Own rare North Devon banknotes

Historic currency from Ilfracombe, Barnstaple, Bideford and South Molton up for auction.

RARE notes from the banks of Ilfracombe, Barnstaple and South Molton will be going under the hammer at a top global auction house this October.

The 18th and 19th century currency is part of the David Kirch collection of English provincial banknotes, being sold by auctioneers Spink at its London premises at 10am on Tuesday, October 9.

Most people were probably unaware there was ever a Barnstaple Bank, Bideford Commercial Bank or Ilfracombe Bank, let alone that they issued their own notes.

But Barnaby Faull, head of Spink’s banknotes department, explained it was common practice in the days before the major banking institutions.


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“Every town in the country used to issue their own banknotes, which would have been for local use only,” he said.

“But they were still banknotes, as long as the people who owned the bank had money, they were fine. It made more sense, because people did not want to carry large amounts of coin around and the major banks did not exist.

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“The Ilfracombe note is quite rare, but most of the North Devon banks were fairly rare because they were small towns.

“Everybody loves them, but no one knows they exist.”

It is a unique opportunity to acquire a small slice of local history, since very few notes survive to the present day, as the banks either withdrew them from circulation or they became worthless if the bank folded.

The guide price for an average bank note is around �200, with an Ilfracombe example dated 1831 listed at �250-300 in the Spink catalogue. Each town was individual, with different designs and local scenes on the notes.

In parallels with modern times, the days of the provincial banks ended with the economic depression of the early 20th century, the last English bank closing in 1921.

Anyone can bid for the notes, either by going to the auction, telephoning Spink on 0207 563 4005 or 4020. For a catalogue or to bid online, go to www.spink.com.

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