New Brunswick

'A little bit of history': New Brunswick banknotes up for auction in Florida

In the market for some old Canadian cash, say from the Westmorland Bank, established in The Bend of the Petitocodiac before it became Moncton?

Collection of 19th-century banknotes could go for up to $60,000

This 1885 People's Bank of New Brunswick is the only denomination with this date that is known outside of institutional collections. (Heritage Auctions)

In the market for some old Canadian cash, say from the Westmorland Bank, established in The Bend of the Petitocodiac before it became Moncton?

More than 100 New Brunswick banknotes from the mid-1800s are going to be auctioned off to the highest bidder in Florida next week.

The banknotes belong to the collection of Rick Johnston, a Doaktown native who now lives in Calgary.

"A collection such as this, sometimes new collectors will participate," said Michael Moczalla, the consignment director at Heritage Auctions in Florida. "They want a little bit of history — things that haven't been offered in a while."

This 1860 Bank of New Brunswick one dollar bill is missing from many collections. (Heritage Auctions)

"And these notes certainly haven't because they've been acquired over the course of 30-plus years."

The paper notes are from three New Brunswick banks that have gone out of business, including the Westmorland Bank, which operated between 1854, the year before Moncton was incorporated, and 1861, the Commercial Bank of New Brunswick, which existed from 1834 to 1868 in Saint John, and the Central Bank of New Brunswick, a bank in Fredericton from 1834 to 1866.

Moczalla said the value of Canadian banknotes has increased over the past few years, with collectors in Canada, the United States and around the world.

"It's a very exciting collection. It's probably the largest collection of notes, charter notes from New Brunswick that have been offered at auction recently," he said.

This 1854 Central Bank of New Brunswick is five shillings and is a rare example of New Brunswick history. (Heritage Auctions)

Don Olmstead, a St. Stephen banknote dealer, said the auction has rare notes that buyers are likely looking for to complete their collections.

He expects there to be plenty of bids on the collection. He'll even be bidding on some of the notes.

"There are a lot of collectors out there. I mean, you're not talking about millions of people, you're talking about probably 10,000 that might have an interest," Olmstead said.

He said the notes represent a moment in time and that's something collectors look for.

"If you're a collector and you're interested in history, then money, whether through coins or banknotes, will be attractive to you because it really reflects the history of the day," he said. 

He said it represents the time when New Brunswick banks were failing, in the 1860s. All eight banks in the province at that time either failed or were absorbed into another entity, he said.

"Everybody is interested in money, so it has a particular cachet to it, and a lot of people are keeners on coins and banknotes."

This 1861 two dollar bill from the Westmorland Bank is in good condition. (Heritage Auctions)

Although the banknotes were damaged and heavily circulated in the past, some of the rare notes could go for thousands of dollars. More common ones will go for hundreds.

He expects the collection could go for somewhere between $30,000 and $60,000.

"There's all kinds of technical varieties represented in this collection," he said.

"So it's a unique opportunity for collectors to fill in holes with notes they haven't seen potentially for decades."

With files from Information Morning Fredericton