Issue, leaving 114 dates to collect. All of these have been recorded. It is noteworthy that one note each of the £1 and £5 Extraordinary Issue dates have been recorded in collections, both of the notes being Munster & Leinster Bank.

Legal Tender Notes, B Series and C Series
Banknote collecting was a well established activity when the B Series (Celtic) design notes were introduced first in 1976 to replace A Series notes. Thus, all dates of B Series and C Series notes have been saved in UNC condition with the exception of replacements notes of some of the dates. When these notes were in circulation some collectors were able to afford to keep the higher denomination notes as they came out. There was a keen interest in Irish banknote collecting in the 1970s and 1980s, lead by researchers like Derek Young, who produced Irish Numismatics Magazine. Leading collectors, and some of the dealers who supplied them with notes all contributed research to Young’s efforts.

However, it should be noted that relatively few B Series £20 notes were kept at the time as the note was quite a high face value in the 1980s—only one date collection is known to have been built as the notes were being issued. Hence, most high grade examples of the £20 note have been through the banking system and may have traces of handling. It is a difficult note to find in UNC. By contrast, the £50 note, with only two dates, 01.11.82 and 05.11.91, is readily available in UNC. At least one block of 1,000 notes of the 1982 date is known to have been kept. The 1991 date is scarcer in UNC. No blocks of £20 notes are known to have been kept.

Number of dates of B Series and C Series Legal Tender Notes.
B Series LTN (1976–1993).
£1: 67 dates, 30 replacement dates;
£5: 36 dates, 15 replacement dates;
£10: 35 dates, 15 replacement dates;
£20: 25 dates, 12 replacement dates;
£50: 2 dates, 2 replacement dates.
C Series LTN (1992–2001).
£5: 14 dates, 2 replacement dates;
£10: 20 dates, 9 replacement dates;
£20: 36 dates, 17 replacement dates;
£50: 4 dates, 3 replacement dates;
£100: 1 date, 1 replacement date.
*Replacements always use a standard issue date, except for £20, 10.09.92, which only exists as a replacement note.

The challenge of date collecting Irish notes
As mentioned previously, in the early days of Irish note collecting the major Irish collectors tended to collect either 10/- or £1 Lavery notes by date. The other denominations were collected by type. A representative collection of Commonwealth countries would also be a part of the collection, as would be perhaps a date collection of one of the African countries. There were at least half a dozen such collections being worked on, including two in north America, with collectors co-operating on looking for the dates. A few collectors also collected Ploughman notes by date, which would have been a bit more expensive than collecting Lavery notes. It should be borne in mind that in the 1970s Lavery notes were still in use, and that most dates of 10/- and £1 notes, even early ones, could be sourced from circulation, especially if one had access to a source such as cash flow in a small business, like a shop, as some collectors did. Collectors were also able to source their old notes from banks. Ploughman notes would come at a premium of several times face value in VF or so. Thus, when date collecting you kept an example of each date in the best condition you could find it in, and then upgraded it as better examples turned up.

These date collections were used as a basis for serial number data used by Young in Guide to the Currency of Ireland (1972 and 1977), and later as a basis for Irish Banknotes (1999). In the 1990s it became feasible, because of inflation, to collect all the denominations of A Series Lavery notes by date as well as the B Series and C Series notes. At least four date collections covering all denominations were started during this period. Today, the bulk of the dates from Type 3 (1938-40) onwards of A Series denominations up to £10 are easy enough to obtain, and are quite inexpensive in lower grades, so it is still feasible to collect them by date. Earlier Type 2 (1929-37) Irish Free State 10/- notes (42 dates) and £5 notes (18 dates) are a more daunting prospect as they are generally very scarce, and there are quite a few dates to find. There are also several rare dates amongst them. Conversely, £1 notes of Type 2 are relatively common. A date collection of C Series notes in UNC would also be a very viable project.

Northern Ireland notes would be relatively easy to collect by date, as most Northern Ireland banknote issues are readily available. This is because, compared to the rest of Ireland, Northern Ireland was a much more prosperous entity in the 1930–1960 period. Ulster had much of Ireland’s industry outside of Dublin at the time of partition of the island, and the benefit of being part of the UK economy thereafter. Thus, Northern Ireland had more wealth in circulation, and many of the older banknotes of the Province are readily available compared to equivalent periods in the Irish Free State and later Republic of Ireland. Only the National Bank’s earlier issues (1929–1934) are seriously rare.

Some earlier collectors also collected pre-1928 all-Ireland banknotes by date. This would have been a tougher proposition as the notes had been in the course of withdrawal from circulation since 1929, and there is no complete list of the dates available. The notes are also relatively rare in general due to their age, and the fact that the issuing banks had been withdrawing their soiled and older issues as they updated their note supply in the normal course of events. However, a lot of them were handed in to banks around the time of decimalisation in the early 1970s, and post-1900 denominations of £1, £5, and £10 could be obtained relatively inexpensively at the time. Only issued £3 notes commanded a heavy premium. Date-focused collectors simply kept an example of each date they came across. Of course many of the post-1900 issues are very rare, especially the shorter-lived ones.

However, most dates of the small-sized post-multibranch general issues (ca1920–28) have been recorded. Additionally, the small-sized multibranch general issue notes (ca1918–20) would have be an interesting area to collect by date. Only the Bank of Ireland, National Bank, and Provincial Bank of Ireland issued notes in this category. Whilst the latter two banks’ notes are rare, the Bank of Ireland £1 notes of this era are not particularly scarce. Still, there are over 100 dates for these notes—a good challenge to collect!

Replacement note dates
No date collection would be complete without a replacement note of each of the dates for which there is one. The use of marked replacement notes (a Star note system) commenced with Lavery notes in 1974 when printing moved to the Central Bank of Ireland’s own premises in Sandyford, Dublin. Prior to that unmarked replacements (those bearing the number of the note they replace) were used. Obtaining replacement notes in UNC can be a bit trickier if one is looking to collect all the dates as some dates have never been seen in UNC. However, there are only eight dates in the Lavery Series which also have a replacement prefix (£1, 3; £5, 2; £10, 2; £20, 1). All of these were obtained in UNC by collectors of the time, though the £20 is a scarce note, and very rare in UNC.

B Series replacement dates are not so easy to obtain. There are far more dates to collect, and some have never been seen in better than VF grade. This is especially the case with £20 replacement notes, where only the first date (7.1.80)is known to have been saved in UNC. Most C Series replacement note dates were kept in UNC, though some of the scarcer £20 note dates haven’t been seen other than as circulated good VF notes.

Modern rare dates are the tricky ones
In date collecting modern Irish notes, the real trick is to obtain the rarer dates, of which there are up to around half a dozen for each denomination of the A Series LTN. This is the bottleneck we all hit sooner or later. Some of these rare dates have yet to turn up. Where the rarer dates have been seen, only a few examples of them are known, and in some cases just one has been seen. Most are circulated notes. Still, if there is one known, then there are likely to be more—collectors have to be pragmatic—especially if the known examples are circulated, likely indicating a normal usage pattern. The Lavery Rare Note Census keeps track of the rarer dates and issues. Rare notes and dates will be the subject of a following article in this series.

Banknotes were both post-dated and back-dated when printed, the Issuing Authority deciding in advance what the dates of issue of a particular batch of notes would be before ordering that batch. Banknotes of a particular date entered circulation several months, and sometimes more than a year after their date of issue. The number of banknotes in a batch varied, sometimes only one date being used, other times a dozen or more dates being used. The numbers of dates depended on the quantity of notes required. From around 1951 the numbers of notes per date increased and the number of dates decreased for 10/- and £1 notes. This happened with higher denomination notes also from the mid-1950s onwards, leaving fewer dates to look for, and a greater possibility of obtaining those dates in high grade. Thus, some collectors have been collecting post-1950 notes by date in UNC.

The ultimate goal of any collector of banknotes is to complete their collection. Bearing that in mind it is feasible to collect Irish government banknotes by date with a reasonable expectation that it ought to be possible to complete the collection by date. As it now has been done for Lavery £1 notes, the challenge is to complete the other denominations of the A Series too. The £20 notes probably present the biggest challenge, with a lot of dates still to be found. All of the missing dates are either Type 5 (1943-44) war code notes (11 dates) which are very rare, or Type 6 (1945–52) first post-war issue (70 dates) which are scarce notes by Type. Type 6 £20 notes would not have been kept in grades below Fine until around 1995, when the face value was no longer a really significant consideration.

The missing dates are gradually being filled in as they are spotted by collectors. The date listings of notes on for each of the denominations are updated as missing notes are reported. Readers with examples of any of the unrecorded dates might like to send details of serial numbers to this Irish papermoney forum, with a scan of the note if possible.

Bank of Ireland Archives.

Central Bank of Ireland.

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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Re: Date collecting Irish Banknotes

Post by Mac »

There are images of all of recorded dates of issue of Irish Government banknotes on the main website, in Currency Commission Consolidated Banknotes; Currency Commission and Central Bank Lady Lavery Legal Tender Notes; Central Bank of Ireland B Series; Central Bank of Ireland C Series.

Additionally, images of many pre-partition Joint Stock bank note issues, especially the rarer notes can be viewed in the Old Irish Banknotes section of the website.
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