China was the first country to use banknotes back in 100 AD. Chinese emperors authorised the use of paper money when shortages of copper affected coin supplies. Since then, the design of banknotes has been an artistic, as well as an economic, undertaking with some of the poorest countries in the world have the most beautiful banknotes.
Below, TravelSupermarket looks to 10 of the most beautiful banknotes from around the world:
10,000 CFP Franc Note – French Pacific Territories
A beautiful lady with a flower in her hair adorns the 10,000 CFP–franc note from the French Pacific Territories. She is surrounded by bird-of-paradise flowers and exotic tropical fish. These islands – Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa – are the settings for some of the paintings of Paul Gauguin and the novels of Somerset Maugham.
The Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique (CFP) franc was created by the French government in 1945 for use in French overseas territories in the Pacific Ocean. Its value was orginally equal to the French franc but since 1999, its exchange rate has been fixed to the euro.
Five Rufiyaa Note – Maldives
Cowrie shells, coconuts and a tall ship decorate banknotes from the Maldives. Cowrie shells were the Maldives’ first currency and the world’s first internationally traded commodity. The Maldives traded in these shells with Arab merchants during the 13th century. Coconut timber is vital in the Maldives for the construction of homes and boats for inter-island transport.
The Maldives’ flora and fauna are depicted in vivid colours and form exquisite borders on the five-rufiyaa note. The 10-rufiyaa and 50-rufiyaa notes feature scenes from village life. A bunch of coconuts – “Dhivehi Odi” – is pictured on the front of all banknotes.
50,000 Dobra Note – Sao Tome e Principe
A kingfisher perches proudly on the 50,000-dobra note from Sao Tome e Principe, together with a portrait of Rei Amador, a 16th-century national hero who rebelled against the Portuguese. A former colony of Portugal, Sao Tome e Principe introduced the Dobra in 1977 to replace the Escudo. These volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean, located just west of Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, are noted for their wildlife, beaches, waterfalls and mountains.
100 Swiss Franc Note – Switzerland
Switzerland pays a tribute to its notable citizens on its banknotes. Sculptor Alberto Giacometti (1901 – 1966) is depicted on the front of the 100-franc note. There are multicoloured images of his signature thin figures – Three Men Walking – on its obverse. The 10-franc note has a portrait of architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier, on the front with a multicoloured urban plan, an image of his work, on the obverse.
1000 Comorian Franc Note – The Comoros Islands
An archipelago located in the Indian Ocean off the east African coast and between Mozambique and Madagascar, The Comoros Islands have been noted for their frequent coups during the 20th century.
As French colonies, some of the islands voted for independence in 1975, while others wanted to retain the tie with France. The Comoros currency is the Comorian franc.
The front of the 1000-franc note shows a picture of a coelacanth, a pre-historic fish dating from 400 million years ago. Thought to be extinct, it was found still alive in the 1930s and bears the name “living fossil”. Other denominations of notes picture village women balancing baskets on their heads, major public buildings such as mosques and beach scenes with palm trees.
Five Dollar Note – New Zealand
New Zealand prints its banknotes on plastic, not paper. Most of the banknotes are adorned with birds, rather than the country’s famous sheep. National heroes such as mountaineer Sir Edmund Hilary appear on the front of the five-dollar note. Its obverse shows the long-extinct dodo amongst tulips.
Three Dollar Note – The Cook Islands
The Cook Islands in the Pacific feature a mermaid riding a ferocious shark on their three-dollar note. This is an apt picture for these volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean just north of New Zealand. Coral reefs surround the islands and sharks are at the top of the food chain.
40 Taka Note – Bangladesh
The Bangladesh 40-taka note, issued in 2011 on the country’s 40th anniversary of independence, depicts the national-language movement monument, the Shahid Minar. The note also features a portrait of Mujibur Rahman, the independence-movement leader. Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan in 1971.
The national bird, the doyel, is on the obverse side. All taka banknotes dating from 1977 have watermarks of a royal Bengal tiger. The national emblem – a water lily bounded by two rice sheaves and crowned by four stars and three jute leaves – features on the front of every note.
Five Dollar Note – Canada
Any Canadian banknote has to have ice hockey somewhere. The reverse of the five-dollar note has a picture of children playing ice hockey, together with a piece of a short story by national writer Roch Carrier. It describes his childhood winters as “long, long seasons”. Children in those days lived either in school, church or the skating rink. But their real life, Carrier writes, was on the skating rink.
500 Kronur Note – Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands in the North Sea between Britain and Norway depend on fish and fishing for their livelihood. So it’s no surprise that their banknotes pictures sea creatures. There are crabs, sea snails and incredibly detailed pictures of dragon flies.