The World’s Most Beautiful Paper Money. That is a big claim! Well, let me confess up front…I love money…all types of money. My husband will attest to this. Since going on my first family trip overseas to Germany when I was about 9 years old, I have always loved collecting currency from the countries that I visited.
Aside from its practical and face value, currency has an intrinsic value and is a distinct representation from its issuing country. Think about it. Countries have a medium that will be seen around the world. What better way to promote their cultures? They feature prominent leaders, accomplished artists, famous landmarks, native animals, and more!
Travel and Leisure recently published an article about money “so beautiful you won’t want to spend it“. I was so excited to check out the most beautiful notes in the world from a company of travel experts! If anyone had seen the most beautiful money, it must be them.
I was extremely disappointed with the list that they put together.
So this made me want to find out what other people think the most beautiful currencies are. So I found a few more articles here and here. And again…I was underwhelmed. I understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I’m sorry UAE, I just can’t say that this should be one of the most beautiful notes in the world! I’m not picking on the UAE, because there were only 2 notes on their list that I would agree with.
So let’s get started. I’ve listed the notes in an order somewhat of moving across the globe (starting from my home base in Texas).
United States: While T&L does’t consider the “simple green” of our U.S. currency beautiful, I don’t think they looked too hard at what we have to offer. While I may agree with them looking at our legal tender, the United States has had some amazing notes in the form of Military Payment Certificates, or MPCs.
I would say that this green lady looks really nice!MPCs were not common notes for the general public because the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) produced them for the Department of Defense. They were used after WWII until after the Vietnam War to pay U.S. Servicemen in foreign countries. They were a form of scrip – paper money issued for temporary use. MPCs were fully convertible to U.S. dollars upon leaving a MPC zone, and were convertible to local currency when going on leave (but not vice versa).MPCs were the most elaborate designs of the BEP. All MPCs had 4-color faces and 2-color backs. They were often called “Monopoly money” because of the beautiful colors. On the face of each note, it indicates the Series Number. The first two digits in the number indicate the year it was first printed – so for my example below it would have been printed in 1969. The third digit will indicate the number series printed that year – so again in our example, this would be the second series printed. This handsome note featuring true Americana symbols was used in Vietnam.Conversion-Day (C-Day) was the 24 hour period when notes were changed over from one series to the next. The date was secretive information and was intended to be a surprise in order to keep fraud and profiteering to a minimum. When a new series was issued, the old series would be turned in and stamped void.
Mexico: This beautiful note from Mexico was predominantly purple. Depicted on the obverse was Cuauhtémoc, leader of Tenochtitlan. Shown on the reverse was “La Fusion De Dos Culturas” (The Fusion of Two Cultures) sculpture made by J. Gonzalez Camarena.
Suriname: Some beautiful bank notes come from this little country. This whole series boasts flora and fauna found in the tropical rainforests of the country. The green-throated mango is the focus on the 10 Gulden note but as you search around you can also find butterflies, beetles, coat of arms and a map of the country.
On the reverse, the scarlet star flower is the centerpiece and the beetle makes an appearance again.
Brazil: This note is pretty monochromatic, however it has so many interesting aspects. The front features Marshal Candido Rondon and a hut in the Amazon jungle. The back is where I feel this note earns its “most beautiful” title. The two little girls showcase the diverse cultures in Brazil. Their painted faces have such intensity. Native food and housing are shown in the background.
Faroe Islands: Not many people know of the Faroe Islands, an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark. In Danish, the name Færøerne may reflect an Old Norse word fær (sheep) so it is only fitting that one of their most beautiful notes displays the “island of sheep”.
Faroese banknotes are considered foreign currency in Denmark and are not legal tender. The same can be said of Danish currency in the Faroe Islands. The interesting part is that they share the same coinage.
This line of notes consist of gorgeous watercolors by the Faroese artist Zacharias Heineken. The common motif on the obverse depicts Faroese animals in fragments. On the reverse, watercolours of Faroese landscapes are reproduced giving the notes a delicate feel.
Sweden: The 20 kronor note from Sweden looks to be such an adventure, and in fact, is based on the Wonderful Adventures of Nils. The author, Selma Lagerlöf, is shown on the obverse. In the story, Nils is turned into a tomte and is able to speak with animals. He joins a flock of geese and tours around the country on many adventures. The note’s colorful fields and childlike whimsy make it a favorite. Russia: One of the largest notes in the world at 10.71 in x 4.96 in, this Russian 500 ruble note has plenty of real estate to print on. The obverse has coats of arms and denominations – nothing too fancy.
The reverse shows Peter the Great and a personification of Mother Russia in stunning detail.
Portugal: This series of notes from Portugal portrays famous maritime explorers. Pedro Alvarez Cabral who discovered Brazil on 22nd of April 1500 is featured on the right of the 1000 escudos note. They had me at “nautical”….On the reverse, the Brazilian jungle and its animals are in the background of a Portuguese caravela sailing ship. On the bottom left, a segment from Pero Vaz de Caminha’s letter reads “…a estender
os olhos não podiamos ver senão terra e arvoredos – Terra que nos parecia muito extensa”.Belgium: Oh, the beautiful colors on this note!! Vivid purples, pinks and greens. The Belgas – Frank notes are a lesser known series of currency. In an effort to stabilize the Belgian currency after post-World War I inflation, the Belga was introduced which was equal to 5 Belgian francs. The newly issued coins and notes were printed with both values as seen here.
During World War II, the currency was replaced with the Reichsmark again. When the war was over, the Belga disappeared but the Franc remained. So while short-lived, it made its mark on beauty!Italy: This is a relatively small note that features a winged head of Mercury, a god of trade and a messenger in Roman mythology. The background is filled with gears and mechanisms.The reverse looks like a sunburst coming from the 500. Bellerophon, the greatest slayer of monsters, is shown on the left riding the winged Pegasus. Czech Republic: The front of this note has a delicate pink rose and Czech writer, Božena Nemcová. Her most well-known book, Babička (The Grandmother), was based off of her own childhood in the countryside with her maternal grandmother.
I believe that the reverse is one of the most beautiful figures on a note – a gorgeous young girl with flowers surrounding her face.
Algeria: History is literally written all over this note and as a history major, I truly appreciate it. Because these are scans, they don’t bring out the true colors and depth of the notes like this one. The Battle of Cannae comes to life on the front of this note. Hannibal’s troops on elephants engage the Romans in epic battle.
The reverse has a lot going on. Waterfalls, a tomb and Hannibal’s troops on elephants.
Congo: The King of the beasts, a lion, is featured on the front of this Congolese note. There are other notes that have lions but I think that this bust is the most realistic and detailed.
A lioness and her cubs in Kundelungu National Park are the subjects of the reverse.
Eritrea: This series of Eritrean notes has trios of citizens – the 1 nakfa note has three young girls. I enjoy seeing the different looks, dress and expressions on their faces.
The reverse shows a bush school with a group of young students reading and socializing together. South Africa: Here is another example of one of the “Big 5”. These beautiful creatures are full of detail. The obverse also shows a stylized diamond. The reverse is all about South Africa’s agriculture – a large ram’s head in the upper left, a small herd of cattle, an old windmill and stylized sunflowers.
Seychelles: I love this orange and brown note because this tropical fish is amazing!!The reverse isn’t that exciting. The format changed from a horizontal orientation to a vertical and features a man with tools and a swordfish. Bhutan: This currency is relatively new. It was introduced in Bhutan in 1974 when it replaced the rupee. The obverse has gorgeous color and details in the government crest and the two dragons on the sides. The reverse shows the Simtokha Dzong building. China: Like the series from Eritrea, I love how this series from China showcases different people and ethnic groups from their country. This note has a Tibetan couple. It also has a swan-like bird that looks as if it could come from a dream. The reverse shows Yangtze gorges, one of the stunning landscapes in China. Qatar: Taking a cue from the detailed architecture, the 5 riyal note has an ornate column and arches, crossed swords, a sailboat and palm trees. The colors are beautiful. The obverse has arabic letters and numbers while the reverse has english.
Native animals such as the Arabian oryx and the dromedary camel are in the forefront while Qatar National Museum in Doha is in the background. The peripherals are covered in amazing designs.
Iran: Although the rial is the official currency of Iran, Iranians employ the term ‘toman‘, meaning 10 rials. Whatever you call it, you can call it beautiful! This light pink note shows the Imam Reza shrine and other decoration. The reverse has two winged horses on a sunset colored background.
Uzbekistan: The som is the currency used in Uzbekistan and other places in central Asia. In the Soviet Union, speakers of Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Uzbek called the ruble the som which means “pure” and implies “pure gold”.
The note has a a rainbow colored background and eight angled stars. It also has the Uzbekistani coat of arms in the center.
The reverse has intricate designs and a mythological liger on Sher-Dor Madrasah portal at Register Square in Samarkand.
Australia: Not only is the Australia $10 bill gorgeous, it also made history in 1988 being the first polymer note in the world! Today, over 20 countries have embraced this technology.
The note’s obverse celebrates 200 years of European settlement and depicts a line of multi-cultural inhabitants of the country. HMS Supply is featured in the foreground in Sydney Cove.Reverse includes portraits of the aboriginal population, the main picture is a young native youth with ceremonial paint, and in the background is a Morning Star Pole, other Aboriginal artworks commissioned by the Bank and a human like figure from Dreamtime.Cook Islands: The Cook Islands $3 note portrays Polynesian mythology. Have you ever wondered why sharks have a dent on their heads? Well, Ina might have something to do with that…The reverse shows a traditional fishing canoe and the God of Te-Rongo.
I am SO interested to see what you think! Did I capture some of the world’s most beautiful notes? Which notes do you love that I may have missed? Let me know….