Collection Inspiration: Space

Posted on 7/19/2022

Mankind's fascination and study of what lies beyond planet Earth are illustrated on banknotes from around the world.

This summer, five planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) and the moon lined up in the sky, a rare occurrence commonly known as a planet parade. And July 20 is the anniversary of an achievement like no other: the manned moon landing in 1969. So, this seems like an excellent opportunity to turn our gaze upward.

Space. The outer realm surrounding our terrestrial home is a source of curiosity and dreams of exploration. Centuries of astronomers' discoveries have led humankind to take the logical next step: space travel. Nations have paid tribute on their banknotes to the pioneers and achievements that have allowed humanity to reach for the stars.


Julio Garavito Armero (1865-1920) was a prodigy of math and science who became the director of the National Astronomical Observatory in 1892. Through his studies of celestial mechanics, Armero investigated the relationship between the moon’s fluctuations and Earth’s weather. His legacy lives on with a lunar crater named after him, as seen on the nation’s 1998 20,000 Pesos.

Colombia, Banco de la Republica 1998 20,000 Pesos graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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The Renaissance was an age of scientific enlightenment that changed the world. For centuries, people believed that the sun and other planets revolved around the earth. Nicolaus Copernicus’ (1473-1543) observations challenged traditional beliefs with his heliocentric model, which showed the sun as the central heavenly body, with Earth and the other planets orbiting it. Copernicus wrote about this theory in a book called De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, which wasn’t published until after his death.

Poland, National Bank 1975 1,000 Zlotych graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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Known as the “father of modern physics,” Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) is credited with influencing modern observational astronomy and the scientific method. He also developed a refracting telescope that had up to 30x magnification. With his telescope, Galilei discovered Jupiter’s three largest moons and observed Saturn, Neptune and the Milky Way. While monitoring Venus, he noticed that the planet had phases, which proved the heliocentric theory. Galilei clashed with critics over the idea, and the controversy led him to be put under house arrest until he died.

Italy, Banca d'Italia 1973 2,000 Lire graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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Mathematician and physicist Jurij Vega (1754-1802) spent most of his military career as a mathematics professor at the Artillery School in Vienna. He is famous for publishing the Thesaurus Logarithmorum Completus (a mathematical table) and breaking the record (at that time) for successfully calculating pi to 126 decimal places. A moon’s crater was named after him for his contributions, and he is prominently featured on the nation’s 1992 50 Tolarjev banknote. The back of the notes shows planets.

Slovenia, Bank Slovenije 1992 50 Tolarjev graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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Norwegian Kristian Birkeland (1867-1917) journeyed to the Arctic Circle to study the Aurora Borealis in 1908. While there, he observed that when the aurora appeared, the needles from his magnetic measurement tool would change directions. He theorized that the rays emitted from the sun entered the Earth’s magnetic field, creating currents that cause the polar lights to appear. Critics dismissed his ideas but in 1967, a satellite was launched that proved Birkeland’s theory. Today, these currents are named after him in his honor.

Norway, Norges Bank 2013 200 Kroner graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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China’s 2015 100 Yuan Commemorative banknote is a tribute to the nation’s aerospace engineering, with illustrations of their achievements. The front shows Shenzhou 9, the first crewed spacecraft to dock at the Tiangong-1 space station. Next to it is Chang’e 1, a lunar-orbiting spacecraft, which was part of the first phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. Also shown is the nation’s first space satellite Dong Fang Hong 1. The satellite’s objective was to take readings of the atmosphere and ionosphere. The back of the commemorative note displays a pictorial timeline of aerospace achievements.

China 2015 100 Yuan Aerospace Commemorative graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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One of the most ambitious aerospace projects is the International Space Station (ISS). Several nations have manufactured components for the orbiting research facility. Canada sent two robotic arms to help with different functions. The Canadarm2 is the largest arm on the ISS and is used to assist in docking spacecraft and maneuver another robotic arm. Canadarm2 is shown on the back of the Canada 2013 $5.

Canada, Bank of Canada 2013 $5 graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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The Mars Orbiter Mission, also known as Mangalyaan, set many records when it was successfully launched in 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation. It was the nation’s first interplanetary mission; it was the first Asian nation to reach Martian orbit; and it was the first nation in the world to have a successful mission on its maiden attempt. Since entering orbit seven years ago, the spacecraft has explored Mars’ surface and measured the atmosphere.

India, Reserve Bank 2016 2,000 Rupees graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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In far eastern Russia, the Vostochny Cosmodrome is a spaceport that is still under construction. The back of the nation’s 2017 2,000 Rubles depicts the spaceport’s first successful launch of a rocket in 2015. Progress on the spaceport has been slowed by corruption.

Russian Federation, Bank of Russia 2017 2,000 Rubles graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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Always pointed toward the heavens is the Sentosa Satellite Earth Station. Built in 1971, Singapore’s first satellite earth station is located at Sentosa Island, south of the main island. Stations like this one communicate with spacecraft or satellites orbiting Earth by sending and receiving radio waves. Without Earth stations, discoveries of what lies beyond the atmosphere would be impossible.

Singapore, Board of Commission of Currency ND (1987) 1 Dollar graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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If you enjoy collecting banknotes that are out of this world, check out other Collection Inspiration columns for more collecting ideas. Be sure to follow PMG on Facebook, PMG on Instagram and PMG on Twitter for articles and interesting notes posted daily.

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