Currency Banknotes


Pricing of cancelled, washed, specimen and misprinted banknotes
Cancelled Banknotes

We have asked the opinion of many collectors and dealers with regard to establishing the value of cancelled banknotes.  The consensus of opinion is that generally speaking, cancelled banknotes are less desirable than uncancelled notes.  Cancelled notes are banknotes with their legal status removed and as such are worth less to collectors than uncancelled notes.
As a general rule the following guideline can be used for South African banknotes 1921 to date.

Where the note (as illustrated above) has been cancelled with punch holes in the note or punched and perforated or punched, perforated and stamped.
Punch holes is determining factor.
Note is worth 1 grade off the normal price i.e. UNC will value as an EF.
Punch holes can be round or square.

Where the note (as illustrated above) has been cancelled with the word "cancelled" perforated in the note, or perforated and stamped.
Note is worth 1 grade off to similar of the normal price i.e. UNC will value between EF and UNC.
These very generalised rules do not in all cases apply as certain issues become available so infrequently that collectors are quite happy to pay full value for cancelled notes to add to their collection. 
The general appearance is important.
In the case of most of the earlier private banks only cancelled notes which were cut in half for security reasons during transport are available and as such a cancelled note which was in use may be more desirable to a collector than a trial or unissued note.
The fact that a banknote is cancelled is however an inherent feature of the note and must always be indicated in the description of the note as this has a direct bearing on the desirability and value.  The main reason for this section is to ensure that collectors are aware that cancelled notes be treated with circumspection in determining value.  In the end it is a willing buyer and a willing seller who determines the price.
Cleaned, Washed, Pressed Banknotes
Cleaning, washing or pressing paper money is generally harmful and reduces both the grade and the value of a note.  At the very least, a washed or pressed note may lose its original sheen and its surface may become lifeless and dull.  The defects a note had, such as folds and crases, may not necessarily be completely eliminated and their telltale marks can be detected under a good light.  Carelessly washed notes may also have white streaks where the folds or creases were or still are.
The processing of a note which started out as "Extremely Fine" will automatically reduce the grading by at least one full grade.  Beware of notes which started as "Very Fine", but after washing or pressing seem to be and are offered as "Extremely Fine".  These should drop one full grade to "Fine" after looking for the telltale creases which show up under light.
There is no harm in attempting to enhance the beauty of the notes collectors have in their collections by giving them a leaner and firmer appearance.  Collectors are just advised to be aware of the pitfalls as these notes should be described with these added defects.
Other defects on banknotes
Glue, tape, pencil marks or other graffiti may sometimes be successfully removed.  While such removal will leave a cleaned surface, it will improve the overall appearance of the note without concealing any of its defects.  Under such circumstances the grade of that note will also be improved.
The word "pinholes, staple holes, trimmed, writing on face, tape marks" etc should always be added to the description of a note.  It is realised that certain countries routinely staple their notes together in groups before issue.  With many of the early issues banks cut their notes in half as a security measure.  The one half was only transported once the first half had arrived safely and joined at their destination.  In such cases the description can include a comment such as "usual staple holes, usual halved and joined note" or something similar.  After all, not everyone knows that certain notes cannot be found otherwise.
The major point of this section is that one cannot lower the overall grade of a note with defects simply bacuase of the defects.  The price will reflect the lowered worth of a defective note, but the descripion must always include the specific defects.
Error Banknotes
Modern methods of control make the likelyhood of an error slipping through extremely remote.  In spite of all the precautions that are taken, an occasional error does slip through.  These can become scarce collectors items with an additional value over the catalogue price.  The grade of the note will still determine its desirability and value.
The errors to watch out for are:

  • Printing omitted from the back of the note.
  • Missing serial numbers.
  • Different serial numbers.
  • Double or off-centre printing.
  • Extra paper through faulty folds.
  • Missing / hidden watermarks.


Forgeries produced to deceive collectors are the curse of all collecting hobbies and at the moment the South African field of early banknotes is still fairly free from such troubles.  There have been various current issues (e.g. R20, R50, R100, R200) forged in quantities which collectors are advised to steer well clear of due to them being illegal.  They are generally quite obvious with no security features such as watermarks and security thread.  Sought after and rare banknotes will attract forgers, and collectors should check out items offered at bargain prices before purchasing.
Replacement Banknotes
Misprinted notes have to be withdrawn before issue.  These are substituted with replacement notes, which can be identified by their serial letter.  Normal Reserve Bank notes have letters near the beginning of the alphabet i.e. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H.  Replacement notes use only the last letters of the alphabet in their prefix i.e. W, X, Y, Z.  Due to lower numbers of replacement notes issued these are usually scarcer and more valuable.
Specimen Banknotes
These are sample notes, usually bearing special serial numbers such as 000 000 and overprinted or perforated with the word "Specimen" in the language of the country of origin.  Usually distributed to banks, treasuries and law enforcement agencies to familiarise them with newly issued currency.  Naturally scarce these notes are worth a premium as single items over the catalogue price, but more desirable when offered as sets.
Low Numbered Banknotes
These notes bear low numbers e.g. A 000 001 indicating they were amongst the first printed of a specific issue.  They are usually presented or sold to people involved in the design and approval of new issues.  Naturally scarce these notes are worth a premium as single items over the catalogue price, but more desirable when offered as sets.  First issue numerical A1, B1 etc. and first issue alphabetical e.g. AA, XX etc. notes are also in some instances more desirable.
Special Numbers Banknotes
These notes bear specific numbers e.g. a set 000 001 and    1 000 000 or all of one number e.g. 777 777 or 111 111 and are usually worth a premium.

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