Collection Inspiration: Education

Posted on 9/20/2022

We can learn a lot from these banknotes that showcase schools and celebrate education.

Since the beginning of humankind, learning has been the key to survival. The skills and knowledge that are acquired have helped civilizations advance throughout the ages. In most parts of the world, school is in session and, by now, most classes are in full swing with eager minds ready to absorb information.

With education being essential, nations have honored institutions, such as prestigious universities, on their banknotes. This month, we will explore different educational facilities that appear on banknotes worldwide.

School of Athens

Education was important in the ancient world, whether learning a trade, being trained for the military or for philosophical pursuits. Probably the most famous school during the ancient era was the School of Athens. Education in the ancient Greek city combined intellectual pursuits and physical exercise. The back of the Italy 1997 500,000 Lire features a representation of a fresco titled The School of Athens, which the legendary artist Raphael created over 500 years ago for the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

Italy, Banca d'Italia 1997 500,000 Lire graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

University of Lisbon

The University of Lisbon has a long history, beginning between 1288 and 1290. It is represented by a vintage scene of a classroom on the back of the Portugal 1965 1,000 Escudos. In 2013, the modern incarnation of the university results from the merger of two schools: the University of Lisbon, established in 1911, and the Technical University of Lisbon, founded in 1930. Today, it is the largest university in Portugal.

Portugal, Banco de Portugal 1965 1,000 Escudos graded PMG 40 Extremely Fine
Click images to enlarge.

University of Glasgow

Founded in 1451 by Pope Nicholas V at the suggestion of King James II, the University of Glasgow is the second oldest institution in Scotland and the fourth oldest in the English-speaking world. Several famous alumni passed through the halls of higher learning, including Lord Kelvin, shown on the front of this Scotland note. Not only was Lord Kelvin a graduate, but for 53 years he was a professor of natural philosophy at the university. He is well known for the formulation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

Scotland, Clydesdale Bank PLC 1991 £100 graded PMG 58 Choice About Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

University of Valencia

One of the oldest surviving institutions in Spain is the University of Valencia, founded in 1499. Many notable graduates came from this alma mater, including the “father of modern psychology”: Juan Luis Vives. The school and the scholar are prominently displayed on the nation’s 1946 1,000 Pesetas note.

Spain, Banco de España 1946 (ND 1948) 1,000 Pesetas graded PMG 55 About Uncirculated
Click images to enlarge.

University of San Carlos of Guatemala

The University of San Carlos of Guatemala is the nation’s largest and oldest educational institution. Founded in 1562 by Bishop Francisco Marroquin, the school was originally known as Saint Thomas Aquinas High School. Over a century later, in 1676, the school became a university under Royal Decree of King Charles II of Spain. It is the third Royal college established in Spanish America.

Guatemala, Banco de Guatemala 2007 100 Quetzales graded PMG 55 About Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

University of Guanajuato

The University of Guanajuato can trace its history back to 1732, when the institution was called the Hospice of the Holy Trinity. The school became a university in 1827, upon the signing of the first constitutional government in Mexico. Today, the university offers 153 programs and has schools in 14 cities throughout the state of Guanajuato.

Mexico, Banco de Mexico 2006 1,000 Pesos graded PMG 68 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

Queen’s University of Belfast

Founded in 1810 as the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, the school was superseded by a charter in 1845 to establish Queen’s College. In 1908, the college received university status, with a goal to encourage higher education. Today, the school in Northern Ireland offers about 300 degree programs and is organized into 15 schools and serves about 25,000 students.

Northern Ireland, Bank of Ireland 2000 £5 graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

University of Athens

The University of Athens is the oldest institution in modern Greece, founded by King Otto in 1837. The front of the edifice is displayed on the back of the Greece, ND (1945) 500 Drachmai banknote. Many notable people have graduated from this alma mater, including 15 prime ministers, three presidents and two Nobel Prize laureates.

Greece, Bank of Greece ND (1945) 500 Drachmai graded PMG 63 Choice Uncirculated
Click images to enlarge.

National Autonomous University of Honduras

The National Autonomous University of Honduras is the highest-ranked school in that Central American nation. Founded in 1847 by Dr. Jose Trinidad Reyes, the university was grown to offer 140 programs serving about 100,000 students. The university is shown on the back of the nation’s 1956 50 Lempiras banknote, with the founder seen on the front.

Honduras, Banco Central 1956 50 Lempiras graded PMG 65 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

Looking toward the future

Learning a skill, mastering a trade or embarking on a career is one the most important parts of a person’s life. Regardless of age, education can give a person the tools to carve out their destiny. The girl with books on the Ghana 1982 2 Cedis banknote appears to look at a future with hope as she continues to learn and grow through education.

Ghana, Bank of Ghana 1982 2 Cedis graded PMG 64 Choice Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

If these banknotes inspire you to start a new collection, 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.

Stay Informed

Want news like this delivered to your inbox once a month? Subscribe to the free PMG eNewsletter today!


You've been subscribed to the PMG eNewsletter.

Unable to subscribe to our eNewsletter. Please try again later.

Articles List