The world’s most beautiful banknotes

By on July 26th, 2016 in Editorial

In light of that, here’s a list of some of the banknotes we consider to be the most beautiful and striking in the world.

10. UAE 500 DIRHAM*
On the whole, this is a very relaxing banknote. Intricate lime and aqua-coloured patterns swirl around the paper like the glistening waves of the Persian Gulf lapping against the shores of a giant man-made island shaped like a palm tree. But then there’s that falcon, staring at you with the fury of a thousand Christian Bales. Exciting!

9. ROMANIAN 200 LEUromaniaNEW200-2006rWhat better way to illustrate your 200 leu note than with a brobdingnagian creature (the Thinker of Hamangia) weeping next to a watermill, while a rainbow quietly mocks him in the background?

hongkong400-2003oLooks like someone gave Timothy Leary a spirograph. Looks like someone put the wrapper of the hazelnut and caramel one from a tin of Quality Street through a kaleidoscope. Looks like someone trapped a horse in a zorb and rolled it towards a sinister claw. And so on.

kazakhstanNEW5K-2006oWow! What!? Is this even the right way up? Who knows! 5000 is a big number. May as well celebrate by having a tattooed hand firing a cannonball out of its palm.

This design is no longer in circulation but the Kazakhs were so taken with it that they used it on every single banknote from 2006-2011; it actually shows the Astana Bayterek monument, the Kazakhstan flag, the Kazakhstan coat of arms, and a handprint featuring the signature of Kazakhstan’s first (and current) president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

capeverdenew200-2005rSo stylish. So monochrome. So portrait orientated. The Cape Verde 200 escudo note would make an excellent cover for a 1970s spy novel.

china902-2000oChina’s 100 yuan note to commemorate the millennium features a brilliant dragon running around while blasting a fireball out of its mouth. The dragon is a symbol of power, strength and good luck in Chinese culture (as is the colour red), and it has clearly worked in this instance – with a face value of approximately 12 USD, these notes currently trade at around 500 USD on eBay.

newzealand190-2000oThey say if you hold this note close enough to your nose, you can actually smell the sea air. Can you smell it? Try holding it a bit closer. Try actually putting it up your nostril.

Okay, nobody says you can smell salt water on $10 NZD, but it certainly looks like you can. This is another millennium commemorative note, albeit now only worth around $35 USD – not quite as lucky as its Chinese yuan equivalent.

Sadly, copyright rules preclude reproduction of the Fijian 5 dollar note but you are strongly urged to google it, and maybe look at it occasionally if you yearn for an avian housepet but live somewhere they aren’t allowed.

bhutan12-sig3-1986oWho needs mind-altering drugs when you can just tape a 1 Bhutanese ngultrum to your forehead and have it dangle down over your eyes, gently flickering in the breeze? But far from being a psychedelic fever dream, this note depicts the government crest flanked by two dragons. Who knew bureaucracy could be beautiful?

Copyright rules mean we can’t show you the Bermudan 2 dollar note either, but it is truly a joyously colourful, soul-swelling thing of beauty. It would be worth enlarging, framing and hanging on a wall where it could inspire feelings of inner peace, if it weren’t for the fear of being hit with a massive, peace-shattering copyright fine. Again, you should probably google it.

*All asterisked notes are from a currency that you can buy or sell with freemarket, at the extraordinarily low, fixed fee of 0.2%.

Banknote images copied from and are licensed under the Creative Commons: Attribution 2.5 License.

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James is freemarket’s Chief Commercial Officer. He has a history of finding new ways to solve age-old financial challenges and was responsible for launching some of the first online money transfer and prepaid card initiatives in Europe.

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