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Spink to Offer Sarawak 1945 Small Change Notes

On Jan. 15, during Spink’s NYINC World Banknotes Sale, highly collectable examples of all three known denominations of Sarawak 1945 small change notes will be of offer: 1 cent, 5 cents and 10 cents. Their provenance could not be better: Brooke family.

Faces of the three 1945 emergency fractional notes prepared to assist the rebuilding of post-war Sarawak. They were never issued. The three will be offered by Spink in their NYINC sale in January. (Images courtesy and copyright Spink London.)

Faces of the three 1945 emergency fractional notes prepared to assist the rebuilding of post-war Sarawak. They were never issued. The three will be offered by Spink in their NYINC sale in January. (Images courtesy and copyright Spink London.)

You won’t find these items listed in SCWPM nor Schwan and Boling; not even as unissued notes. Their origins are not fully known and there is some debate over the precise timeline.

They were prepared late in the war when Britain’s government was beginning to focus on reoccupying parts of its lost empire. The Brookes had ruled Sarawak for 100 years prior to its falling to the Japanese in 1942. The last of the so-called White Rajahs, Charles Vyner Brooke, recognized he lacked the resources to rebuild his shattered country. He opted to cede Sarawak to Britain as a Crown Colony.

Brooke had minted no coins nor had he any notes printed that might be circulated once the Japanese had been expelled. When Britain became aware of Brooke’s intent to cede, they ensured a supply of emergency currency would be available for their new colony in the same manner they were doing for Malaya. It is not known whether the Sarawak emergency issues were prepared by Britain in conjunction with Brooke or not. Whatever that detail the result is the three small change 1945 notes now on offer.

Essentially, these are specimen proofs if not trials. There is no evidence these notes were printed in any quantity. None were ever issued.

The design of each of the 1945 notes is similar in some respects to Sarawak’s pre-1942 issues. Each names the issuer as THE GOVERNMENT OF SARAWAK as do those pre-1942 issues but the 1945 notes lack any provision to be signed by TREASURER OF SARAWAK. Rather, the matter is left open with a space labeled FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF SARAWAK.

And all the 1945 notes lack the vignette of Charles Vyner Brooke present on all his earlier issues, including an emergency 10 cents produced in 1940 (P-25).