Auction 145 Highlights

Welcome to Smalls Auctions Sale 145.

We have included in this sale a mix of important historical pieces as well as a good selection of Jewellery and some exquisite Antiques that would grace any home.

The undoubted highlight in the Sale in terms of historical importance is the Commissariat Banknote signed by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. From the earliest days of New South Wales, the Store notes and the larger Treasury bills issued locally by the Office of the Government Commissary provided the financial backbone for commercial transactions in the Colony. Store notes were issued as receipts in small amounts for goods surrendered to the Government stores which over time were accumulated and returned to the Commissary to be consolidated into a larger Treasury Bill payable in London. Neither the Store receipts or the larger Treasury bills were intended for general circulation but in practice they were often signed over and traded as a form of money in a Colony short of currency. A first-hand account of their use as currency was provided by Elizabeth Macarthur the wife of the famous settler John Macarthur who in 1795 wrote that “the Commissary issue a receipt approved by the Governor and these receipts pass current here as coin and are taken by masters of ships and other adventurers who come to these parts with merchandise for sale. When any number of these have been accumulated in the hands of individuals they are returned to the Commissary, who gives a full Bill on the Treasury in England for them.”

In July 1813, the incoming Deputy Commissary General Allan replaced the Store note system with Government-backed Promissory notes with set values. However, a problem arose when it was realised they were not being returned to the Commissary to be cashed out as intended but were circulating as a quasi-government backed currency. Governor Lachlan Macquarie quickly understood that with traders skirting the Commissary it could prove ruinous to its central role in regulating financial transactions and so he reintroduced the old Store Note system in March 1815.

The Commissariat note in our Sale is a Treasury Bill from that era that was deaccessioned from the Westpac archives in the 1990s. Westpac, which was previously known as the Bank of New South Wales, was established in 1817 the same year that the Commissariat note was issued. This is one of two notes known in private hands that bear the countersignature of Governor Macquarie above the signature of Deputy Commissary General Allan that were cashable at the office of H J Addington Esq, Agent for the Colony of New South Wales, Treasury Chambers (London). The note dated 24th Dec(ember) 1817 is a ‘Third of Exchange’ which was intended to be retained by the payee Mr Will(ia)m Cosar as a receipt of debt owed him while the ‘First’ and ‘Second’ of Exchange were despatched to London for redemption at the British Treasury. Under the system, two copies were sent to London via separate vessels to obviate potential shipwrecks but only the first exchange received in London was paid out. Cosar was the Master Boat Builder in the Colony, and the note was for the sum of £45.12.6 Sterling representing half his yearly pay. We have included with this lot valuable research on all known examples of New South Wales Treasury notes although it is likely that more exist locked away in official archives. Of the known examples there are other types such as a single note signed by Macquarie and drawn on the ‘Right Hon. The Lord’s Comm of his Majesty’s Treasury’ as well as a note bearing the single signature of D Allen and payable to Capt. Jos(eph) James drawn on the ‘Commissary in Chief London.’

The obvious flaw in the Store note system was that the payee needed an agent in London to claim the funds and repatriate them back to Australia and, if not they were often coerced to sign over their claim to funds extant in the ‘Third of Exchange’ to someone who had the means to complete the transaction. Much like a third-party cheque, Cosar signed over this exchange presumably at a discount to Joseph James, the Captain of the Brig Daphne which traded between Sydney and Cape Town. However, the fact that the note finished up in the Westpac archives suggests that it was quickly cashed out at the Bank of New South Wales by Captain James who was aware that the new bank was now offering this service which is evidenced by the aforementioned note payable to Capt. Jos James which was also found in the Westpac archives. Additional evidence is provided by the note payable to Mr. Major West also dated 24th December 1817 which bears a circular ink stamp of the Bank of New South Wales suggesting that it too was cashed out at the new bank virtually on the day of issue.

This ‘Third of Exchange’ perfectly illustrates the haphazard nature of commerce in the burgeoning Colony, but it also provides us with evidence of the emerging role of the commercial banking sector which would in time would assume many of the activities of the Commissary. As an object of historical Australiana, it is undoubtedly top tier.

Another item of intrigue is the atmospheric Courtroom sketch by 'The Sun' artist Tony Rafty of the Coronial Enquiry into the disappearance of Juanita Nielsen in July 1975. The Juanita Nielsen disappearance is one of the enduring murder mysteries in Australia. Although no body was ever found, there appears no doubt that she was the victim of foul play, and her suspected murderer Eddie Trigg was paid by those involved to do time for the lesser crime of conspiring to abduct her in the days before she went missing. Eddie Trigg was an employee of the Carousel Club co-owned by Abe Saffron aka 'Mr Sin' and his standover man Jim Anderson where Nielsen was last sighted having been lured there on the pretext of signing up the venue to take advertising in 'NOW' the local protest paper she owned and operated. Through the mouthpiece of her newspaper she had campaigned strongly against unfetted development of King's Cross. This affected Saffron's interests who at the time held court over the corrupt New South Wales Police Force and, so despite overwhelming circumstantial evidence of his involvement, investigations were stymied by officers in his pocket and neither he nor any of his close associates were charged with the murder.

In the area of historical medals, we have a cameo selection of important pieces. Trinculo in Shakespeare's Tempest declares that "misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows" a saying which was later co-opted to describe convenient political alliances. Certainly, Western Society's embrace of Joseph Stalin during World War II typifies the saying as he was lauded internationally for ruthlessly sacrificing millions of his citizens in a life-or-death struggle against the march of Nazi Germany. This tribute in a medal by Amor’s of Sydney shows an austere Stalin on the obverse while on the reverse an allegorical Russian single-handedly holds back the Nazis symbolised by a Swastika on a roll across Europe.

There is also a rare Italian bravery medal awarded to an Australian for his role in saving lives after the massive Messina Earthquake in 1908 as well as a Competitors Medal for the 1934 MacRobertson’s London to Melbourne Air Race. Both are rarely offered.

In the new Ikea Age little thought is given to securing heirlooms for the future and so to counteract this we have a included in our Sale a number of Continental and British porcelain pieces that would certainly stop visitors to your home in their tracks. They are statement pieces of the highest order at prices a fraction of their original purchase price and are well worth consideration - particularly the piece that we have described as a “Crown Derby porcelain of a Welshwoman taking wares to market on the back of a Goat with a suckling Child and two others perched in a basket on her back.” A totem for the modern woman perhaps?

All in all, there are over a hundred lots of collectables to satisfy even the most diverse of tastes.

Smalls Auctions