A collection of 13 rare black and white banknotes, all produced in the 19th century when Hemel Hempstead printed its own money, are set to fetch between £4,000 and £5,300 at an auction on Friday.
The notes are emblazoned with the words ‘Hemel Hempsted Bank’ and one note alone – an 1855 £10 note, with its value underprinted in blue – could fetch between £600 and £800 at the auction hosted by specialist sales firm Spink in London’s Bloomsbury.
Ten of the 13 notes are proofs, so they were never put into circulation and are mostly classed in ‘very fine’ or ‘extremely fine’ condition.
The three other notes were all issued in 1855 by the ill-fated Hemel Hempsted Bank – the spelling of the town’s name has varied over the centuries – which went bust the following year.
They feature the handwritten signatures of the bank’s partners William Smith and Edmund Fearnley Whittingstall.
The bank was founded in 1811 by local businessman Harry Grover who was joined the following year by business partner James Pollard.
In the late 18th century and early 19th century there were hundreds of privately-owned banks throughout England and they all issued their own notes, as it was too difficult and dangerous in the days before fast transport, security firms and proper street lighting to bring in big quantities of cash from London.
Barnaby Faull, head of the banknotes department at Spink, said: “Merchants would get together and set up their own banks but their notes – which were like IOUs – could only be used locally.
“When many of these provincial banks went bust – as Hemel Hempstead’s did in 1856 – their notes became completely worthless.”
The Hemel Hempstead notes have been put up for sale by Jersey-based property tycoon David Kirch, 75, who is said to have a personal fortune of £100 million.
Mr Kirch is selling his collection of banknotes, which is worth around £1 million, in four parts.