Sunday, January 31, 2010

Funny Money: Unusual and Fascinating Currency

Link - article by Simon Rose and Avi Abrams

Graphical Marvels, Forged Notes, Hyperinflation "Riches" and Propaganda Bed Sheets

"Paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value - zero." (Voltaire, 1694-1778)

World's historical bank notes often provide the clearest and unique view on country's political and design sensibilities. For example, old Russian Empire bank notes were pretty elaborate and some of the largest in size:

(1912 Russian empire banknote with Czar Peter the Great)

German crisis money around 1921 "Serienscheine" (series notes) are especially fascinating from a graphical viewpoint - see more here:

(images via)

Imaginary (thank God!) Bank of Cthulhu:

(image via)

Polish bank notes with Frédéric Chopin - an epitomy of culture:

(image via)

A humble squirrel is featured on bank notes from Belarus:

The world’s oldest known banknote

The earliest recorded use of paper money is in China around 800 AD, although the Chinese abandoned paper money in the mid fifteenth century. This Chinese Kuan note is the world’s oldest known banknote, from around 1380.

(left: the Kuan note; right: painting from this period, by Ni Zan - images via 1, 2)

European paper money as we would recognize it today seems to have its origins in the seventeenth century. In 1633, English goldsmith certificates were being used as receipts for customers to reclaim deposits, and also as evidence of someone’s ability to pay. By 1660, these receipts were recognized as a convenient alternative to handling coins or bullion, a forerunner perhaps of the banknote in England.

The Bank of Sweden was founded in 1656, granting loans and mortgages, issuing bills of credit and taking deposits. In 1661, it was the first chartered bank in Europe to issues notes. This hundred Daler note was issued in 1666:

(image via)

In the UK, the Bank of England has been issuing banknotes since 1694, but didn’t have a legal monopoly until 1921. Decimal currency was introduced in the UK on February 15, 1971. The fifty pence coin, one of the first new ones issued, is very familiar to the people of Britain since its introduction almost four decades ago, but still seems odd to the outsider with its heptagonal shape (below, left).

(images via 1, 2)

The British public, however, had seen a multi-sided coin before. The threepenny bit was introduced in the mid-thirties, although a threepenny coin had been minted in silver since 1547. The twelve-sided version would remain in circulation until 1970 (above, middle). However, the new decimal system wasn’t without its oddities. The half penny coin enjoyed a surprisingly long and increasingly pointless existence, before it was withdrawn from the monetary system in 1984 (above, right).

Scotland has a number of distinct institutions, quite separate to England and Wales, and this includes currency. Scottish banknotes are recognized as currency in Scotland and usually in other parts of the UK, but may be refused by people in stores who are unfamiliar with such notes. However, they are of the same value as English notes and financial institutions will accept them without question:

Banknotes issued by Northern Ireland banks have similar status to Scottish ones and can technically be used anywhere in the UK. However, they are rarely seen outside Northern Ireland and are thus equally rarely accepted in England and Wales, although once again, financial institutions will readily take them. This limited edition banknote from 2006 commemorates the soccer legend George Best:


The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are somewhat confusingly possessions of the British Crown, but not part of the UK. Consequently, although they have currency unions with London, they each issue their own banknotes. However, unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, these notes cannot be used in the UK.

This Isle of Man banknote displays the island’s famous three-legged symbol:

These examples are from the islands of Jersey and Guernsey, located off the northern coast of France:

(images via)

The Channel Islands were the only British territory to be occupied by Germany during World War Two. These are pictures of currency used during the German Occupation. The top ones were used by the people of Guernsey, while the lower one shows the military currency used by German army:

Also from World War Two, here is this great example of forged currency. Operation Bernhard was the German plan to destabilize the British economy by printing phoney banknotes in various denominations. In 1943, 500,000 notes were produced, which were planned to be parachuted over Britain. The Allies retrieved most the notes at the end of the war, but forgeries still occasionally appeared for several years after 1945:

Remnants of a once mighty empire, there are fourteen British Overseas Territories which all issue their own currencies, including Gibraltar, Saint Helena and the Falkland Islands, none of which are legal in the UK or outside the territories of origin (below, left):

(images via)

In 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne of England and was never actually crowned. As a result, coins bearing his head are collectors items. In the 1930’s, the British Empire spanned the globe and here’s a sovereign minted for the new king in Canada (above, right)

Also from North America, no article on currency would be complete without some mention of banknotes issues by the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Here are two examples of Confederate twenty dollar bills from 1861 and 1864:

(images via)

There was of course another independent country in the southern part of what is now the United States a few decades earlier. Here’s some money issued by the Republic of Texas in the 1830’s:

(image via)

Although the shape of the British three penny and fifty pence coins may seem somewhat odd to non-UK residents, how about these coins minted in Zambia in honour of the 2000 Sydney Olympics? -

(image via)

Also in Africa, the economic troubles of Zimbabwe in recent years have been reflected in the currency, such as this ten million dollar banknote from 2008:

However, it has been exceed by far with this one (click to enlarge):

(image via)

Zimbabwe is not the first country to experience such hyperinflation, of course. After the First World War, Germany endured a severe economic crisis. In 1914, the highest denomination German note was for 1000 Mark, which was worth approximately 238 US dollars or 50 British pounds. In early 1922, the government issued 10,000 Mark notes, but by February 1923, Germans were using banknotes in denominations of 100,000 and 1 million Marks. Notes reached 50 million in July, 10 billion in September and 100 trillion when hyperinflation peaked in October 1923.

Just to give you an idea of what this meant for the average German, on November 1 1923, you could buy a loaf of bread for a measly three billion or truly splash out and get three pounds of meat for 100 billion. By November 15, 100 billion would get you two glasses of beer, not really enough to make you forget your troubles, while that loaf would now cost you 80 billion.

When it was all over, these huge banknotes were worth around 5 pounds or 24 US dollars. On November 15, the government introduced a new currency, one unit of which was worth a trillion of the old Marks. Prices eventually stabilized, but most of the population had nevertheless seen their wealth vanish.

5 Million Mark Note issued in Dresden on August 21, 1923:

Ten million:

50 million:

100 million:

500 million:

100 trillion, Nov. 3 1923 - see this site for more:

(image via 1, 2, 3, 4)

Later in the interwar period Germany got a new government who’s head actually resisted having his own head on the national currency. However, with victory seemingly within sight, Adolf Hitler decided that his head should indeed adorn the country’s money, after the anticipated final triumph. This design for a five reichsmark coin was struck in 1942, but never issued:

The following banknotes were created by the Nazis for the infamous concentration camp, at Theresienstadt in what is now the Czech republic. The camp served as a showpiece for the Nazis to demonstrate to the Red Cross and other agencies how Jewish prisoners were being well treated, took part in cultural events and had schools for their children. In reality, over 30,000 people died in Theresienstadt and almost 90,000 were sent from there to extermination camps further east. These 10 and 20 Kronen notes were part of the propaganda ploy presented to the Red Cross, but were simply papers with no value and never used:

Hitler’s fellow dictator, Josef Stalin, got his head on the 100 Kronen coin in Soviet occupied Czechoslovakia 1949:

In Asia, World War Two resulted in what turned out to be temporary occupation currency in a number of different countries. This ten military yen note 1941 was issued during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong:

(image via)

This one is from the Philippines occupation:

This 1944 100 Yuan banknote circulated in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, better known as Manchuria, in north west China:

And finally, also from Asia, probably the largest banknote in the world - 16cm(6.3in) by 16cm(6.3in) - issued in Thailand in 1987:

Bank note origami from a Japanese artist Hasegawa Yosuke - see his site for more:

(image credit: Hasegawa Yosuke)

For richer, or for poorer... collecting money is what most people do, or strive to do, anyway:


Simon Rose is the author of science fiction and fantasy novels for children, including The Alchemist's Portrait, The Sorcerer's Letterbox, The Clone Conspiracy, The Emerald Curse, The Heretic's Tomb and The Doomsday Mask.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Link Latte 126

#126 - Week of January 28, 2010

Very Tight Pass on a Mountain Road - [awesome video]
China's Instant Cities - [great article]
Boeing 777 in X-Ray Photography, pic - [fascinating]
Super-detailed Weather & Nature Models - [using everyday objects]
Temples of Knowledge: Spectacular Historical Libraries - [gallery]
This artist makes "fake" photographs of the WWI ships, example - [gallery]
P-Eco Concept Car Vibrates to Move - [cool tech]
Gorgeous Manuscript: The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, scans - [vintage]
The Deepest Hole Ever Drilled, more - [interesting]
Breathtaking Avatar-like Rock Formations, original - [wow nature]
The Round Fireplace - [neat interior design]
Neat Nintendo DS Case Mods - [geek art]
Internet Vices: Social Sites as... Drinks - [funny, some language]
Visualizing Greatest Design Quotes - [scroll down]
Mesmerizing and Beautiful 3D Architectural Film - [all-CG animation]
How the above movie was done... by one man - [cool video]
The Most Expensive Camera in the World - [put on auction]
Movie Made By Chimpanzees To Air On The BBC - [weird]
Romanian guy cleans the snow off his car... - [still cleaning...]
The First Piece of Electronic Music: 1955, info - [weird]
Long-forgotten Breakfast Cereal Boxes - [unique collection]
Strange & Sensational Scientific Discoveries - [cool info]
Really Hungry Cat - [wow video]
"Gimme Dat Thing" - this is going to stick to you for days - [neat dance video]
Hitler is upset about new iPad - [fun video, some language]
Mongol Soldiers Sing a Sweet Love Song - [sitting in the snow]
"The Great Race" Spectacular Pie Fight - [fun video]
One of the Best Car Chases: "Freebie & The Bean" 1974 - [wow video]
Best Online Flash Games - [promotion]
Compilation of Insect Macro-Photography - [nature]


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Smile! You're in Politics (Funny Pics, Part 4)

Link - by A. Abrams

If you're not having fun doing politics, then you chose the wrong kind of business

Politicians are often convinced that they need to take themselves seriously 100% of the time. However, such glum attitude often leads to sore miscalculations and bizarre ambitions like the Doomsday Machine (see Dr. Strangelove). The following pictures show that there is room for humour in the thick-and-thin of politics, up to the highest political level. The countries which these politicians represent should be proud of their leaders. Loosen up!

Politicians in Paroxisms of Thought and Deliberation

Prince Charles, in a happy mood:

(photo credit: Christopher Furlong, Getty Images)

Soviet Communist Party boss Leonid Brezhnev, relaxing at his dacha on the Black Sea:

Again Brezhnev "building bridges" with the Russian Orthodox Church:

His predecessor Nikita Khruschev with Jayne Mansfield "at the Summit" (?) -

In 1971, Soviet Premier Alexey Kosygin had to endure something that he did not bargain for:

Lenin lives! (and watches you, as per "1984")

A Lenin Pie? -

Speaking about Lenin and Bolsheviks:

Back to Bush

The most photogenic President in history:

(image credit: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(image credit: AP Photo/Paolo Cocco)

(image credit: AP Photo/Paolo Cocco)

(image credit: AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

The Obama Machine:

(art credit: Sam VanOlffen)

Would you vote for the guy in the middle? -

Here is another interesting morph: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev - into last Russian Tzar, Nikolas II:

Steampunk'd WW2 Leaders

Sam VanOlffen sends us his new series (click to enlarge):

(art credit: Sam VanOlffen)

History in the making, in Yalta, 1945 (must be a real ice-breaker):

(image via)

In the meantime, Russian spies employed quite radical methods in Berlin:

Putin, Medvedev & Co.

This is got to be Photoshop, otherwise it's pretty frightening:

Good chemistry:

Here is a rarely-seen photo: during Ronald Reagan's visit to Moscow in 1988, there is a man standing on the left, with cameras (pretending to be a tourist). This is Vladimir Putin, just doing his job at the time.

(photo credit: Matthew Continetti, image via)

At the end of the day - satisfied handshake:

(image credit: Reuters/Alexander Zemlyanichenko)

Serious business:

(image: AP, via)

"No!" says the propaganda poster, "Yes!" says Dmitry Medvedev:

Dmitry Medvedev in his younger years:

There are no politicians in this picture, but this is what much of the politics is about: GOLD!

(image via)

Politicians Fighting!

Always fun, if you get tired of endless meetings and congresses:

Don't miss this list of Top 10 Videos of Politicians Fighting - click here.

Political leaders in various note-worthy (but not always news-worthy) situations:

Temptation! -

Photoshopped tyrants:

Don't miss our previous issues of Funny Political Expressions: Part 3, Part 2, Part 1 and a bonus issue Presidents with Babies.


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