It’s Time for Change

The 1928 $1.00 United States Note was the first US small size currency.
US paper money has changed little since then.

Shortly after his inauguration, President Biden announced that the US government would re-start the process of replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20.00 bill with Harriet Tubman. The announcement re-kindled a debate as to whether the change was appropriate. I am not going to re-hash the arguments here.

My position is that I do not really care (within reason) what images grace the money of the United States. I do, however, feel that US paper money is in dire need of an overhaul. The images are stale and have not really been changed in almost 100 years. (I do not count the recent changes as being significant).

The Series 611 $10.00 US Military Payment Certificate is one of the most attractive notes made by the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The note was largely unseen by Americans as it was only used in Vietnam.

A nation’s currency should be a reflection of the nation itself. It should showcase the country’s history, culture, geography, arts, sciences, etc. One of the unfortunate effects of the introduction in the euro or the adoption of the US dollar in Ecuador is that paper money no longer serves as a mirror for the values of the countries in which it is used.

To advance my position, I am going to show examples of images of notes from other countries to illustrate what US paper money could look like.

Philippines 100 Piso

The current Philippine 100 piso note has a myriad of images on its face. While the predominant feature is a portrait of former president Manuel Roxas, the background images include the facade of the Central Bank of the Philippines and a street scene from Manila from celebration of Philippine independence on July 4, 1946.

The back of the note is dominated by a landscape showing the Mount Mayon volcano. Also depicted is whale shark leaping from the water.

Sweden 100 Kronor

The Swedish central bank, the Riksbank, recently changed the designs of their notes. While the 1000 kronor note depicts a government official, former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammerskjold. the depictions on the other notes are all associated with the arts and include authors, musicians and motion pictures.

The central image on the face of the 100 kronor note is actress Greta Garbo. (Ingmar Bergman is on the 200 kronor note.) The back of the 100 kronor note shows a view of the city of Stockholm. It was chosen because Garbo was from Stockholm.

Comoros 1000 Francs

The Comoros are an island nation in the Indian Ocean lying northwest of Madagascar and east of Mozambique and Tanzania. The 1000 franc notes depicts a fisherman in an outrigger on the face. On the back is an image of a coelacanth.

The coelacanth is a lobe finned fish that is only found in the Indian Ocean. It was thought to have been extinct for 65 million years based on fossils found in the 19th century. It was re-discovered in 1938 when one turned up in the catch of a fisherman in South Africa.

Rwanda 500 Francs

In 2019, the National Bank of Rwanda issued a new 500 franc note. The previous note depicted diary cows on the face. (Holsteins, in fact). The new image on the face is the Muregeya suspension bridge. The bridge was completed in 2015 and links two sides of the Muregeya River giving the inhabitants of the neighboring districts greater access to markets and resources.

The back of the note depicts Rwandan schoolchildren working on XO laptops. The government of Rwanda invested heavily in the XO computer beginning in 2008 with a goal of providing a laptop for every child in the country. The country recently changed to a different provider, Positivo, which has opened a factory in the country.

Brazil 10000 Cruzeiros

In 1991 the Central Bank of Brazil introduced a 10,000 cruzeiro note. The country was in the grips of rapid inflation. The cruzeiro was introduced in 1990 and was replaced in 1993.

The face of the 10,000 cruzeiros note depicts Brazilian scientist, Vital Brazil. Brazil was world-renowned for his development of antidotes for snake venom. In addition to the portrait of Brazil, the face of the note has an image of a snake being milked for its venom. A security feature on the note is a face to back registration of an image of the head of a snake with the venom glands highlighted.

Herpetology continues on the back of the note with a depiction of a snake devouring another.

These are just a few examples of how other countries highlight their history and culture on their banknotes. Surely, the United States can do better.

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