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History of Australian Banknotes Signatures Part 1

13 April 2010

Signatures – (Part 1)- by Richard E Fahy

Pre Decimal Banknotes. Circa 1913-1966


George Thomas Allen. Circa 1901-1916

Was the first Secretary to the Treasury after Australian Federation in 1901.

Although he retired in 1916, his signature continued to appear on Australian banknotes until 1918.


Charles Cerutty. Circa 1918-1923

When J Collins was promoted to Secretary. Mr Cerutty was made his assistant in 1916.

In 1920 he was appointed a Director of the Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank.

His signature appeared on all banknotes issued between 1918 & 1923.


Dennison Miller. Circa 1912-1926

Mr Miller was the first Governor of the Commonwealth Bank in 1912.

His signature appeared on banknotes, issued from 1923 to 1926, however did not appear on the five pound banknote-for reason that have been lost in history.

He died in office in June 1923.


James R. Collins

collins-sigThe signatures of James Collins appeared on all banknotes from 1910 until 1927. He became Secretary to the Treasury on the 1st of July 1910. This title appears on the first issues of banknotes.

He was appointed Secretary to the Treasury on the 14th March 1916 and held this post until 1927. The changed title and position of the signature of James Collins appears on the banknotes issued from 198 to 1927.


James Kell – Circa 1924-1927

kell-sigJames Kell was appointed Governor of the Commonwealth Bank following the death of Sir Dennison Miller, which office he held until his retirement on the 31st May 1967. Signature of James Kell

In 1924 the control of banknote issue was changed slightly in that it became vested in Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Because of this change, James Kell is described on some issues as Chairman of Directors of the Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank.


riddle-sigErnest C. Riddle -Circa 1927-1938
Sir Ernest Riddle became the third Governor of the Commonwealth Bank in 1927, a position he held until 1938.

Although the Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank was no longer responsible for the note issue, his signature appears with the total of Chairman of the Board of Directors of this body, on some of the five pound banknotes issued.

These banknotes which are considerably scarcer than those that feature the title of Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, were apparently printed in order to use up, banknotes which had been pre-printed, or to make use of printing plates which had not been fully utilised.


James T. Heathershaw. -Circa 1926-1932

heathershaw-sigJames Heathershaw was Secretary to the Treasury from 1926 to 1932, the third person to hold this office.

His signature appears on banknotes issued from 1927 until 1933 for some banknotes issues.


Harold J. Sheehan- Circa 1932-1941.Having signed in both capacities as Secretary to the Treasury from 1932 to 1938 & Governor of the Commonwealth Bank

From March 1938 to April 1941.


Stuart McFarlane- Circa 1938 ©1948.

Mr McFarlane was appointed Secretary to the Treasury in March 1938 to January 1948.

Mr S McFarlane was the grandfather of the present Governor of the Reserve Bank-Mr Ian McFarlane.


Hugh Armitage. Circa 1941-1948.

Was appointed acting Governor of the Commonwealth Bank following the untimely death of Mr Sheehan in office.

Was officially appointed Governor of The Commonwealth Bank in July 1941 & served in that capacity until December 1948.

An interesting historical fact is that Mr H Armitage as joint signatory with Mr S McFarlane were responsible for the introduction of star* banknote replacements in 1941, with the ten shilling-King George V1, this banknote having a then value of ten shilling (today’s value would be one dollar).

The current valuation of this our first star* banknote replacement in Uncirculated is approximately $60,000.


George P. Watt- Circa 1948-1951.

Having served as Secretary to the Treasury from November 1948 to March 1951.

Mr Watt was the last but second signature prior to King George V1 death in 1952.


Herbert’ Nugget’ Coombs. Circa 1949-1968.

Mr Coombs holds the honor as Australia’s longest serving signatory as Governor of the Reserve Bank.

He was responsible for the transition from pre decimal banknotes or pounds, shillings & pence to decimal currency in February 1966.

Mr Coombs was the last signature in the King George V1 series Circa 1939-1952 & the second of two signatures of pre decimal banknotes under Queen Elizabeth 11 Circa 1954-1966.


Roland Wilson. Circa 1951-1966.

Mr Wilson served as Secretary to the Treasury from April 1951 to October 1966.

As with, Coombs, Mr Wilson traversed the pre decimal period to decimal banknotes.

With the exception of the signature combination of Collins/Allen who were responsible for the introduction of Australian banknotes all those years ago Circa 1913-1915, there is no doubt, the signature combination of Coombs/Wilson were responsible for one of the most monumental changes to our currency that was been seen for over 40 years.


Pre Decimal Banknotes-Printed Numbers

Ten Shillings. 1913-1914 – 502,667 Five Pound. 1913-1914 – 693,442
Ten Shillings. 1915-1923 – 53,212,882 Five Pound. 1914-1924 – 10,293,016
Ten Shillings. 1923-1933 – 142,746,596 Five Pound. 1924-1927 – 29,133,000
Ten Shillings. 1933-1933 – 21,000,000 Five Pound. 1927-1933 – 29,133,000
Ten Shillings. 1934-1936 – 47,000,000 Five Pound. 1933-1939 – 18,141,000
Ten Shillings. 1936-1939 – 95,000,000 Five Pound. 1939-1954 – 132,234,000
Ten Shillings. 1939-1954 – 453,334,000 Five Pound. 1954-1966 – 301,245,000
Ten Shillings. 1954-1966 – 559,000,000 Ten Pound. 1913-1925 – 2,150,000
One Pound. 1913-1918 – 31,968,000 Ten Pound. 1925-1934 – 3,110,000
One Pound. 1914-1915 – 1,300,000 Ten Pound. 1934-1940 – 3,081,000
One Pound. 1914-1915 – 4,000,000 Ten Pound. 1940-1954 – 22,000,000
One Pound. 1918-1923 – 57,031,568 Ten Pound. 1954-1966 – 63,000,000
One Pound. 1923-1926 – 63,000,000 Twenty Pound. 1914-1938 – 421,500
One Pound. 1926-1933 – 238,234,000 Fifty Pound. 1914-1945 – 608,000
One Pound. 1933-1938 – 262,000,000 One Hundred Pound 1914-1945 – 553,000
One Pound. 1938-1953 – 649,000,000 Thousand Pound. 1914-1915 – 88,585