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Most of us are familiar with the 1934 Maori series from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. Ranging from Ten Shillings to Fifty Pounds in denomination, this Depression Era issue is both deservedly popular and scarce. Worth acquiring by any collector in almost all the available grades, it's an iconic issue. The striking design features a lovely Kiwi and King Tawhiao of the Maori on the face, with a scenic view of Milford Sound and Mitre Peak on the reverse. The notes are well known for their beauty, and coveted by collectors of all means. The two photos below show the face and reverse of the lovely Five Pound note, issued in a deep blue, it's perhaps the most striking of the series, both in design, engraving, and chosen color of issue.
But, long before there was a Reserve Bank of New Zealand, there was the private Bank of New Zealand. The world-wide depression required fiscal 'liberality' by the government, and so the private bank became the federal Reserve Bank of the nation, and issued currency according to the needs of the nation, not the bank's owners and stockholders, who were a bit more conservative in times of fiscal tribulation than Keynesian economics called for. Today, we would call this policy 'monetary easing', the euphemism for turning on the presses at the Treasury to ensure that 'happy days are here again', as the popular song of the Depression called for. So, let's take a look at the Bank of New Zealand and it's issue of 1924, issued in denominations of Ten Shillings to One Hundred Pounds.
As you can see, both the Reserve Bank and the Bank of New Zealand were clearly frontrunners in the concept and design of banknotes in New Zealand. Both the 1924 and 1934 designs are works of beauty and art. The familiar Kiwi of 1934, is gone from the 1924 series. The wonderful engraved portrait of King Tawhiao, however, is used to good purpose, providing a striking image on all denominations of this not-so-well known series. The reverse of the notes feature the usual filigree and geometry of the period, as well as two little vignettes of New Zealand. The left shows two Maoris in a volcanic landscape, and the right shows two little lost Kiwis foraging for food, a Maori war canoe on the water, and a volcanic background.
Like the American Bank Note Company did throughout Latin America, some designs just deserve to be repeated, don't they? Bradbury, Wilkinson, and Company was the designer and producer of notes for the Bank of New Zealand for nearly 75 years, and used their experience and expertise to good advantage.
Now let's go back just a few more years, to the 1917-1924 Series. Our two Maoris are making their appearance, but still not the first. Our two Kiwis are also scratching around for food, but it's not the first time for them, either. King Tawhiao is absent, and will not appear until the next series in early 1925.
Go back just a few more years, to the early 20th Century, and our hungry Kiwis and Maori idlers are still kicking around. Here are a couple of examples from the Bank of New Zealand and their Sixth Series of 1903. The Fifty Pound note is a lovely example, while the One Pound note is indicative of the condition in which these are generally found.
But, our Maoris and the Kiwis are long-lived, their hunger notwithstanding, for here they again, in their first appearance, on the face of the Third Issue of the Bank of New Zealand. This issue was the longest-running series, from 1870 to 1890.
And so, the Bank, the Kiwi, and the Maori came to be, in mid-Victorian days. These were the first designs of the Colony to depict not only local scenes and wildlife, but to acknowledge the Maori heritage of the islands. They were also the first evidence of the new Identity of the New Zealander, the English colonist, who, only 30 years after the Treaty of Waitangi, were beginning to see themselves not as Englishmen, but as New Zealanders. Kiwis to a man, if you will, and not unlike the American colonists of the 18th Century, destined to make their own way in the world.
Most collectors have a few Hong Kong notes in their collections, and at least one of them features the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank building on the reverse of the note. The bank even began featuring the famous bronze lions on the front of their notes beginning in 1993. Let's take a look at the three historical buildings that comprised the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation in Hong Kong. The HKSBC was formed in 1865, shortly after the Colony was established in 1841. It rapidly outgrew the warren of cubicles that comprised it's initial space, a leased warehouse. A new building was commissioned and completed in 1886. This huge edifice was a clearly Victorian Era monument, and it's workers sweltered in high collars and eyeshades under punkahs and electric fans, as they performed banking duties and administered branches in 7 countries and colonies of Asia and the numerous Treaty Ports of China. This $10 note from 1941 shows the old bank building, this is the less-imposing North face fronting on the main street along the harbor.
This photo shows the original building, the South face fronts along the harbor, and the North face along the harbor drive.
By the mid-1930's, however, stability in China and throughout Asia and made the HKSBC the largest banking firm in Asia. In 1934, the old Victorian building was torn down, and a new building erected, opening in October 1935. The photo below shows the new building in 1936, as it fronted on the open square built on reclaimed harbor land. When it was built, it was the first air-conditioned, or climate-controlled, building in the Far East.
The staid HKSBC directors, however, did not get around to changing the banks' currency designs until 1959. Talk about conservative Scots bankers ! The familiar design was last issued on April 2nd, 1959, and was the last note to feature the old bank. On May 2nd, 1959, a new, smaller, note was issued, with a slightly redesigned face but a new view of the new (1935 new!) building on the reverse. As you can see from the new note, the buildings on the Peak behind the bank were somewhat hastily engraved, but this is the first time the famous bronze lions, named Stephen and Stitt after two bank Directors, have been featured on the currency of the Colony. You can just make them out across Statue Square to both sides of the North entrance. In 1992 one of the lions, either Stephen or Stitt, were placed on the front of the currency, and they take turns today as the face of the HKSBC banknote. Together, they sit facing each other on the back of the note.
And so the HKSBC soldiered on, through WWII, when the building was used by the Japanese Army to govern the captured Colony, through 1949 when China fell to the Communists, and the next 30 years as Hong Kong built and cemented its' status as the financial powerhouse of the Far East.
By the 1970's, even this building had been outgrown, and a new design was commissioned. This time, however, the HKSBC directors were planning for 1998, and foresaw the end of British rule in Hong Kong. The building was warranted to be designed so that it could literally be dismantled and moved, presumably to Singapore, in the event of a hostile Chinese government takeover of the Colony. As it were, by 1998 the Chinese were no longer the enemies of the capitalist running dogs of Far East banking, and this has not yet been necessary, although the end of the 50 years of Autonomy for Hong Kong are fast approaching. It may still be necessary to move the building yet! The new building, completed in 1985, is composed of parts built in Scotland and other parts of Europe, brought to Hong Kong, and assembled on site. It features amazing internal architecture, which is the subject of a daily guided tour, and lovely quasi-public spaces and offices. Every square foot of the building was designed for, and approved by, Feng Shui experts so that the demons and spirits of the Far East, numerous as they are, will not enter the building or haunt the public square. Stephen and Stitt, for example, were deliberately sited for maximum Feng Shui effect. The lions, Stephen and Stitt, were re-installed at the North entrance, where they form a delightful tourist attraction in their own right. In 1992, the lions were placed together on the back of the note, along with a picture of the new building. Once again, the directors of the bank were late in commemorating such august changes by re-designing the banknotes, this time it was only 7 years, and not 24 years.
Today, the HKSBC building is a noted landmark on the Hong Kong waterfront. It never was, nor intended to be, the largest building fronting the harbor, but it certainly has been the home of the most important financial business ever to open in the Colony, let alone the entire Far East. The photo below shows the building at night.
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Top 25 banknote issuing countries by number of paper money views.
01. France p160a
02. Vietnam p67
03. South Korea p8a
04. France p116a
05. Germany p169
06. Brazil p232a
07. Turkey p156a
08. French Indo-China p18
09. Argentina p323b
10. Japan p104c
11. Brazil p176d
12. Malaysia p49
13. Hong Kong p335d
14. Greece pM17a
15. Spain p119a
16. Oceania p2a
17. United Arab Emirates p4a
18. German Federal Republic p8s3
19. Bahamas p13d
20. Bermuda p50b
21. Swaziland p39a
22. Brazil p191Ab
23. East Caribbean States p16n