The Colt from Old Regret had got away, and ‘was worth a thousand pound’ a sum that ‘drew all the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far’ according to Banjo Paterson when he published his poem in the Bulletin magazine in 1890.
A fantastic sum of money at the time! An amount that would have required payment to have been in gold, or at least in the £100 pound notes from the Colonial banks of the time.
The poem about the Man from Snowy River is timeless. However the Australian £1000 note was not introduced until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, which had resulted in the hoarding of gold. The Australian Government saw the need for some other way of settling balances between the banks, apart from the physical transfer of the precious yellow metal.
The gold sovereign and half sovereign were still the normal medium of currency for the public. This was despite the government having commenced issuing its own banknotes in 1910, and in 1913 was printing notes that still made the promise that the note could be redeemed for gold from the Treasury.
War broke out in August 1914 and a month later the first £1000 notes were printed and some six thousand of them were delivered to the Treasury. Five months later another ten thousand were received. It was at this time that the authorities realised that the poor quality of the printing of the notes meant that they might be relatively easy to counterfeit. The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, who asked that no £1000 pound notes be allowed to get into the hands of the Australian public, issued a directive in June 1915.
“It was not considered desirable that notes of such a high value be freely circulated among the public and that they were only intended for use in internal bank purposes and settlement of exchange.”
Printed by the Commonwealth Stamp Printer at the Government Printing Office in Melbourne Victoria, the front of the note had intaglio and lithographic printing with a letterpress background, and intaglio and letterpress on the back.
The main feature of the back of the note is a picture of a large flock of sheep. It is the same scene as used on the £50 pound note but black in colour. Initially James Richard Collins and George Thomas Allen signed the notes. Later notes printed in 1925 were signed by James Kell and again by James Richard Collins.
The 88,585 notes printed had serial numbers 2A 000001 to 2A 088585.
In 1922 due to the possibility of counterfeiting, a new design for the £1000 note was considered and in 1923 the Notes Board approved a specimen design. By 1925 the engraving of the plates had been completed by Perkins Bacon and Co Ltd. How ever in 1928 it was decided that production would not proceed due to the quickly decreasing use of the notes in the central reserve banking system.
In 1993 an un-issued specimen of this 1923 type was discovered and a year later sold for AUD250, 000, at that time a world record for an Australian Banknote. Since then, two other examples of this un-issued specimen note have been discovered.
The 1914-1925 design notes continued to be used for settlements between banks and within the departments of the Reserve Bank of Australia after its establishment in 1961. In 1969 changed accounting procedures meant that the notes were no longer required and the remaining 29,000 notes were destroyed.
Surviving examples of this note have been limited to a few cancelled specimens held in Bank, Museum and Gallery collections. This was until one of these notes, a cancelled specimen serial number 2A 058383 was auctioned by Noble Numismatics in their Melbourne July 1998 sale and sold for $94,000 including buyers commission. The note is perforated with the word “Cancelled” twice and also four larger cancellation holes. It is graded as “good Very Fine with thinning from gum attached at an earlier time”.
As only one note has come onto the market the catalogue values given are largely hypothetical.
Of course rumours abound and the numismatic market awaits the possible release of some of the approximately three hundred £1000 notes recorded as held by the Government Archives.
by Richard E Fahy – © 2003