Bills of Exchange/Sight Notes

Bills of Exchange are promissory notes that can be transferred to other holders. They were used extensively in the 19th century for making payments between a colonial bank branch and one in London, usually for goods supplied to Australia.

Here is an unissued bill from the Union Bank of Australia, Melbourne, to the bank branch in London. It is dated 11 Sept. 1882. This is a “Third of Exchange” which is the triplicate. The reason this was used at all was due to unreliability of shipping. The First of Exchange and Second of Exchange were sent on different ships so at least one would be expected to arrive. The third of exchange would be honored only when neither of the earlier exchanges had been tendered within 60 days of sighting of this note by the London branch. Hence the name often used – “Sight Note”.

Not a rare item or one in demand from collectors but this item is an interesting link to Australia’s financial history.