Finn – not Huckleberry!


Finn had spent may years collecting the signatures from some of the most famous – and infamous – people in the world. Finn would collect mint ten shilling (10/-) banknotes and mail them to the person whose autograph he wished to collect , requesting them to sign and return the banknote. While such people received many requests from autograph collectors, Finn’s method of using a banknote was fairly unique at the time. He would often posses more than one autograph and provenance as to their origin.

10s front

A TEN SHILLING BANKNOTE

Ten-shilling banknotes were the pre-decimal equivalent of the fifty pence (50p) coin and to continue with his collection post-decimalization, Finn accumulated the banknotes when they were no longer legal tender.

Finn’s investment risk assumed that his autographed 10/- banknotes increased in value, compensating for their reduction in value as legal tender due to inflation and – technically – their defacement [1].

Finn had a banknote signed by John F Kennedy (JFK) at the time of his presidency. If, pre-decimalization, this JFK autographed banknote was used to buy some groceries (assuming that the grocer had no interest in the JFK signature defacing the note), it would only buy ten shillings worth of groceries in that store. Alternatively he could have taken it to a collector of autographs and had he been offered more than its face value of 10/-. If this valuation also included any costs Finn put on his obtaining the autograph, Finn would make a profit. A collector of banknotes (assuming no interest in the JFK signature) would not be interested at all, as (most) such notes were in circulation as legal tender and this one had been defaced.

Today if Finn’s JFK 10/- banknote were fed it into the self-checkout machine at a supermarket, it would be rejected as it’s no longer legal tender and has no ‘exchange value as such’. Plus: post decimalisation, fiat money inflation means that £5.50 must now be spent (RPI) to make the equivalent pre decimal 50 pence (10/-) purchases.

A present day valuation by a collector of autographs could be at least 10 times more than that from a collector of banknotes. This is because the market value of a JFK autograph (now £1000+) in the specialist collector’s market of autographs has increased in value faster than that of the 10/- banknote (now £100+) in the specialist collector’s market of banknotes.

Finn was astute in converting fiat money  into an ‘effective’ commodity,  making his collection of autographs an asset.  While it may be more correct to call Finn’s autographed banknotes a ‘collectible‘, their value was that of a commodity that could be bought and sold in a a particular commodity market. A  commodity, which, if bartered for fiat money, would generally be found to increase in value against such inflationary money. Finn was securing the value of his fiat money against its inevitable inflation and in the process creating a wealth that he personally stored.

[1] Under the Currency and Banknotes Act 1928, it is an offence to deface a banknote by printing, stamping or writing on it.

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