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I Wanna Tell Ya, Hey, I Think You Oughta Know

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Fenntucky Mike


The 50 & 100 Hryven banknotes of 1992 (1996) were intended to be part of the first series of Hryvnia banknotes issued by the NBU but neither was released into circulation leaving most collectors with only "specimens" to fight over. :slapfight: Printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company (CBNC), located in Ottawa, Canada, the designs were first drafted by Vasily Lopata and Boris Maksimov in 1991, after which they were altered to make them more "practical" for production by Canadian engraver Yves Baril. Below are images of the original sketches for the 50 & 100 Hryven banknotes of '92, as drawn by the original artists. From Lopata's book "Hope and Disappointment, or the Metamorphosis of the Hryvnia"


The National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) was dissatisfied with the print quality of the first series notes, printed by dry-offset, as well as production delays, and contracted Thomas de la Rue (TDLR) to produce additional 50, 100 & 200 Hryven banknotes of a completely different design to combat these issues. Unfortunately, due to hyperinflation in Ukraine it was decided to let the, at the time, circulating Coupons take the brunt of the crisis as any new currency introduced under such conditions would be doomed. Notes printed by CBNC were loaded into containers and transported by ship from the port of Montreal to Malta where the additional notes printed by TDLR were loaded onto the same vessel and both were transported to Ukraine and held in the underground vaults of the NBU. See Journal Entry "Where did you come from?" for more information.

There were at least three printings for some of the first series Hryvnia notes. Two and five Hryven notes were printed with the signature of the first Governor of the NBU, Vladimir Matvlenko (1991-92), next, notes bearing the signature of the second Governor, Vadim Hetman (1992-93) were produced for all denominations (1,2,5,10,20,50 & 100 Hryven), and finally notes of the 1,2, 5, 10 & 20 denominations were produced with the signature of the third Governor, Viktor Yushchenko. There are five signature varieties for Yushchenko alone, he was Governor for 7 years, but only one is known on the first series notes. The 50, 100 & 200 Hryven notes printed in parallel by TDLR bore no signatures, similar to the Coupons, some of which were also printed by TDLR. I have only ever seen 50 & 100 Hryven notes with Vadim Hetman's signature, there are no other signature varieties known for these. That there is only one signature variety, the second, out of what could have been a potential three, falls in line with the narrative of production delays, no first signature, and the subsequent ordering of 50, 100 & 200 Hryven notes from TDLR, no third signature.

First series Hryvnia signatures.


50 & 100 Hryven notes printed by TDLR.


Eventually, after nearly six years of planning, producing, and storing the new National currency conditions were right to launch the Hryvnia and release banknotes into circulation. On August 25, 1996 the resolution "The Monetary Reform in Ukraine" was signed into law paving the way for the release of Hryvnia notes by pegging the exchange rate of Karbovanets to Hryvnia at 100,000:1 and establishing a timeline for the new currency to be released, exchanges of Karbovanets for Hryvnia to take place (2 weeks) and the old Coupons to be demonetized. On September 2, 1996 notes in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10 & 20 of the first series were released into circulation. Unfortunately, the first series notes quickly fell victim to counterfeiters who, using chemical solutions, removed the ink from lower denomination notes and then printed higher denominations onto the banknote paper which was the same for all denominations in the series. Also released in '96 were the 50 & 100 Hryven notes printed by TDLR in '92 and 1 Hryven notes of the second series which by that time, The Banknote Printing and Minting Works having opened at least one line to produce banknotes in '94, with completion of a state-of-the-art facility in '97, had been printed by the NBU in Ukraine, along with most of the second series notes. Some of the second series notes were printed by TDLR, also in 1994, which were the last notes not printed by the NBU. The 50 & 100 Hryven notes of the first series were never released into circulation.

Below are examples of the first series Hryvnia specimen notes. Areas of note would be that the 1 Hryvnia only has the serial number printed once as opposed to twice, as on all other denominations in the series. The specimen number is typically found on the back of specimen notes but can be on the face as with the 5 Hryven specimen below or not be present, there does not seem to be any correlation between placement of the specimen number and signature variety yet. Finally, all specimens of this series have the serial number overprinted on top of the overprint "SPECIMEN".


The 50 & 100 Hryven notes of the first series are listed in The Standard Catalog of World Paper Money's (SCWPM) last edition as P# 107A, 50 Hryven, and P#107B, 100 Hryven, with images of notes with red overprint "SPECIMEN" pictured above the descriptions and P#'s instead of the unissued non-specimen notes. Having images of specimen notes for a non-specimen P# is probably where the confusion with these started. Unissued notes are pretty much impossible to find, if there are even any still in existence, the red overprint notes are somewhat difficult to find but not impossible and the perforated examples are the most available but only turn up a few times a year. The red overprint specimens would have been part of the production of the first series notes and similar to specimens of the other denominations. My belief is that the 50 & 100 Hryven banknotes of the first series were produced along with the other denominations, fulfilling the original order placed with CBNC, and shipped to Ukraine where they sat. Specimens with red overprint may not have been readily distributed to institutions as they were never released, which could explain why they are difficult to find but any specimen from the first series is difficult to come by. Regardless, I consider these true specimens, in the sense that they were probably produced as an aid in familiarizing people and institutions with the new banknotes, and to help aid in counterfeit identification and authentication. The red overprint specimens will typically have a specimen number in the lower left corner on the back of the note, but I have seen images of notes with the specimen number missing, although I would be slightly nervous about acquiring such a note. If you can purchase both for under $500 as a pair in UNC condition you would have done very well in today's market.


The next notes are listed in the SCWPM as 107A & B, or at least they are supposed to be, but several have been authenticated by TPG's as "specimens". All that I have viewed in TPG holders have been labeled as P# 107As (50 UAH) and P#107Bs (100 UAH), the same as the specimens with red overprint. Greeeaaat. :eyeroll: These specimen notes do not have red overprint "SPECIMEN" on them or a specimen serial number, solid zeros (ten), and have the word "НЕПЛАТІЖНА" (NOT PAYABLE/NON-PAYMENT) perforated in them. They are cancelled notes and not specimens but have been treated as such by the TPG's. doh! The perforations are slightly different between the two denominations, most notably in the first letter "Н". On the 50 Hryven note the left leg is perfectly vertical, on the 100 Hryven note the left leg is curved inward towards the right leg. I'm not sure if this was done on purpose but if you see a 100 Hryven note with a straight legged "Н" be warry. These notes were distributed and sold by the NBU in collectors sets labeled "Set of Hryvnia Banknotes to Commemorate 20 Years Since Currency Reform in Ukraine" in 2016, each set consisted of 28 banknotes, two of which were the first series 50 & 100 Hryven of 1992. There were two versions of the collector sets, the only difference being packaging/presentation. One thousand sets with a leather-bound folder were produced and an additional 3,500 sets were released in NBU envelopes. Meaning, at least 4,500 "specimens" were produced and possibly sold, all of the perforated examples for these two notes were removed from collector sets. So, it's no surprise that the perforated notes are far more common than the red overprint specimens. Currently, these will run around $300 for the pair in UNC condition. 




Commemorative Set/s, packaging and notes. I don't believe any of the other notes in these sets were unique in any way, but it wouldn't surprise me if it is found that some or all are.


It is not clear to me if these were newly printed for the sets or if they were picked from the vaults, but they seem identical to the red overprint notes in ink and print quality. I also suspect that the perforated notes in sets were paired up based on serial number, the last 2-3 numbers will match, which coincides with the images I've seen of the sets, and why some listings of just the 50 & 100 Hryven notes will also have "paired" numbers. I rarely see a complete collectors set come up for auction, I imagine that many were broke down and the notes sold individually, but when they do I see asking prices of around $700 for the leather bound, I've never seen the set with envelope go up for auction. 

There are known examples that were intended for circulation, no perforation or red overprint with actual serial number, but those are exceptionally rare. Proofs hand stamped "SPECIMEN" in black ink, on both sides, with solid 0 serial number also exist but are rare. 

When I remember, :eyeroll:, I record and track the serial numbers of both the perforated and red overprint specimens, below are the serial and specimen numbers I've tracked over the last handful of years. The difference between perforated notes and notes with red overprint is currently around 3:1, the margin was much larger, but 3 sets of red overprint specimens recently came onto the market. One other takeaway from the listed serial numbers is that the perforated 50 Hryven notes have two distinct blocks of serial numbers, 600004XXXX and 600009XXXX, I'm not sure why this is the case as there were supposedly only 4,500 released. Current range of tracked numbers of 100 Hryven perforated notes is 3,527 which is matching up with the total released, assuming the serial numbers were consecutive, the range for the 50 Hryven is currently 3,032 between the two serial number blocks. The rages for the red overprint notes are both at 169, again, assuming they were numbered sequentially. 


So, what's next? I have examples of each note both perforated and with red overprint, I doubt I'll ever be able to acquire a proof or note intended for circulation, and I don't want these labeled with the same P#. I guess the first thing is to get the Pick #'s straightened out, the perforated and red overprint notes are separate and need unique P#'s. I'm not sure if at one point the SCWPM did have separate P#'s for both and then poofed one for some reason but using one P# for both notes is ridiculous. I'm going to try and sort this out with PMG soon as I plan on sending examples of each in for authentication, the only problem is that the genie is out of the bottle and there are quite a few perforated notes graded and a few of the red overprint notes, all with the same P#. :pullhair: In my mind the red overprint notes would be P#'s 107As1 and 107Bs1, and the perforated notes would be 107As2 and 107Bs2 or possibly 107Acs and 107Bcs, or something else, as I really don't consider these specimens in the normal sense. (shrug) It kills me how half-aresed the Pick #'s are for Ukraine. Next will be to continue tracking notes, adding to my spreadsheets, and you never know, maybe a nice proof will pop up that is horribly underpriced and that nobody bids on but me. 

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I checked with PMG this week and they threw me a lifeline in regards to creating separate P#'s for the 107A & B varieties, perforated and red overprint, but I'll have to select the "Variety" add-on service. That means I'll have to pay a few extra dollars but that also means if/when PMG does assign a new P# to one or both of the varieties it should be available to everyone going forward, and that future submitters shouldn't have to pay for the Variety add-on service. :wishluck: Having to pay for the "Variety" add-on is a small price to pay if new P#'s are assigned, especially since I feel like I snuck one in on my last submission, on which I listed a P#101r that didn't exist but which was eventually assigned to the notes by PMG. :devil:

I'm at the 50 yard line with this, next step is to send the notes in. Updates as they become available.....

Edited by Fenntucky Mike
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Since it seems PMG is now calling the perforated notes unissued and not specimen's, which I agree with, there is no need to try and get a new P# assigned for them. I'm not sure if this is a new development or if PMG went back to how they've labeled these in the past, could be that it was a mechanical error scenario run wild for a short time as well. I wish I had tried to get the perforated notes labeled as unissued and canceled when I sent mine in, with PMG mislabeling all those notes it just never crossed my mind. doh!

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