Cover The ‘Hong Kong 1860’ five-dollar banknote, issued by the Oriental Bank Corporation (Photo: Dix Noonan Web)

The historic banknote was sold for a whopping £161,200 (or about HK$1.7 million) and surpassed its initial estimate of £30,000-£50,000

Dix Noonan Webb, a British auction house specialising in banknotes, coins, tokens and medals, just auctioned off a recently discovered Hong Kong 1860 five-dollar banknote—the earliest known fully issued banknote of any denomination for Hong Kong— for £161,200 or about HK$1.7 million.

The historic banknote is issued by the Oriental Bank Corporation—the first bank to open a branch in Hong Kong—and dated June 1, 1860 with the serial number 20465. It bears the signature of manager John McDouall on the right and accountant James Webster on the left, with a Royal Coat of Arms at the upper centre.

The only other known issued notes from the Oriental Bank Corporation to have survived are dated 1866 and 1879, three of which are in private collections and several others in institutions.

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“We are delighted with the superb result achieved for this incredibly important banknote. This is the highest price ever achieved at auction for a Hong Kong banknote and the fact that it is returning to its country of origin is particularly gratifying,” said Andrew Pattinson, head of the banknote department at Dix Noonan Webb.

“One can only imagine what John McDouall and James Webster, the two men who signed the note in 1860, would make of this,” he added.

The 16-1-year-old note is rare, perhaps even the first of its kind discovered, as the Oriental Bank was the only bank to issue notes in the city until 1858. The note is a type that was issued between 1851 and 1865 and was issued in the same year that Kowloon was officially ceded to the UK.

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The article was originally published on August 16, 2021 and was updated on August 27, 2021.