Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2016 Issue

Rare Italian Banknote from WWII Occupation of Egypt Coming to Auction

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The banknote in question being sold at Winner's Auctions and Exhibits

Winner’s Auctions and Exhibits, the Jerusalem-based auction house I first wrote about in July’s Rare Book Monthly, is hosting another sale this month, Auction No. 095. With the house’s focus on Judaica, the auction visits topics such as holy books, letters from Rabbis and Rebbes, Maps, and Zionism. Auction No. 095 will take place on September 7th and includes 535 lots, all viewable online now on Winner’s website. And while the sale contains many noteworthy items (if you are a collector of Judaica, then the catalog is a must-read), this article’s focus is on a single, particularly rare item, hailing from the not-so-distant past.

In 1940, Italy, as an ally of Nazi Germany, invaded Egypt with the goal of seizing the Suez Canal. Prior to the invasion, the Foreign Ministers of Italy and Germany had divided the areas they planned to capture. Italy, with its designated territories of Egypt and North Africa, issued a series of eight special banknotes which were intended to replace the local currency. Five hundred million notes were issued, and on July 16, 1942, they were flown to Libya. In 1943, British forces under Montgomery Marshal defeated Axis forces in North Africa, and the plan to distribute the Italian banknotes was aborted. The military was then tasked with destroying the notes.

Over the years, there were whispers and rumors of a handful of banknotes that survived the torching by the Italian army. In 1967, a collector purchased five; they are currently found in the collection of Italia d’Banca. In the 1980s, three additional notes were stolen from an Italian collector and have since disappeared. In 1980, a complete set of eight “specimen” banknotes from the series was sold at auction in London for 90,000€. The sale in 1980 was the last time any of these banknotes has come up for sale.

Lot 169 of Winner’s Auction No. 095 is a 5 Lire banknote from the Italian occupation of Egypt, printed in 1942 and one of four known copies in the world. This particular copy came into the hands of a distinguished Jew from the Tripoli community, who personally received it from his chauffeur, a soldier in the Italian Army during World War II who saved it from destruction. The banknote is estimated $12,000-15,000.

Auction No. 095 takes place September 7, 2016, in Jersulaem. Bidding via absentee bid, telephone, and online is available, as well as live. The entire catalog is available here. Registration is required for first time bidders and can be done so by following this link.

Rare Book Monthly

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