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Federal Currency Note Competition

By AG    |   Sunday, 30 January 2011

On 5th November, 1910, a competition to design Australia's first Commonwealth Notes was announced in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. Prizemoney of £50 each was offered to the winning designers of a 10/-, £1 and £5 note.

The guidelines stated that the designs should be for the front and back of each note, the designs should be simple in character and allow for a watermark to be easily seen. No more than three colours were to be used on either side of the note and preference would be given to designs which included the Australian Coat of Arms on the front, and Australian scenery on the back.

Dimensions of the notes were to be 7 3/8 x 3 1/8 inches for the 10/-, 7 x 3½ inches for the £1 and 6½ x 4 inches for the £5.

The Advisory Board appointed to judge the entries consisted of Mr Bernard Hall of the National Gallery, Mr Frederick Patterson of Patterson Bros., Art Decorators, and Mr Hallimore, Chairman of the Associated Banks. On 1st April, 1911, the Treasurer announced the winning entries:

10 shillings - Federal Currency Note Competition

Ten Shillings

  • Designers: Mr W F Ward, Engraver and Mr Charles Turner, Artist, both of Sydney.
  • Size: 7 x 3 1/3 inches.
  • Colour: Bright yellow
  • Front: Australian Coat of Arms with the figure 10 embellished and worked into the design.
  • Reverse: Mount Wellington, Tasmania.

1 pound - Federal Currency Note Competition

One Pound

  • Designer: Mr J E Wilby of Prahran.
  • Size: 7 x 3¼ inches.
  • Front: Figure of Justice on the left surrounded by the six state Coat of Arms with the Australian Coat of Arms in the centre.
  • Reverse: Views of the Cascades at Leura Falls in N.S.W., the Derwent River in Tasmania, Clarendon Weir in S.A. and Buffalo Gorge Falls in Victoria.

5 pounds - Federal Currency Note Competition

Five Pounds

  • Designer: Mr W J Oliver of Caulfield.
  • Size: 6½ x 4 inches.
  • Colour: Slate Grey with graded hues.
  • Front: Australian Coat of Arms on the left.
  • Reverse: Views of Leura Falls, N.S.W. and the Upper Yarra, Victoria. Used for £100 notes.

The winning designs were not considered to be of sufficient standard to be used on Australian notes. A separate process, involving the well known English printing firm of Bradbury Wilkinson & Co., was undertaken which eventually led to the selection of the designs which did appear on the notes.

Of particular interest is that the scenes of the Lower Leura Falls and the Upper Yarra River, depicted on the back of the winning £5 entry, were used on the back of the £100 note. The labels appearing in the scrolls beneath each scene in the competition entry were removed from the final £100 design. For many years, the Leura Falls scene was incorrectly described as the Morialta Falls near Adelaide.

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