Banknotes book
The Waterlow & Sons specimen banknotes book sold for £205,000 by Tring Market Auctions.

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It was produced by Waterlow & Sons, the world-famous printing firm which had factories in Dunstable and Watford close to the saleroom, and the book boasted an impressive provenance. An elderly lady who lived locally brought the book to the saleroom in a plastic bag. It came from her late husband who had worked at Waterlow’s.

“When Waterlow’s shut at that location, during the tidying up they allowed him to take that book,” said Tring Market Auctions director Stephen Hearn.

“It was in beautiful condition, one of those with tissues between each page and we had to be so careful opening it up because it hadn’t been opened for years.”

“Come-and-get-me estimate”

The book, estimated at £500-700 on August 31, sold to a London buyer in the room. It contained about 70 specimens of the front and back of each note together with 10 share certificates.

Hearn added: “There was a lot of pre-sale interest which developed into six principal banknote collectors there on the day, and it was quite obvious the estimate was just a come-and-get-me estimate really. We did have an idea before the sale they would go on to a higher level – but not to that level.”

While the condition and provenance certainly helped, feedback from the bidders suggested that a Chinese specimen banknote was key – one that collectors knew existed but had not been available up to now. Hearn said all the specimen notes were very collectable, with the Chinese example maybe valued about £50,000 but many other rarities probably around the £10,000 mark.

Waterlow & Sons was once one of Britain’s largest printers of bank notes, postage stamps and other material.