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?


8. HONG KONG 10 DOLLAR*
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.


7. KAZAKHSTANI 5000 TENGE
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.


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

5. CHINESE 100 YUAN
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.

4. NEW ZEALAND 10 DOLLAR*
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.

2. FIJIAN 5 DOLLAR
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.

3. BHUTANESE 1 NGULTRUM
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?

1. BERMUDAN 2 DOLLAR
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 www.currencymuseum.net 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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