A historic Hong Kong banknote that was certified by Paper Money Guaranty (PMG) raced past its pre-auction estimate to realize an astounding £161,200, or about $220,000 USD. The earliest known fully issued banknote of Hong Kong was the centerpiece of a sale presented by Dix Noonan Webb on August 26, 2021.
Graded PMG 12 Fine, the Hong Kong, Oriental Bank Corp. June 1, 1860 5 Dollars helps illuminate the numismatic history of the Chinese city that today is home to over seven million people. Until 1858, the Oriental Bank Corporation was the only bank to issue notes in rapidly growing Hong Kong, which was then a British colony with a tiny fraction of its current population.
The note’s condition made it difficult to determine the date written by hand on the front. Before the sale, Dix Noonan Webb submitted the note to PMG, whose team used their expertise and special equipment to confirm that the note was genuine with a handwritten date of June 1, 1860. This makes it the earliest known fully issued banknote to have survived from Hong Kong’s formative years.
“PMG was excited to certify another important discovery in the paper money world,” said Chad Hawk, PMG Grading Finalizer. “Over half the notes that PMG has graded are from China, and the flourishing community that collects these banknotes trusts our expertise.”
The note inspired spirited bidding that catapulted it well beyond its pre-auction estimate of £30,000 to £50,000 (about $42,000 to $70,000 USD) and made it one of the most expensive Chinese banknotes ever sold. The winning bid came from a collector in Hong Kong, according to Dix Noonan Webb.
“Dix Noonan Webb was honored to offer this banknote, which rewrites the history of Hong Kong numismatics,” said Andrew Pattison, head of the banknote department at the respected London-based auction house. “I am sure that its new owner appreciates the value offered by PMG certification.”
The Oriental Bank Corporation was a global banking power based in London that had a large office in Edinburgh, Scotland. Pattison said that the note, which represented a considerable amount of money, was likely brought from Hong Kong by someone returning to the United Kingdom before it was subsequently forgotten. The bank itself went out of business in the late 1800s.