From the Grading Room: Danish West Indies
Posted on 6/19/2012
Representing the final issue of banknotes for its only colonies in the Americas prior to their sale to the United States in 1917, the 1905 issue by the National Bank of the Danish can serve as historical artifacts for an important moment in the past. They tell the story of European colonialism as well as expansion of US geopolitical power in the Western Hemisphere during WWI.
The history of the Danish West Indies (now known as the US Virgin Islands) follows a winding and complicated path of development. Failed expeditions and substantial losses at the expense of early colonists are a common trope in many stories concerning the control of the group of islands by the Danish monarchy. Indeed, the islands were twice occupied by British forces during the Napoleonic Wars and were not returned to Danish rule until 1815. Following a somewhat turbulent genesis, however, the Dutch West Indies developed into a relatively productive trade colony during the mid- to late-19th century and were ultimately sold to the United States for $25 million in the twilight of WWI as a strategic position on the approach to the Panama Canal.
Offering both exotic depictions of tropical themes as well as exceptional rarity, the pair of 1905 issue notes that were recently submitted to PMG are a fantastic example of the multiple ways currency cut across the boundaries of geography, nationalism, and – of course – collecting tastes. The limited number entered into circulation makes the outstanding and original condition of both exponentially more desirable to collectors from a wide variety of interests. The notes of this particular issue occupy the position of numismatic bookends for a long-standing and complicated colonial era and the expansion of US diplomatic control over the Caribbean and are clearly attractive for their historical significance to collectors of world paper money and history-lovers alike and will be offered in the upcoming Stack's Bowers Official Auction of the 2012 August ANA Convention in Philadelphia.