Thursday, June 13, 2024
Thursday June 13, 2024
Thursday June 13, 2024

Rare Indian banknotes recovered from 1918 shipwreck up for auction in London



A pair of 10-rupee banknotes, salvaged from the SS Shirala wreckage, to be auctioned alongside other historic Indian currency

A unique opportunity awaits collectors as a pair of rare 10-rupee banknotes, salvaged from the wreckage of the SS Shirala, are set to be auctioned next Wednesday in London. The notes, bearing the date of 25 May 1918, were recovered from the shipwreck, which succumbed to a German U-boat attack during its journey from Bombay to London.

Noonans Mayfair auction house in London will present these historic banknotes as part of their World Banknotes sale, with estimates ranging from GBP 2,000 to 2,600. The recovery of these notes from the SS Shirala, along with various provisions, underscores their significance as artefacts of maritime history.

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Thomasina Smith, Worldwide Head of Numismatics at Noonan’s, shed light on the origin of these banknotes, highlighting their journey from London to Bombay before meeting an unexpected fate at sea. She noted that while many of these notes were recovered and replaced, only a few examples survived in private hands, making them exceptionally rare finds.

The banknotes, preserved in remarkable condition due to their protected placement within bundled cargo, bear consecutive serial numbers, adding to their allure and collectable value. Smith expressed astonishment at the pristine condition of the notes, attributing it to their secure packaging during transportation.

In addition to the 10-rupee banknotes, the auction will feature other noteworthy Indian currency, including a rare Government of India 100-rupee note dating between 1917 and 1930, and a “Reserve Bank of India, Persian Gulf Issue,” 5-rupee note adorned with the iconic Ashoka emblem and dated 1957-62.


Historical Significance:

The recovery and auctioning of banknotes from the SS Shirala wreckage offer a glimpse into the maritime history of the early 20th century, highlighting the perils faced by cargo vessels during wartime and the preservation of historical artefacts.

Cultural Heritage:

These banknotes serve as tangible relics of India’s colonial past, reflecting the country’s economic and political landscape under British rule. Their inclusion in the auction underscores their significance as cultural artefacts and collectors’ items.

Economic Value:

The estimated value assigned to these rare banknotes reflects their scarcity and historical importance, attracting interest from collectors and investors alike. The consecutive serial numbers and exceptional condition further enhance their desirability and potential market value.

Maritime Narratives:

The story of the SS Shirala and its tragic demise adds a layer of intrigue to the auctioned banknotes, evoking curiosity about the vessel’s history and the circumstances surrounding its sinking. Such narratives enrich the cultural and historical context of the artefacts, amplifying their appeal to collectors and enthusiasts.

Preservation Efforts:

The recovery and preservation of these banknotes exemplify ongoing efforts to safeguard and commemorate historical artefacts, ensuring their legacy for future generations. By bringing these rare finds to auction, Noonans Mayfair contributes to the preservation and dissemination of maritime and numismatic history.


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