Auction preview: ‘Superb group’ of British Commonwealth from Bruce Smart Banknote Collection

Spink recently introduced one of the many banknote collections of noted notaphilist Bruce Smart.

On April 25, the London-based auction house will offer the first half of his “superb group” of banknotes of the British Commonwealth.

Judging by the quality of the material, Smart was apparently a discerning collector. According to auctioneers, the material is of “far higher quality than the majority found on the market today, to the extent that when cataloguing the collection it was often incredibly difficult to find records of notes with comparable dates or grades. This level of commitment to finding only the best material requires a huge amount of patience. It took Bruce many years to acquire these notes, but I think we can all agree that the result was worth the wait.”


Smart said he “strived” to collect highly graded, original-issue notes whenever possible.

“Where there are date varieties, I often sought the first dates of issue but quickly realized that this could be a fool’s errand, especially without compromising on condition,” he added.

Smart had a preference for notes issued before 1970. Commonwealth notes of this period were almost all printed by the three British greats—Bradbury Wilkinson, Thomas De La Rue, and Waterlow & Sons.

“My interest in Commonwealth notes traces to my study of African history and exploration, and the key roles played by the British explorers and colonialists,” said Smart. “My collection of British Africa soon expanded to the rest of the Empire with strong representation by the Caribbean countries and British Honduras, and Fiji in the Southern Pacific.”

The main features of Commonwealth notes are generally portraits of the monarchs—George V, George VI or Elizabeth II. Most series feature very little aside from this portrait and the note’s denomination alongside a coat of arms.


According to auctioneers, Smart’s favourite item is Lot 602, a 1942 British Guiana $10 note. This series is unusual because the king’s effigy is on the reverse and in the centre, leaving the obverse free for other design elements. The $10 note was printed using the most expensive of all ink colours—deep blue-black—and the contrast between this and the colourful background captures the viewer’s attention. The majority of surviving examples feature either embossed cancellations or severe folds across the king’s face; however, the example offered by Spink does not have these faults, making it one of the finest examples to exist.

Lot 602 is encased in a Paper Money Guaranty (PMG) holder showing a grade of Very Fine-30 as well as PMG’s EPQ (exceptional paper quality) designation. It has a pre-sale estimate of £10,000-£15,000 (about $16,500-$24,750 Cdn.).


This sale also has an element of charitable goodwill.

“My proceeds from this auction will be donated to the Delaware Humane Association, a non-profit, no-kill animal care and adoption centre that was founded in 1957 and is dedicated to finding good homes for dogs and cats,” said Smart. “This charity has been supported by the Smart family since moving to Delaware in 1970 to start my career with the DuPont Co.”

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