The first official Commonwealth of Australia £1 banknote, marked No. P 000001, will go on show in the National Library of Australia’s Treasures Gallery, Canberra, from 11 May. In 1913 the £1 note was sent to Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, a long-time champion of a uniform Australian currency, by the Secretary to the Treasury, George T. Allen, with a note reading, ‘I enclose £1 note No 1 as promised—You might give me a sovereign for it later on.’

The 1913 £1 note was then given to Prime Minister Stanley Bruce in 1927 ‘for preservation in the Commonwealth National Library’ by Fisher.

The 1913 series of banknotes, of which this £1 note is part, are the first to show the Commonwealth Coat of Arms as introduced by the Fisher Government in 1912 to reflect a more nationalistic vision of Australia. It proved controversial at the time because of the absence of an image of King George.

While being kept in a secure vault in the National Library’s collection in Canberra, the £1 note was catalogued in a file described only as ‘specimen notes and other currency’. After some detective work by coin experts and National Library staff, the note was checked by an expert numismatist to appraise and value it. His verdict: ‘This is arguably the most important banknote in Australia’s post-Federation history.’ He estimated its worth to be about $1.5 million.

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