April 29, 2002
3:54 AM   Subscribe

Paper money in many countries is really beautiful and often employs great use of typography and color. The designs are sometimes used to showcase an indigenous resource, to pay homage to a cultural icon or national leader, or occasionally as a political weapon. Anyone looking for currency scans on the web usually ends up at Ron Wise's site - thousands of quality, free for the download scans from every country in the world (I have not verified this), including a 1991 500 Afghanis note from Afghanistan, which portrays the national sport of Butskashi (polo played with a goat carcass). Like the proverbial cake that's too pretty to eat, some of this currency seems almost too beautiful to spend.

There's also some speculation that as a deterrent to counterfeiting, American currency just might be getting some color.
posted by iconomy (28 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Two more links to smaller sites that have even more colorful scans.
posted by iconomy at 3:57 AM on April 29, 2002

I'd heard that Yankee bills might go technicolor.
Sounds good to me. Pretty drab right now.
posted by dong_resin at 4:00 AM on April 29, 2002

How much eye color or beautiful grayscale shadings between the fingerprint ridges are they willing to put into our paper money?
posted by crasspastor at 4:05 AM on April 29, 2002

posted by monkeyJuice at 4:52 AM on April 29, 2002

Lileks also has some good currency scans on his site Curious Lucre. Mostly foreign currency that he makes fun of.
posted by luser at 5:20 AM on April 29, 2002

Oh, please let American currency go from plain grey-green to coloured. In Australia the banknotes not only differ in colour but also size and texture to make it easier for the sight-impaired. Many have derided it as "plastic Monopoly money", but I love it. Even moreso now that, for me, everything is all grey-green and wrinkly as far as banknote currency goes.

(Here you can see the images of Australian banknotes - not as vibrant as they are in real life, but it's a reasonable scan. There's also information about who's on the notes and why.)
posted by sammy at 6:12 AM on April 29, 2002

I think that adding colour to American bills is a great idea. I love the fact that Canadian currancy is multi-coloured. It allows you to quickly check how much money is in your wallet.

Which, I will grant, is not a really important reason for adding colour but it always bugged me that when in the states, you'd look in your wallet and it would be filled with green and then you'd realize that you actually only had $7.
posted by machine at 6:17 AM on April 29, 2002

Wow, I'm surprised that I'm the first to notice this... but inkjet printers don't just print out only green and black. There has to be some sort of different reason for this. I've been under the impression that with the addition of security strips, the actual paper that official United States money is printed on, microprinting, watermarks, etc. that inkjet fakes had been rendered obsolete. The new 100 dollar bill was supposed to be impossible to counterfeit. I heard that it had been counterfeited, but I can't even imagine the technical sophistication involved to do so, and I doubt different colors will do jack squat as far as protection. Personally, colored money is about as popular with me as the Sacagawea dollar.
posted by banished at 6:24 AM on April 29, 2002

From a tourist's point of view, I found I had to triple check every time I paid with American bills, as without close inspection they appeared to be the same to me.

When the polymer notes first came into circulation in Australia, most people thought it looked like monopoly money, but we got used to them very quickly. I don't know that they actually are more hygenic, but they certainly look and feel much cleaner than the old paper notes we had before. They are also supposed to be virtually counterfeit-proof
posted by Tarrama at 6:44 AM on April 29, 2002

That Australian money is going to look so dated in a few years. It's like 1999-era website design. What, no drop shadows?
posted by rodii at 6:50 AM on April 29, 2002

That Australian money is going to look so dated in a few years
rodii, that won't matter much. If our currency continues to be worth so little, we will have resorted to the barter system by then!
posted by Tarrama at 6:59 AM on April 29, 2002

Well, that's some consolation then.
posted by rodii at 7:07 AM on April 29, 2002

This bill from Romania is pretty interesting.

I picked a couple up in a Sarajevo cafe in the Summer of 2000. You can't tell from the scan, but the smallest concentric ring in the center of the solar system is transparent, and the two maroon "circular saw" shapes are completely reflective.

Nice link, btw...
posted by syzygy at 7:33 AM on April 29, 2002

Re the Australian note: I have a few of the old paper notes, with the 1966 designs, now *they* look dated.
The best part about polymer notes, of course, is that they don't turn to mush if you leave them in your jeans when you put them in the wash. Rock!
posted by GrahamVM at 7:34 AM on April 29, 2002

I seriously think I may become a numismatist. Look at this beaut I just found - it's a 1993 50 franc note from France - the front depicts Antoine de Saint-Exupery and there's a little sketch of The Little Prince on the front and on the back. It's so charming and indulgent and lauds a cultural icon. I want this!

syzygy - thanks ;)
posted by iconomy at 7:50 AM on April 29, 2002

U.S. currency used to be quite attractive. Same with our coins.

I blame the decline on the "dead President" problem. Once all the coins and bills got their own dead President, the design practically couldn't be changed, because to do so might be seen as disrespectful of the person on the bill or coin (yes, I know Alexander Hamilton - on the $10 bill - wasn't a president). As a result, the designs of U.S. currency ceased to change, and stagnated into the blah stuff we are stuck with today.
posted by yhbc at 8:17 AM on April 29, 2002

Nor was Franklin a president, on the $100.

Also, every bill except the $1 is changing or has been changed recently, so I don't think it's right to say they've stagnated, though of course the bills do have a consistent character to them.

Eh, I guess there's room to call it stagnation, but it's not a slam dunk either. I think Americans like the familiarity of the designs. Maybe it helps foster a sense of continuity in a young nation.
posted by NortonDC at 8:29 AM on April 29, 2002

more gorgeous close-ups at mandolux (uses frames, path is /desktops/money). mostly east asian. I've been using "Japan - Lapel K" as my background for at least 6 months.
posted by Dean King at 8:36 AM on April 29, 2002

Is there any money in the world that's uglier than American money? That monotone theme of near-identical bills is not only boring and ugly, but confusing.

The Aussie plastic money is about the ultimate in cool.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:21 AM on April 29, 2002

American money is not, nor has been in any recent times, monotone.
posted by NortonDC at 10:33 AM on April 29, 2002

I'm surprised I'm the first to defend our monotonous greenbacks. I kind of like that our money is so distinctive. I like the pound coins out of brit money, and i think in general our coins suck, but the dollars I like in green. Of course it isn't a big deal either way, but just wanted to stand up for the other side :)
posted by mdn at 10:45 AM on April 29, 2002

I love the fact that Canadian currancy is multi-coloured. It allows you to quickly check how much money is in your wallet.

Well, yes, if you can remember which denomination is which color. That seems rather arbitrary to me. Easier to just look at the numbers; those at least have meaning.

Is there any money in the world that's uglier than American money?

It doesn't have to look good when it's as valuable as it is, in comparison to other currency. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and most people find dollars very pretty indeed.
posted by kindall at 11:07 AM on April 29, 2002

Oh, kindall, don't be silly: the colours haven't changed in eons. It doesn't take more than a couple days to get used to blue fives and green twenties.

What I don't like about Canadian money these days is that ones and twos are freakin' coins. Big, heavy coins. I *hate* coinage.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:16 PM on April 29, 2002

I side somewhat with kindall on this one. The dollar doesn't need to be pretty - it's serious, functional, pragmatic. It's too important to be bothered with such niceties as color and aesthetics - it's role begins and ends with "this note is legal tender for all debts, public and private."

This is not to say that I don't like the new dollars with the bigger portraits etc, or would automatically be opposed to those Aussie polymer notes. Technology can march on, but I quite like the clean design and subdued colors of American currency.
posted by jaek at 2:01 PM on April 29, 2002

I thought the color was part of the functional pragmatism, at least for the wallet-at-a-glance issue. You can parse colors with far more ease than you can read numbers. Aesthetics aside, I think it makes for a better "user interface" for currency.
posted by youhas at 2:12 PM on April 29, 2002

well, now I know what someone from Kyrgyzstan looks like.
posted by delmoi at 3:22 PM on April 29, 2002

Well, the problem with ink-jet counter fitting is that you can print off some p-notes and then go spend 'em at wallmart, the cleark wouldn't give a shit.

But colored backgrounds?! GAG ME WITH A SPOON. I like our money the way it is. Maybe a nice colored tab or something on the side or top, but why would then need to change all the paper? I mean, how hard would it be to buy paper of the right color for your ink-jet? Would the FBI keep track of everyone who purcaced paper of the right color now? WTF?!

If you ask me, they should just put some kind of RFID on the money. Just take a stack of bills, and put em in a box and have it automaticaly counted :)

Btw, american money is pretty much waterproof and wont disolve in the wash any more then your pants will.
posted by delmoi at 3:33 PM on April 29, 2002

Color is debatable, but I dislike different sized notes. It was a pain to get out of a cab in Beijing, open my wallet, and dig around for the smaller bills because the 100 yuan Great Leaders of China bill just about obscured anything else.

Though there is something funny about the PRC 1 cent note... looks like a raffle ticket -- even beggars would throw it away.
posted by linux at 4:49 PM on April 29, 2002

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