A Historic Numismatic Milestone: The New Zealand £100 


The First Banknotes of New Zealand

Discover the history of New Zealand's banknotes and meet the influential figure presented with this £100 note in recognition of his contributions to the nation's economic development.


Before the establishment of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand in 1934, private "Trading Banks" in New Zealand issued their own banknotes. 


The Bank of New Zealand

Incorporated in 1861, the Bank of New Zealand began operations on October 16th on Queen Street in Auckland. By 1862, branches were functioning in Dunedin, Wellington, and Nelson, and an office was established in London the same year. Over the next two decades, they were the largest and most prolific issuer of banknotes until August 1934, when the Reserve Bank of New Zealand ( RBNZ ) was given the authority to issue banknotes exclusively by the New Zealand Government.


The Bank of New Zealand, still in operation today as BNZ, was the largest of these banks. Other banks, such as the Bank of Australasia and the Union Bank of Australia, merged to become ANZ. The Commercial Bank of Australia and the Bank of New South Wales merged to form Westpac.


One Hundred Pounds

In the late 19th century, New Zealand saw the end of The Land Wars from 1845 to 1872. Under Colonial Treasurer and later Prime Minister Julius Vogel, the country embarked on ambitious economic reforms, notably increasing national spending and borrowing. The BNZ introduced its One Hundred Pound banknote during this economic boom period. 


Its un-altered official description by the BNZ is as follows:



No. 3 Issue ( No earlier issue of £100 Notes)

Printed in brown on white ground, with large figure ”100” in pink across a pink panel in centre. Two Medallions at left,, of Maoris above, and of Kiwis &c. beneath. Back: large figure ”100” across panel in pink the same as the front but printed in reverse. 


Purchasing Power

To demonstrate the immense purchasing power of a single One Hundred Pounds, consider the following statistics from The Official Handbook of New Zealand 1875:


Wages in Auckland in March 1874: ( 8 Hours Average per Day )


  • £2 per week = Baker Foreman / Supervisor
  • £3 per week = Jeweler
  • £2 per week = Kauri gum digger


In 1874, a jeweller, considered among the higher earners, received £3 weekly. On the other hand, the cost to rent a typical six-room house in Auckland ranged between 12 shillings to 18 shillings per week. This translates to an annual rent ranging between £31.2 and £46.8. Remarkably, a single £100 note could cover over two years of rent for such a house.


Falconer Larkworthy | Managing Director of the Bank of New Zealand 

Photograph of Falconer Larkworthy - BNZ Heritage Archives

Falconer Larkworthy


Falconer Larkworthy played an instrumental role in founding the Bank of New Zealand. He served as its managing director on the London board from 1862 until his retirement in 1888.

In 1861, facing delays in the arrival of the official BNZ notes from Australia, Larkworthy secured approximately 5,000 ounces of gold from the Otago goldfields by having his own banknotes printed. This led to a significant public uproar after locals could not redeem them at other banks because it was an unofficial issue. The situation was quickly defused when he offered to exchange them back into gold sovereigns, reportedly having 8000 of them in boxes. None of these emergency notes exists today, and it is reported that Larkworthy searched in vain in his later years to locate one. 

During his directorship at the Bank of New Zealand, c.1872-1873, Falconer was presented with this exact £100 specimen banknote by Bradbury Wilkinson & Co of London, the company contracted by the BNZ to print their banknotes.

Subsequently, Larkworthy became a director at the BNZ-associated mortgage company, the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company, in London. However, by 1893, allegations of mismanaging company finances, particularly concealing the company's losses from the public, led to his ousting. 

The Long Depression of the 1880s saw Larkworthy in extreme financial difficulty; most of his later years were spent repaying his debts. He died in London in May 1928.



Embark on a journey to uncover the remarkable story behind this banknote. A tangible piece of New Zealand's financial history that ultimately set a record-breaking price.


The Bank of New Zealand's One Hundred Pounds holds a unique place in New Zealand’s history as the largest denomination ever issued for circulated. 


A 20th-century bank teller’s quote in Banknotes of New Zealand Trading Banks by Robert Pepping: 


"I have never seen a 100 Pound note[…]. For the ordinary mortal, it is one of those things that are too good to be true."


A VIP Specimen

Specimen banknotes were created to mark the release of a new note issue and were typically kept for museum and banking archival purposes and, occasionally, presented to highly influential figures. They often came onto the market after their interest by collectors was realized by their owners or those who inherited one. Because of the high value of £100, this note was printed without a serial number, perforated with multiple holes, and ink stamped with the word "SPECIMEN" to prevent its use in circulation.



The £100 banknote surpassed all prior known estimates and achieved a record sale, fetching a staggering AUD 85,000. This historic accomplishment established a new World-Record for a New Zealand Banknote.   



A distinguished provenance traceable back to the late 1800s and with at least eight documented previous instances. The ultimate prestige New Zealand banknote amongst collectors. 


Falconer Larkworthy ( c.1872 - c.1928 )


The Amon Carter Family Collection ( c.1920 - c.1982 )

Banknotes from this collection by father and son Amon Carter Sr & Amon Carter Jr are regarded as some of the best examples in the world. Amon Jr was a prolific collector-dealer and held the title of IBNS Life Member #5.


It is noted that much of their collection of paper currency was acquired from private estates. John N. Rowe III privately sold much of the Carter collection’s world paper money.


Spink Auctions No.93 The George Webber Collection ( 8 October 1992 )

George Webber, a Jersey businessman, accumulated most of his collection during the 1970s. His collection was sold through Spink and Son, including the BNZ £100, estimated at £400-500. 


Andrew Clifford ( 1992 - 2010 )

Author of New Zealand Trading Banks and Early Paper Currency 


Spink Auctions Sale 1022 ( 29 September 2010 )

Auctioneers Spink and Son sold the BNZ £100 again in their World Banknotes Part I & Part II Auction:


Bank of New Zealand, specimen £100, Auckland, 18-, black and white, value in brown at centre, Maoris and landscape at left (PS 196 for type) purple SPECIMEN handstamp, perforated, good extremely fine and the only Auckland 19th Century note believed extant, Ex. Larkworthy, Amon Carter and George Webber Collections


It realized a sum of £8,800 + Buyer's Premium against their estimate of £2,500-3,000. 


The Rare Coin Company ( c.2010 - c.2013 )

The Rare Coin Company




After nearly a decade in private hands, the £100 made an appearance on the front cover of the Australasian Coin and Banknote Magazine.


The Joshua Lee Collection ( 2022 )

Acquired via Aventine Numismatics - Private Treaty 




Printed in black ink on white background, with a large figure "100" in brown across a brown panel in the center. Two medallions at left, of two Maori chiefs above, and two Kiwi & co beneath. Single pinhole in the latter. Large figure "100" across the panel in the same color but printed in reverse. Previously mounted. 





By Joshua Lee


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