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Some Early Banknotes of South Africa

Western Cape Numismatic Society - November 2021

by Adrian Jordi

Cape of Good Hope

When the British occupied the Cape in 1806, the exchange value of the rixdollar was 3/4d. Owing to a variety of circumstances, but mainly to the over-issue of paper money, it fell to 1/6d. by 1824. It was then decided to reduce the paper in circulation and to introduce British currency. But before this could be done it was necessary to call in all the old “cartoon” notes and to replace them with a reduced number of new different notes on thin paper but retaining the rixdollar currency. This new issue had a circular red stamp in the middle of each note. By 1830 it was found that there were many forgeries of these paper red-stamped notes in rixdollars. Another type was therefore introduced, paper notes with “oblong stamps.” One of these thin-paper notes is to be found in the four major collections. The South African Public Library has one of the “oblong” stamped notes, a 40- rixdollar note, dated 12th September 1831. In July 1831, the Treasury authorised the issue of sterling notes in denominations of £1, £5, £20, £50 and £100. By 1852 most of these notes had been withdrawn and cancelled. None is to be found in any collection in South Africa.

2nd British Occupation 1806- 800 Rix Dollars Dated 4th November 1830

3 Uncut and unnumbered issues

In 1832 all Rix Dollars were withdrawn and this was completed in 1841

The First Joint Stock Bank - The Cape of Goodhope Bank

The unissued notes of The Cape of Goodhope Bank bear the date “182_ “ - Note A

Note A

Note B

In 1825, Mr J. B. Ebden, the founder of the Bank, in his memorial seeking permission to establish a bank, submitted specimens of the notes to be issued. He was refused permission to establish his Bank, but he appears to have issued some of his notes in 1826. (see note marked B).

Professor Arndt in his Banking and Currency Development in South Africa says: “In April the District Secretary of Uitenhage forwarded a promissory note of Mr. J. B. Ebden, of Cape Town, for 7/6d. which had been tendered a few days previously in part payment of public money. By Somerset’s proclamation of August 22, 1822, no notes for less than Rds.50 or £3.15.0 were to be issued.” No more is known of these notes, except that unissued examples are in this collection and in the Africana and Transvaal Museums. These are all 5/- notes, no other denomination having been preserved. It is an interesting note with a vignette of shipping in Table Bay and a border of elaborate engraved design. The Cape of Good Hope Bank flourished for many years, establishing branches in many centres, but failed in 1890, mainly owing to having made heavy advances on gold scrip. The collection includes several items relating to this Bank: a £5 note, Cape Town, 1886, and a £5 note dated 8th February, 1890, printed for the Cradock Branch but overprinted “Johannesburg” and stamped “Klerksdorp issue.” There is also a note dated March 1881 issued in Queenstown. (Note E )

These notes, printed by Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co., have a beautiful vignette of a soulful Hope standing, with an anchor and flowering plants at her side, and in the background a ship at sea.

Note C

Note D

Note E

In 1825, Mr. Arthur Hogue proposed to establish a Bank of South Africa and brought to the Cape a quantity of blank notes engraved from a steel plate under Sir William Congrieve’s patent which rendered forgery almost impossible. Mr. Hogue failed to obtain permission to establish a bank for many years and the notes were never issued. When, after much negotiation, the bank was opened on 1st October, 1838, it was named the South African Bank. This collection has three of these unissued notes, one for 2 skillings and two for 4 skillings. The Africana Museum also has notes for 1 rixdollar and 3 rixdollars. (Note F and G)

Note F

Note G

The second private bank to be established in the Cape was the South African Bank, founded in 1838 and liquidated in 1886. There are no notes of this Bank in the Africana or Transvaal Museums or in the Reserve Bank’s collection. This collection has a £5, a £10 and a £20 note. These notes were engraved by William Brown and Co., of London, and all three are of the same size, colour (black ink on white paper), design and wording, except for the denomination. The vignette is the four quarters of a shield: Britannia, a lion rampant, the Cape arms and a beehive. The three notes are dated 7th February, 1881; the £5 is signed by A. D. -Krynauw and J. F. Wicht; the £10 by D. P. Krynauw and J. F. Wicht; and the £20 by Adrian van der Byl and L. P. Cauvin.

Note H

Note I

Note J

This collection includes the notes of more of the local Cape banks than any other collection. There were 33 of these small banks; this collection has notes of 16 of them, the Africana Museum 13 and the Transvaal Museum 11, but the three collections between them cover the notes of 23 of these banks. This collection has the notes of six banks not represented in the other two collections. Of these, the notes of the South African Bank are described above; the others are:

The Worcester Commercial Bank, established in 1850 and taken over by the African Banking Corporation in 1892. The £5 note in the collection is on white paper with black ink, engraved by William Brown & Co., of London. It has, as a vignette, a well-executed engraving of the Bank’s substantial building. It is dated 8th March, 1890, and is signed by three directors: W. Nel, G. de Vos and F. Lindenberg. (Note K)

Note K

The Paarl Bank was established in 1852 and failed in 1890. It was then discovered that the directors were no longer shareholders in the Bank and that its affairs had been “shockingly mismanaged, criminally it might be said if crime were ever recognised here in such abuses of trust” (Cape Times). The £5 note preserved in this collection is on white paper with black ink and engraved by Nissen, Parker and Arnold, of London. It is of elaborate design, the inscription being surrounded by symbolic pictures:

Note L

Britannia is seated with Hope at her feet; to the left, women reaping wheat and picking grapes, and to the right a man with an ox, another with a horse, all very lively. The note is dated 2nd March, 1874, and is signed by three Directors: A. M. de Villiers, P. W. de Villiers and C. W. Malan. Other items relating to the Paarl Bank are its constitution, printed in Dutch by the Cape Town printers Van de Sandt de Villiers and Tier, in 1852, a booklet of 24 pages; a promissory note in Dutch, dated 13th November, 1862, promising to pay to the Cashier of the Bank the sum of £153.16.0 within four months; a cheque (English) dated 25th February, 1886, printed by Saul Solomon; and a cheque form (English) printed by the Argus Company. (Note L)

The George Divisional Bank was established in 1860 and failed in 1869. The £5 note in the collection is printed in black on white paper, the engraver being Crew, of Cape Town. As decoration the note has engravings of three coins: left, a George III coin with the inscription “Geor. Ill D.G. Britt. Rex F.D. 1811”; upper centre, the reverse of a coin with the royal arms on a shield within a wreath, with no inscription; and right, a Queen Victoria coin with the inscription “Victoria Dei Gratia 1861.” The note is dated 21st January', 1862, is signed by F. A. Swemmer, M. O’Connell and S. Goldsbury, and is payable at “George Town.”

Note M

The Colesberg Bank was short lived; it was established in 1861 and taken over by the Standard Bank in June, 1863. The note in this collection is a £4 note engraved by William Brown, of London. It is a white note with black ink, the vignette being agricultural—horses, cattle, sheep, crops, farm implements, etc. It is dated 10th April, 1862, and signed by two directors, H. Green and R. Thomson. £4 notes were issued by several banks. Denominations of lower than £3.15.0 (the old 50 rixdollars) were not legal in the Cape until 1891. An item of interest in the collection is the MS. minute of the public meeting held on 28th December, 1860, for the purpose of establishing the Colesberg Bank

Note N

The Malmesbury Agricultural and Commercial Bank was established in 1862 and taken over by the Standard Bank in 1878. The £5 note is rather a crude piece of engraving by Saul Solomon, of Cape Town. It is of black ink on white paper and has a vignette symbolising agriculture and commerce, the latter being symbolised by a railway engine. The note also bears the arms of the Earl of Malmesbury and his motto “Ubique patriam reminisci” imposed on an anchor. The note is dated 4th June, 1875, and is signed by J, J. Albertyn and J. Muller and has one indecipherable signature

Note O

This collection has a better range of the notes of the Somerset East Bank than is to be found in any other collection. There are three £5 notes, one dated 11th February, 1861,(Note P) engraved by J. A. Crew, Cape Town, and two engraved by Nissen & Parker, of London, one of these dated 29th November, 1867,(Note Q) and the other unissued but bearing the peculiar date 29th February, 1891. (Note R) There is a £10 note, engraved by Crew and dated 8th July, 1862, (Note S) and an unissued £4, with no engraver’s name but having the appearance of an overseas printing. (Note T)

Note P

Note Q

Note R

Note S

After 1891, the banknotes of all private banks in the Cape Colony were withdrawn and replaced by uniform notes issued to the banks by the Government, a space being left for the name of the bank. These were issued in denominations of £1, £5, £10 and £20 and from 1916 a 10/- was added. The banks operating in the Cape in 1892 were the African Banking Corporation, the Bank of Africa, the National Bank, the Standard Bank and the Stellenbosch District Bank.

In the 1850’s there were a few trading firms in the remoter districts which issued their own £5 notes. These firms were not banks, they published no accounts or statements of circulation, but their notes were accepted as though they were legal tender. The most common of these notes are those of Barry and Nephews, of Swellendam. There are three of these, unissued, in this collection. It is a pleasant note, engraved by Royston & Brown, of London, and is similar in design to the notes of the regular banks, with its vignette symbolic of trade in the rural areas. (Note T)

Note T

The collection also includes an example of the £5 notes issued by Mosenthal Brothers between 1854 and 1860. It is dated 2nd January, 1857. (Note U)

Note U

Notes were issued by King and Company, Namaqualand, and the Namaqua Mining Company. There is one of the latter in the collection, a poor engraving by Rowe, Kentish and Co., of London. The vignette of the copper being mined in the mountain is very crude. (Note V)

Note V


Brian Hern, South African Banknotes & Papermoney, 2016

E.M. Shaw, A History of Currency in South Africa, 1956

W. Bergman, A History of the Regular and Emergency Paper Money Issues of South Africa, 1971

Brian Hern, TRENDS, Standard Catalogue of the Banknotes of South Africa, 1986

R. F. Kennedy, Old South African Bank Notes and Documents, A Description of the Collection of the Institute of Bankers in South Africa, Circa 1953

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