Art, history and the hidden messages of banknotes
The windows and doors depicted on the euro are a symbol of the European spirit of cooperation and openness
Currencies around the world carry strong messages and say a lot about different countries and their culture, history and people’s psychology. This is the conclusion of the international financial service provider Euronet, which operates in more than 170 countries and has analyzed dozens of types of banknotes.
When it comes to currency, consumers usually only pay attention to the value of money and what they can buy with it, but exploring banknote symbols and looking for potential hidden meanings can change people’s perspectives.
Here are some stories behind some of the most popular and widely used currencies in the world on Investor.bg.
The euro says a lot not only about the philosophy and values of the European Union, but also about the history of Europe. Variations of windows and doors can be seen on the banknotes, which are supposed to embody the European spirit of cooperation and openness. The bridges symbolize the communication between the different European nations, as well as between Europe and the rest of the world.
The banknotes show architectural elements from different epochs in European history – classical, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo.
On each British banknote we see a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on one side and a significant historical figure on the other, such as the iconic Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the writer Jane Austen, the economist Adam Smith and others.
An interesting fact is that the design is complemented by miniature details that tell the story of the people shown. For example, the 5 pound banknote depicts the Queen and Churchill. From his side we can see an extremely detailed sketch of Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. If you look even more closely, you will see that the clock stopped at 15:00. This is no accident. On May 13, 1940, at approximately 3:00 p.m., Winston Churchill appeared before the House of Commons and uttered the famous line: “I can offer you nothing but blood, labor, tears and sweat.” Another important symbol can be seen on the banknote – the emblem of the Nobel Prize, which Churchill received in 1953.
The design of the US dollar focuses on US political history. The $ 1 banknote is the oldest compared to the rest of this currency. The front depicts the face of the first US President George Washington. The sketch is based on his original portrait painted by Galbert Stewart. The words “In God We Trust” are written on the back. On the left is a pyramid with the Latin inscription “Annuit Coeptis”, which translates as “He approves of our deeds”. Below it is written “Novus ordo seclorum”, which means “New Order of the Ages” and emphasizes the importance of the country’s independence from Britain in 1776.
On the right side of the banknote is the US state seal with the well-known bald eagle. He holds an olive branch, symbolizing both war and peace, as well as a bundle of 13 arrows, which represent the original 13 colonies.
The Japanese yen is a truly aesthetically pleasing currency. The 1,000-yen banknote depicts Hideyo Noguchi, Japan’s most prominent bacteriologist, who discovered the syphilis agent. On its back is shown Mount Fuji – one of the biggest attractions in the country. This is the highest peak in Japan, reaching 3,776 m. Another emblematic symbol of the banknote is the Japanese cherry, called secura. The plant symbolizes the bliss and transience of life and is located just below Mount Fuji. Other yen banknotes depict animals such as mice, horses and lions. It is these artistic elements that have made the Japanese yen the most difficult to counterfeit in the world.
In 2005, Switzerland began to change the design of its currency. Previously, for centuries, only celebrities were shown on Swiss banknotes. All this changed in 2019, when a series was released that ran away from tradition. For example, the 20 franc banknote depicts a hand. It is a symbol of the Swiss people and can be interpreted as a sign that all people in the country work together for a common goal. The hand holds a transparent prism that reflects light, which is the main motif. The other banknotes in the series, designed by Manuela Pfrunder, embody many of the key features associated with Switzerland, such as growth and scientific discovery.
The Bulgarian lev became the official currency of the country shortly after the Liberation – on June 4, 1880. The first Bulgarian banknote was printed in 1885 in St. Petersburg and today can be seen in the Historical Museum in Gabrovo.
It is a curious fact that in 1952 a BGN 3 banknote was put into circulation, which existed until 1962.
The first ruler depicted on the Bulgarian currency while still alive was Tsar Boris III. After his death, his son Simeon, who was still a child at the time, appeared on the banknotes.
Another interesting fact is that the current BGN 50 (on the photo) tells a love story. The banknote shows the face of the poet Pencho Slaveykov, and on its back you can see the silhouette of his greatest love – the beautiful Mara Belcheva.