Collection Inspiration: Modern Airplanes

Posted on 12/20/2022

These banknotes from around the world show how far aviation has come since the first flight at the dawn of the 20th century.

On December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers took to the skies on the Wright Flyer and recorded the first flight at 12 seconds long. Today, modern aircraft have evolved into a multi-hour means of transportation for people, cargo and more. For the paper money collector and aviation enthusiast, this list of banknotes is the perfect way to start a collection based on modern airplanes.

Lisunov Li-2 Passenger Airplane

The Lusunov Li-2 was originally produced in the Soviet Union starting in 1939, where it was used by the Soviet Air Force as a passenger and cargo plane. Forty-one of these Li-2 aircraft were imported to China in the 1940s as the country established its air force, where it was used for military and civilian tasks. The last Li-2 in China was retired in the 1980s. Two of these planes are displayed at the Chinese Aviation Museum and the Civil Aviation Museum — both located in Beijing — and one is depicted on the front of this China / People’s Republic 1953 2 Fen.

China / People's Republic 1953 2 Fen graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

F-100 Super Sabre Fighter Jet

In the 1950s, the United States Air Force implemented its third formal flying aerobatic team — the USAF Air Demonstration Squad. Nicknamed the “Thunderbirds,” the squadron is responsible for performing aerobatic formation and solo flying in air shows across the nation.

The note here — a Military Payment Certificate, Series 681 $1 — features four F-100 Super Sabre fighter jets on the back, flying across the sky in classic Thunderbirds formation. The team began using F-100’s in 1956, giving it supersonic flight capability and the addition of a sonic boom to airshows.

Military Payment Certificate Series 681 $1 First Printing graded PMG 64 Choice Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

Air Gabon Aircraft

The back of this Gabon 1978-84 1,000 Francs features a modern passenger airplane soaring over a bridge and railway. Air Gabon operated as Gabon’s national flag carrier airline from 1968 to its bankruptcy in 2006. The airline was responsible for long-distance and international travel focused on western and southern Africa.

Gabon, Banque des Etats de l'Afrique Centrale 1978-84 1,000 Francs graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

Passenger Airplane — A Symbolic Reminder of Eons of Infrastructure

Modern airplanes — and modern means of transportation as a whole — serve as a reminder of how far we’ve come in recent centuries. This Central African Republic 1980 5,000 Francs illustrates it brilliantly. The back of the note shows an older man looking over a landscape filled with modern transportation, including a train, airplane and a tractor. The plane provides an excellent symbolization of modern transportation.

Central African Republic 1980 5,000 Francs graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

The Concorde

Fans of supersonic jets will recognize this pioneer of supersonic flight immediately. The Concorde, featured on the back of this Singapore ND (1989) 20 Dollars Collectors Series Specimen, was the first supersonic passenger plane, serving routes across Great Britain, France and the United States. One of the 14 production aircraft built was used by Singapore Airlines in the 1970s and 1980s. The aircraft’s noise and operating expenses limited its use, and it was retired in 2003. One of the Concorde’s 14 working units lives at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City — one of the cities that it offered service to during its lifetime.

Singapore ND (1989) 20 Dollars Collector Series Specimen graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

Kamuzu International Airport: BAC One-Eleven

The Kamuzu International Airport, pictured on the back of this Malawi 1993 20 Kwacha, is the main airport serving Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. The airport had been open for a mere 15 years at the time of the printing of this note. Today, the Kamazu International Airport continues to be a main transport hub for Lilongwe and surrounding cities. The same can’t be said for the aircraft pictured on the note — a BAC One-Eleven passenger plane — which was retired in favor of aircraft like the Airbus A320.

Malawi, Reserve Bank 1993 20 Kwacha graded PMG 65 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

Soekarno-Hatta International Airport: Boeing 747

The Boeing 747 passenger airplane is a popular choice for air transport across the globe. The aircraft was introduced in 1970 and only recently completed production in 2022. Several banknotes feature it on their reverse, including this Indonesia 1995/1998 50,000 Rupiah.

What sets this note apart is the reverse’s beautiful depiction of the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, from which the Boeing 747 is taking off. The airport — named after Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta, the first president and vice-president of Indonesia, respectively — is the primary airport serving Jakarta on the island of Java in Indonesia.

Indonesia, Bank Indonesia 1995/1998 50,000 Rupiah graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

Malaysia Airlines Passenger Plane

This Malaysia (2004) 10 Ringgit is similar to the Central African Republic 5,000 Francs described earlier. The plane on the back, along with a train and boat, symbolizes the modern advances that transportation has taken in the 21st century. The plane’s tail bears the logo of Malaysia Airlines, the national airline of the Southeast Asia nation.

Malaysia, Bank Negara ND(2004) 10 Ringgit graded PMG 67Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

Macau International Airport

The stunning depiction of the Macau International Airport on the front and back of this Macau, China 2005 (ND 2006) 20 Patacas Replacement note is too good for any collector to pass up. The Macau International Airport opened in 1995 and is one of the busiest airports in Macau. It is a transportation hub for passengers all over China, serving the Mainland and much of Southeast Asia. The note’s front shows the runway and airport center, while the back offers a view of the Banco Nacional Ultramarino building in Macau.

Macau, China 2005 (ND 2006) 20 Patacas Replacement graded PMG 70 Gem Uncirculated EPQ ★
Click images to enlarge.

Hong Kong International Airport

Rounding out our list is a Hong Kong, China 2007 500 Dollars note, which proudly displays Hong Kong International Airport on its back. Hong Kong International Airport is located on the island of Chek Lap Kok, home to one of Hong Kong’s business and entertainment hubs.

Hong Kong, China 2007 500 Dollars Replacement / Star graded PMG 68 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

If these modern airplanes and airports inspired you, check out this Collection Inspiration article featuring vintage airplanes, or our other Collection Inspiration columns for more collecting ideas. Also, be sure to follow PMG on Facebook, PMG on Instagram and PMG on Twitter for articles and interesting notes posted daily.

Stay Informed

Get the latest PMG news delivered straight to your inbox.


You've been subscribed to the PMG eNewsletter.

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

Articles List