The face of a currency can say a lot about a nation. It can tell stories about the country’s past, whether factual or myth, the principles and values it holds dear, and even what it dreams for the future. With so much to say, the design of a nation’s money can be a challenging enterprise, especially when taking into consideration security and anti-forgery measures. With 180 currencies currently in circulation across the world, there are certainly a lot of designs out there as well. Still, while many fall into the same mould, differing only very slightly in appearance, there are some truly original and creative ones out there. In this post, we will be discussing the five currency designs that we feel to be the coolest and most creative.
1. Kazakhstani tenge
Located at number 5 on our list, the Kazakhstani tenge certainly stands out from many other currencies. This is particularly true with the 2006 series of bills, which introduced a new design. All denominations contain, on the obverse side of the bill, a depiction of the flag of Kazakhstan, the Astana Bayterek Monument, the Coat of Arms, the handprint of the president Nursultan Nazarbayev with his signature, and excerpts from the national anthem.
The reverse side of the bill is unique to each denomination, with a depiction of a unique building and the Kazakhstani landscape within the outline of the country’s borders. This outline is a very interesting touch; the effect it has being like a window, offering a glance through at the country’s history, art, culture and geography. It is largely for this reverse side that we have selected the tenge as one of the coolest designs for our list.
2. Ugandan Shilling
The Ugandan shilling was first issued in its current design back in 2010. Featuring improved security features, the new shilling notes depict Uganda’s rich history, culture and nature in a much more harmonized manner. All denominations of bills portray the Ugandan map, the Independence Monument, a profile of a man in traditional Karimojong headdress, as well as Ugandan mat patterns and basketry. But each denomination also features tableaux of the Ugandan landscape and the diverse indigenous flora and fauna. Still unconvinced? Let the image above do the rest of the talking.
3. Shell Money
While perhaps not an official national currency, shell money has been re-inducted as legal tender on several islands in Papua New Guinea. The most notable example is on East New Britain, where it can be exchanged for the national kina. Known as tabu by the Tolai people, the currency consists of many cowry shells that have been worked and stitched into long lengths of cane known as fathoms (one fathom is equal approximately to the distance from the nose to the outstretched hand). Traditionally, as the process for making them was difficult and production never surpassed what was needed, the value of this shell coinage was maintained fairly satisfactorily.
The process for re-legalizing the currency by the Papua New Guinean government was initiated in 1998. While there have been some challenges in standardizing the use of tabu, the motivation behind the move is admirable: enabling people with no modern currency to purchase products using their traditional money. Noting the effort and creativity that go into the design, and the beautiful end product of the shell wheel, shell money takes the number three spot on our list.
4. Aruban florin
The Aruban florin is our choice for the second coolest design on this list. For starters, the coins play with both the conventional circle and a more unique square with rounded edges. But not only that, like you’ll find on the British pound, the 1, 2 1/2 and 5 florin coins also bear writing around the edge with the inscription ‘God Zij Met Ons’, or ‘God Be With Us’.
Even more appealing than the coins are the florin bills. Reissued in 1990 with a new design by the Aruban artist Evelino Fingal, they are incredibly colourful. Fingal’s design was inspired by his own time as director of the Archaeological Museum. While the obverse side of each denomination of bill depicts local fauna unique to the island, the reverse contains patterns found on pre-Columbian pieces of pottery.
5. Norwegian krone
Reissued in 2017 with the aim of staying abreast of the most recent developments in security and anti-counterfeiting measures, the design for Norway’s new banknotes is certainly not unpleasant to look at either. For the first time in history, Norges Bank will not feature portraits on its banknotes. Instead, each of the new notes will reflect a common theme that has played a prominent role in the Norwegian history, culture, and economy from prehistory to the present day: the sea.
Traditional, iconic features on the obverse side of the notes, such as the Gokstad ship, are now to be counterbalanced by a very modern, pixelated pattern on the reverse, built up around a grid system based on the Beaufort wind force scale. One look at the image above should convince you our selection of the krone at number one is merited!
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