Fifty Pound Banknote

Issued Signatories Serial Numbers
1914 – 1917 Collins/Allen – r66 Small Blue numbers
Y 000001 to Y 083845
1918 – 1945 Cerutty/Collins – r67a Prefix of Y – Small numbers
Y 083846 to Y 176000
1918 – 1945 Cerutty/Collins – r67b Suffix of Y – Bold numbers
176001 Y to 379500 Y
1918 – 1945 Cerutty/Collins – r67c Prefix of Y – Medium numbers
Y 379501 to Y 608000
1939 Armitage/Macfarlane Specimen
1950 Coombs/Wilson Specimen

Approximately 608,000 fifty pound notes were released in the entire issue period between 1914 and 1945.

The first signature combination
The design on the back of the fifty pound notes depicts a flock of sheep at Bungaree in South Australia. The same picture was used for the back of the thousand pound note.

James Richard Collins and George Thomas Allen signed the first Fifty-pound notes issued in June 1914. The serial numbers were small seriffed with an Y prefix and printed in dark blue. They were first delivered by the printers on March 27 1914. Only two specimens of the 83,845 printed with this signature combination are known to have survived. They are cancelled specimens in the collections of the Art Gallery of South Australia [Y037585] and the Mitchell library in New South Wales [Y 019632].

The second signature combination

The second signature combination was Charles John Cerutty and James Richard Collins. The notes, which were similar to the first design, had black serial numbers with an Y prefix range from Y083846 to Y176000 and the first delivery of notes was made on February 26 1920.

Lot 220 at the International Auction Galleries Auction 75 held on 6th November, 2011 was a r67a banknote – graded aUNC – which realised a price of $209,700

The third signature combination

In 1924 a change occurred with the serial numbers becoming bold with an Y suffix. These were numbered from 176001 to 379500, and the notes delivered on March 17 1924.

The fourth signature combination

The final issue of £50 notes was made on June 3 1940 with serial numbers Y379501 to 608000. These notes had medium seriffed serial numbers with a bold Y prefix with the same signatures – C. J. Cerutty and J. R. Collins. Both the Fifty and Hundred pound notes of the first design continued to be issued until the announcement on May 31 1945 that all notes over the value of £10 would no longer be legal tender after August 31 1945. By June 1950 records show that only 1,343 notes remained in circulation. As notes were officially written off if not redeemed within forty years of date of issue there are now officially no notes left in circulation.

Lot 4773 at the Noble Numismatics Sale 98 held on 24th November, 2011 was an r67c banknote – graded aUNC – which realised a price of $110,675


The fifth signature combination

An unissued type of £50 note exists. This was prepared in 1939 to increase the supplies of the earlier issue that were already in circulation. However the issue of the high denomination notes ceased in 1945 without the need for the issue of notes of this design. The supplies were therefore destroyed in 1958 except for a few notes that were retained as specimens. The note, violet in colour, has a vignette of George VI at left. On the right there is a window for the watermark of Captain Cook facing right. The denomination £50 appears in large print at the top right and left corner panels and smaller £50 denominations at bottom left and right. The words COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA appears at the top centre with the words FIFTY underneath. The legal tender clause “This note is legal tender for FIFTY POUNDS in the Commonwealth and in all the Territories under the control of the Commonwealth”. There is a large £50 as the background print together with a mosaic of the number 50 printed in Letterpress. The signatures in black are those of Hugh Traill Armitage – Governor Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Stuart Gordon McFarlane – Secretary to the Treasury. The serial numbers are prefix letter over 0 and a six-digit serial number. The back of the note, also in violet intaglio, has a central panel depicting mining with 5 men. One of them holding the handle of a windlass, another a bucket and pickaxe, the third a shovel, another a sledgehammer, and the last a sample of ore. The denomination £50 near the centre right, balances the blank watermark panel and together with ornate geometric designs there are the figures 50 in each corner of the design.

The sixth signature combination

This specimen banknote did not surface until 1996. The note was mounted with a light glue in a buff coloured folder in a manner similar to earlier specimen notes of Edward VIII. The facsimile Coombs/Wilson signature combination, first used in late 1951, was added after the notes were originally printed.

It is believed that the note was one of a proposed new series of Australian Banknotes which had been in preparation for a number of years by that time. The One pound with a portrait of George VI, Ten Shillings with Sir Henry Parks, Five Pounds with Sir Edmund Barton and the Ten Pounds with Sir John Monash are all believed to be part of the same project. With the death of George VI early in 1952, it was decided not to proceed with these designs. All stocks were destroyed in 1958.

All high denomination banknotes were recalled after the Second World War. This was gazetted in May 1945 as a national Security Regulation and it stated that after August 31 1945 denominations of £20 and above would cease to be legal tender. While this regulation never became law it had the effect of uncovering nearly £5,700,000 in hoarded currency. At the end of 1945 the following notes remained un-presented :

£20 – 506
£50 – 2,830
£100 – 2,146
£1,000 – 317


updated: 30/05/2019