Reserve Bank of Australia

The Commonwealth Bank and the Note Issue: 1920–1960

Unissued Notes of the 1930s

A number of notes were designed and printed during the 1930s but never issued. These reflected dramatic changes in the Monarchy.

A one pound note showing a portrait of King Edward VIII was designed but never issued because of the King's abdication.

Photograph of King Edward VIII

Edward, the Prince of Wales, the son of King George V, became King Edward VIII on his father's death in January 1936. In December 1936 King Edward VIII abdicated and, in June 1937, married an American divorcee, Mrs Wallis Simpson, in France.

While the design and production of a new note featuring King Edward VIII was abandoned, denominations bearing the Edward VIII watermark continued up to 1940 when the new series bearing King George VI's portrait and the Captain Cook watermark appeared.

The Captain Cook watermark was chosen by the Commonwealth Bank after the abdication because it was considered preferable to use portraits of historical (deceased) persons for watermark purposes.

Image showing the front of an unissued £1 note

This £1 note showing a portrait of King Edward VIII was designed but never issued because of the King's abdication in late 1936.

Other unissued notes included £50 and £100 denominations designed in each of 1934 and 1939, bearing portraits of King George V and King George VI, respectively. They also featured illustrations of sectors of the Australian economy.

Image showing the back of an unissued £50 note

The back of the unissued £50 notes featured the mining industry which revived strongly in the 1930s.

The £100 note bore an illustration of the dairy industry which grew solidly over the 1920s and 1930s.

Image showing the back of an unissued £100 note

No new note denominations higher than £10 were issued after the original notes in 1913.

Under the National Security Act of 1945, notes above the £10 denomination were declared no longer legal tender and actively withdrawn.

The Government at the time viewed higher-denomination notes as facilitating tax evasion and black market activities.