Guide to the Collections containing paper currency-related items in the National Library of Australia

MST 2

National Library of Australia

Table of Contents

  1. Collection Summary
  2. Introduction
    1. Purpose
    2. Overview
    3. Historical Context
    4. Glossary
    5. Viewing our holdings
    6. Contacting us
  3. Item Descriptions
    1. Collection 1. MS 51 - Papers of Sir Edmund Barton, 1827-1940
    2. Collection 2. MS 111 - Promissory notes collection, 1819
    3. Collection 3. MS 119 - Copper printing plates and printer’s proofs for 16 promissory notes issued by Lachlan and Waterloo Mills Co. afterwards the Waterloo Warehouse, 1822-1833
    4. Collection 4. MS 220 - Aviation records, 1928-1953
    5. Collection 5. MS 270 - Australian Currency Collection, 1849-1900
    6. Collection 6. MS 526 - South African Government one pound note and letter from Prime Minister Andrew Fisher to the Hon. Charles McDonald, 6 September 1911
    7. Collection 7. MS 1139 - 19th century currency items, ca 1850-1895
    8. Collection 8. MS 1537 - Papers of Percy J. Marks, ca. 1793-1941
    9. Collection 9. MS 1602 - Bank of Australia lottery notes, 19 October 1848
    10. Collection 10. MS 1713 - Early Tasmanian promissory notes, 1823-1824
    11. Collection 11. MS 1744 - Treasury second bill of exchange payable at thirty days to Deputy Assistant Commissary General Woolrabe, signed by A. Moodie at Hobart Town, 23 December 1835
    12. Collection 12. MS 3200 - Papers of Sir John Alexander Ferguson, 1900-1969
    13. Collection 13. MS 3205 - Letters, documents and newspaper clippings relating to William Lane and the New Australia colony, 1800s-1900s
    14. Collection 14. MS 3337 - Sir John Ferguson collection of papers of John Fawkner, 1810-1869
    15. Collection 15. MS 3432 - Correspondence, 1831-1868
    16. Collection 16. MS 3603 - Papers of Thomas Barker, 1839-1881
    17. Collection 17. MS 3611 - Collection of promissory notes from remote areas of Australia, 1863-1925
    18. Collection 18. MS 3622 - Album of paper currency items, ca 1810-1930
    19. Collection 19. MS 3926 - Papers of William McMahon, 1949-1987
    20. Collection 20. MS 4262 - Blank cheque form headed "To the manager of the New Zealand Banking Compy., Kororarika", 184[-]
    21. Collection 21. MS 4820 - Specimen Australian banknotes issued by the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Australia, 1914-1996
    22. Collection 22. MS 4821 - Specimen banknotes issued by the Central Bank of Ceylon, 1951-1968
    23. Collection 23. MS 5013 - Bank notes, 1914-1918
    24. Collection 24. MS 6060 - Cheque for 15 pounds sterling, 28 December 1868
    25. Collection 25. MS 7746 - Prospectus, notices, town-lots, land purchases and other documents, 1794-1961
    26. Collection 26. MS 8808 - Papers relating to the New Australia Colony, Paraguay, 1898-1926
    27. Collection 27. MS 9865 - Papers of Samuel Deane Gordon, 1857-1882
    28. Collection 28. MS 10145 - Early Commonwealth currency, 1910-1913
  4. Online Items
  5. Related Documentation

Collection Summary

Title
Collections containing paper currency-related items in the National Library of Australia
Date Range
18th - 20th century
Collection Number
MST 2
Extent
28 collections
Language of Materials
English
Repository
National Library of Australia
Sponsor
The digitisation of the Library’s Currency Collection was made possible by the generous financial support of donors to the Banknotes and Currency Preservation Appeal (2015). The Library gratefully acknowledges this support.

Introduction

Purpose

The purpose of this guide is to provide researchers with an overview of and links to the National Library of Australia’s holdings of currency related items.

Overview

The National Library of Australia holds a significant group of collections of currency-related items acquired from different sources over many years. As a whole, these collections offer notophilists and other researchers a valuable window into the commercial and banking life of Australia from early colonial times to the late 20century decimal era.

A variety of formats are represented, including colonial and early Commonwealth currency, unofficial currency, private banknotes, promissory and merchants’ notes and foreign currency. The earliest is a French Revolutionary assignat issued in 1793 and the most significant items held are the first two Commonwealth pound banknotes ever issued, in 1910 and 1913.

Three main sources comprise the bulk of the Library’s acquisitions: official currency acquired from the official note issuing authority i.e. the Reserve Bank of Australia (and its predecessors) and two early Sydney collectors, Percy J Marks and John A Ferguson, who donated a large proportion of the remainder.

Historical Context

Early colonists in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land were faced with a chronic scarcity of both coinage and paper money, exacerbated by geographic isolation and no provision having been made for a currency medium. Officially, the currency in New South Wales was sterling in the form of banknotes issued by the Bank of England. But gradually the chronic shortage of official currency was supplemented by locally produced Commissariat and Police Fund notes and treasury bills.

Alongside these, an unregulated system of promissory notes evolved, issued by anyone with the financial means to cover the note, or a reputation, and occasionally neither. This system facilitated trade until local private banks were well-established and began issuing their own banknotes.

These ephemeral documents illustrate a rich social history, especially in the large number of early promissory and merchants’ notes. One example is MS 1713, Early Tasmanian money, comprising nine promissory notes from various Hobart merchants, some in Spanish dollars, dating from 1823-1824 illustrating how commerce was conducted in an emerging economy with no official local currency and a shortage of coin.

Glossary

For the purposes of this finding aid the following definitions were used:

Currency: any paper item accepted as payment for goods and services and payment of debts

Specimen: an original note as used in the market, distributed to banks to be used only for identification of an authentic note

Promissory note: a private bill worded as 'I promise to pay', not necessarily payable on demand and with no definitive denomination, drawn on the issuer, his agent or his bank

Currency note: a special type of promissory note issued by a person or a firm (not a bank) with a fixed value printed on the note

Bill of exchange: a form of draft drawn in 'sets' (original, duplicate or second, and third). Each drawn for same amount but only one of the set is paid

'IOU': an informal document acknowledging debt. Different from a promissory note in that it doesn’t specify repayment terms so is not suitable for circulation

Shinplaster: a promissory note from an individual or business, promising to pay a stated amount on demand

Calabash: a promissory note printed and issued by a person or company payable on demand through a bank

Viewing our holdings

Most of these items are available for viewing in our Special Collections Reading Room. In order to request items you will need to be registered as a reader, which can be done online. Items need to be requested online via the Library's catalogue prior to your visit.

If you are unable to visit the Library in person, you can access information about our holdings via the Library's catalogue. Following is a list of all of the Library’s currency holdings. Each entry is linked to the individual catalogue record which provides a description of the holding and a link to finding aids and digitised images, where available.

Contacting us

Have you uncovered new information relating to any of our collections? If so, we would like to hear from you.

You can contact us via our Ask a Librarian service.

Item Descriptions

Collection 1. MS 51 - Papers of Sir Edmund Barton, 1827-1940 Show allonly 1

Description

This collection includes twenty-seven promissory notes issued in New South Wales between 1833-1871

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record and from there to the finding aid for the collection.

Collection 2. MS 111 - Promissory notes collection, 1819 Show allonly 1

Description

Two Tasmanian promissory notes from August 1819

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record for the collection.

Collection 3. MS 119 - Copper printing plates and printer’s proofs for 16 promissory notes issued by Lachlan and Waterloo Mills Co. afterwards the Waterloo Warehouse, 1822-1833 Show allonly 1

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record and from there to the finding aid for the collection.

Collection 4. MS 220 - Aviation records, 1928-1953 Show allonly 1

Description

Pound note signed by Kingsford Smith and Air Vice-Marshall, Sir Sefton Brancher. It was offered as payment for the Southern Cross plane.

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record for the collection.

Collection 5. MS 270 - Australian Currency Collection, 1849-1900 Show allonly 1

Description

City Bank of Sydney specimen notes dating from 1893 – 1900, two cheques of Derwent Bank, Tasmania 1828-1830, one German mark note (undated), Bank of Australia lottery ticket issued Jan 1849.

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record and from there to the finding aid for the collection.

Collection 6. MS 526 - South African Government one pound note and letter from Prime Minister Andrew Fisher to the Hon. Charles McDonald, 6 September 1911 Show allonly 1

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record for the collection.

Collection 7. MS 1139 - 19th century currency items, ca 1850-1895 Show allonly 1

Description

19th century currency items including Sydney merchants' promissory notes, Fijian treasury notes and money issued in the ‘New Australia’ colony, Paraguay, 1895.

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record and from there to the finding aid for the collection.

Collection 8. MS 1537 - Papers of Percy J. Marks, ca. 1793-1941 Show allonly 1

Description

This collection includes an album of currency-related items, 1793-1936, comprising Sydney and Tasmanian promissory notes, Fijian Treasury banknotes, colonial banknotes and French revolutionary currency.

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record and from there to the finding aid for the collection.

Collection 9. MS 1602 - Bank of Australia lottery notes, 19 October 1848 Show allonly 1

Description

Two Bank of Australia lottery notes dated 19 October 1848, drawn on 1 January 1849

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record for the collection.

Collection 10. MS 1713 - Early Tasmanian promissory notes, 1823-1824 Show allonly 1

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record and from there to the finding aid for the collection.

Collection 11. MS 1744 - Treasury second bill of exchange payable at thirty days to Deputy Assistant Commissary General Woolrabe, signed by A. Moodie at Hobart Town, 23 December 1835 Show allonly 1

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record for the collection.

Collection 12. MS 3200 - Papers of Sir John Alexander Ferguson, 1900-1969 Show allonly 1

Description

This collection includes early New South Wales promissory notes, 1812-1814

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record and from there to the finding aid for the collection.

Collection 13. MS 3205 - Letters, documents and newspaper clippings relating to William Lane and the New Australia colony, 1800s-1900s Show allonly 1

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record and from there to the finding aid for the whole collection.

Collection 14. MS 3337 - Sir John Ferguson collection of papers of John Fawkner, 1810-1869 Show allonly 1

Description

One bill of exchange issued in 1860 to John Fawkner.

Please note: items in this collection have not yet been digitised.

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record for the collection.

Collection 15. MS 3432 - Correspondence, 1831-1868 Show allonly 1

Description

Financial correspondence from Hunter Valley firm Potts, Baxter, Brown and Allerton

Please note: this collection is partially digitised and has not yet been individually described

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record for the collection.

Collection 16. MS 3603 - Papers of Thomas Barker, 1839-1881 Show allonly 1

Please note

This collection is not digitised and has not yet been individually described.

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record for the collection.

Collection 17. MS 3611 - Collection of promissory notes from remote areas of Australia, 1863-1925 Show allonly 1

Description

56 promissory notes and IOUs from remote parts of Australia, mostly from storekeepers, hotel keepers and commission agents in country areas. Mostly from 1922.

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record and from there to the finding aid for the collection.

Collection 18. MS 3622 - Album of paper currency items, ca 1810-1930 Show allonly 1

Description

Paper currency items, mostly 19th century, including Sydney and Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmanian) merchants' promissory notes, currency from Levuka and Noumea and Bank of Australasia bills together with correspondence from merchants W S Weigh and A Scott.

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record and from there to the finding aid for the collection.

Collection 19. MS 3926 - Papers of William McMahon, 1949-1987 Show allonly 1

Description

This collection includes letters and presentation decimal banknotes for 1966 and 1967, given to William McMahon in his position as Federal Treasurer.

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record for the collection.

Collection 20. MS 4262 - Blank cheque form headed "To the manager of the New Zealand Banking Compy., Kororarika", 184[-] Show allonly 1

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record for the collection.

Collection 21. MS 4820 - Specimen Australian banknotes issued by the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Australia, 1914-1996 Show allonly 1

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record and from there to the finding aid for the collection.

Collection 22. MS 4821 - Specimen banknotes issued by the Central Bank of Ceylon, 1951-1968 Show allonly 1

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record and from there to the finding aid for the collection.

Collection 23. MS 5013 - Bank notes, 1914-1918 Show allonly 1

Description

A small collection of First World War low denomination banknotes from Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Egypt and an early banknote from the United States of America.

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record and from there to the finding aid for the collection.

Collection 24. MS 6060 - Cheque for 15 pounds sterling, 28 December 1868 Show allonly 1

Description

Cheque signed by Charles Baudinet in favour of Thomas W. Smith; Commercial Bank, Hobart Town

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record for the collection.

Collection 25. MS 7746 - Prospectus, notices, town-lots, land purchases and other documents, 1794-1961 Show allonly 1

Description

Early Australian and New Zealand documents ca. 1840-1897 including promissory notes, bills of exchange and a proof of the first pound note issued by the Union Bank of Australia.

Please note: items in this collection have not yet been digitised.

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record and from there to the finding aid for the collection.

Collection 26. MS 8808 - Papers relating to the New Australia Colony, Paraguay, 1898-1926 Show allonly 1

Description

Currency items from Colonia Cosme, an offshoot of New Australia.

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record for the collection.

Collection 27. MS 9865 - Papers of Samuel Deane Gordon, 1857-1882 Show allonly 1

Description

Contains promissory notes, legal and financial documents, addressed to Gordon and other trustees of The Empire newspaper, 1857-1859. The correspondents include Henry Parkes. Also a loan document to the government of Fiji (1872-1873).

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record and from there to the finding aid for the collection.

Collection 28. MS 10145 - Early Commonwealth currency, 1910-1913 Show allonly 1

Description

Four superscribed banknotes including the first two Australian pound notes.

Link to collection material

Link to the catalogue record for the collection.