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Rare Indian banknotes from 1918 shipwreck to be auctioned in London


Mangalore Today News Network/NDTV

London, May 25, 2024: A pair of rare 10-rupee banknotes that were recovered as they floated away from a shipwreck on their way from Bombay to London in 1918 are to be auctioned next Wednesday.

 

London


Noonans Mayfair auction house in London will offer the notes as part of their World Banknotes sale and are estimated to fetch between GBP 2,000 and 2,600. The two 10-rupee banknotes were recovered from the wreck of the SS Shirala, which was sunk by a German U-boat on July 2, 1918, and bear the date of 25 May 1918 on them.

"Whole blocks of these notes, along with lots of provisions ranging from marmalade to ammunition, were on their way to Bombay from London when the boat was sunk by a German U-Boat," said Thomasina Smith, Worldwide Head of Numismatics at Noonans.

"Many notes floated to shore, including unsigned 5 and 10 Rupees, and signed 1 Rupees – one of which also features in this auction. Most were recovered and subsequently destroyed by the authorities and new ones were printed to replace them, however a very few examples remained in private hands," she said.

The expert says she has never seen notes like these before and that they only came to light after the Bank of England mentioned the 1918 shipwreck on social media.

"These are in very good condition – they must have been in the middle of a tightly bound bundle, so didn’t make contact with the sea. It’s also wonderful that they bear consecutive serial numbers," she said.

Another highlight of the World Banknotes auction next week is a rare Government of India, under British colonial administration at the time, 100-rupee note which is estimated to fetch between GBP 4,400 and 5,000. It is signed and stamped from Calcutta and dated between 1917 and 1930. The reverse has 100 rupees spelt out in different Indian languages, including Hindi and Bengali.

A "Reserve Bank of India, Persian Gulf Issue," 5-rupee note featuring the iconic Ashoka emblem and dated 1957-62 is also set to go under the hammer next week for an estimated GBP 2,200-2,800.


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