x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

First UAE banknotes and other rare currencies fetch Dh2.7m at auction

At least four of the bidders at the London auction were from the UAE, including Sharjah dealer Ahmed Mohammed Nasir, who said he bought 'a lot of notes'.

Sharjah dealer Ahmed Mohammed Nasir at the Middle East banknote sale at Spink in London.
Sharjah dealer Ahmed Mohammed Nasir at the Middle East banknote sale at Spink in London.

The first UAE banknotes and other rare currencies from the region raked in Dh2.7 million at an auction in London yesterday.

The George Kanaan Collection, which included notes from Bahrain, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Yemen and the UAE – dating as far back as the mid-19th century – were sold at the UK currency auction house Spink.

At least four of the bidders were from the UAE, including Sharjah dealer Ahmed Mohammed Nasir, who said he bought “a lot of notes”.

Mr Nasir, a retired bank manager who owns four antique shops in Sharjah, said he goes to the Spink auctions twice a year – in April and October.

He said some of the notes, including some from the UAE and Bahrain, would be sold in his shops, while the “best ones I will keep for myself”.

“These were a good investment, because we consider them as very rare notes,” he said.

Barnaby Faull, director of banknotes at Spink, said the auction “exceeded expectations”.

He said the bidders, which included at least four Emiratis, had been a “very nice bunch” and that currency dealing was a “good friendly market”.

“It went very well and we reached over our top estimate,” said Mr Faull.

The low estimate before the auction had been placed at £344,000 (Dh2.1 million), he said.

The owner of the collection, George Kanaan, who is the chairman of the Arab Bankers Association, based in London, has been amassing his well-preserved currencies of 419 notes for more than 30 years.

He said that in the hours leading up to the auction, he had “a feeling the majority of these notes will make a full circle back to the Middle East”.

Mr Kanaan decided to sell his collection because the Arabian Peninsular notes were becoming too expensive, which made it “more difficult to collect”.

He now wants to focus on notes from Syria and Lebanon, and from North Africa.

Mr Kanaan said it was an “interesting and exciting time before the auction, but I still feel as if I’m letting go of my own children”.

However, he said he was happy with his decision to entrust them to Mr Faull, who he called “by far the world leader in the banknote field, and I’m sure he will give all of them good homes”.

The most expensive item sold – the Palestinian currency board, which had a £50 note from 1929 – went for £46,000. Mr Kanaan’s set of Qatar and Dubai riyals from the 1960s, of which the 25-riyal note was listed at between £8,000 and £12,000, was sold for £38,000.

The third most expensive item – the Qatar and Dubai Currency Board with a 50 riyal notes from the 1960s – went for £14,000.

The collection also included 26 UAE notes, one of which was a rare Dh1 valued at £800 to £900.

molson@thenational.ae