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A RUSSIAN WIDOW THAT BROKE WORLD RECORDS

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发表于 2019-8-14 10:03:48 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
THE WORTHLESS PERSONAL PAPERS OF A RUSSIAN WIDOW THAT BROKE WORLD RECORDS
By: Frederick Yow  (点击查看中文版)
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Unknown to Helen Arvanitakis, a Russian widow who passed away in November of 1998 at the age of 83, the March 1999 auction of two components of her estate would fetch world record-breaking prices. The artifacts responsible?  Two incredibly rare banknotes thought to be worthless, whiling away for half a century amongst Helen Arvanitakis’ other personal papers.  At the Melbourne auction, their monetary worth was finally realized on the instruction of Helen Arvanitakis’ executor : The banknotes were purchased for a hefty A$232,000.

Helen Arvanitakis was born in Russia in 1915, and was subsequently married.  Typical of many Russians of her generation, she fled the political turmoil of her homeland, making a beeline for China and later, Singapore - where these extremely rare banknotes were probably acquired.  The Arvanitakis family then re-located to Melbourne; Helen Arvanitakis taking her maiden name Naumoff.  It was there, in the 1950s-1960s, that she worked as a beautician for GTV-9 during the heyday of Melbourne television.
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While combing through Helen Arvanitakis’ will, her solicitor David Shaw noticed that she was in possession of two $1000 Government of the Straits Settlements banknotes, both dated 1919.  On the centre top is an effigy of King George V and his crown.  Directly below this is a left-facing full-grown tiger.  The inscription above reads “The Government of the Straits Settlements Promises to pay the bearer on demand at Singapore ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS Local Currency for Value received”. Printed on the four corners of the banknote is its denomination - one thousand dollars - in three languages: English, Chinese, and Malay (Jawi Script).  It is known that this banknote was printed by Thomas de la Rue & Company, Limited.  The reverse side of the banknote is blank.

The prefixes of this note start from B/1 onwards, which continues from the previous Straits Settlement Series of 1898 – 1924.  The last prefix of this note is B/3.  Due to its high value, only 300,000 pieces of this note were printed.

These notes previously owned by Helen Arvanitakis are believed to be two of seven known in the world.  The other five consist of the following :
(i) One piece dated 24th September 1925, owned privately by a collector;
(ii) Two pieces dated 8th December 1933, owned by Bank Negara Malaysia (these are presently on display at the Bank Negara Malaysia’s Money Museum);
(iii) Another piece dated 8th December 1933, owned privately by a collector;
(iv) One piece dated 1st October 1930, owned by Maybank, Malaysia.

The rarity of these notes is unsurprising, considering the massive purchasing power of a $1000 note during the cash-pressed 1930s.  At that time, its monetary value would have been equivalent to 300 British Pounds - a small fortune.  For comparison, the average monthly wage of a worker in that day was $5-$10.  Moreover, people commonly transacted in coins of ¼- , ½- , and 1-cent value. Understandably, a $1000 note would be able to buy buildings, even land.

One of the two $1000 notes sold for A$118,250, setting a world record price for a note of that issue. The auction price surpassed the previous record price set in Singapore in 1996, of S$120,000 (about A$115,000) for a 1933 issue.  This feat is perceived to be even more extraordinary, when compared to the consequence of the other items of Helen Arvanitakis’ estate.  Her executor sold the family home located near Emerald, in the outer Melbourne suburb of Clematis, for a humble A$95,000.  The supposedly worthless banknotes fetched almost 2½ times the value of the house.  

It is simply amazing that the notes survived, given their purchasing power during the depressed 1930s.  That question will never be answered, as sadly Helen Arvanitakis had no living relatives.  The proceeds from the sale of her estate went to designated charities.
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