Collection Inspiration: Admirals

Posted on 7/18/2023

Notes have often honored high-ranking military officials, and this month we're saluting ones that feature admirals.

Within the American military, an admiral is one of the highest ranks of the US Navy. Dating back to the mid-1800s, Navy captains were the highest rank, but there was a need for officers who ranked equal to Army generals. Therefore, the position of admiral was created, with Admiral David G. Farragut being named the first of his rank in 1866. Since the rank's implementation, there have been 275 four-star admirals in US Naval history.

However, for hundreds of years, various countries have utilized the rank of admiral for their own military designations. Today, admiral is almost exclusively used to describe the highest-ranking naval officer among most of the world's navies. In fact, many of these high-ranking military officials have been honored for their service by being featured on their country's banknotes. This month, we're looking at 10 examples of banknotes from around the world that feature admirals.

Ten Notes Featuring Admirals


A Brazilian military hero, Joaquim Marques Lisboa, Marquis of Tamandaré was an admiral of the Imperial Navy of Brazil in the mid-19th century. Tamandaré is considered the patron of Brazil's Navy, with his December 13 birthday used as the country's national Sailor Day since 1925. The admiral participated in numerous wars dating back to the Brazilian War of Independence in the 1820s. For his heroics, Tamandaré was honored in various ways in his life and after he passed away in 1897. In the 1950s, his legacy continued, as his portrait was featured on the Brazil, Tesouro Nacional ND (1954-1958) 1 Cruzeiro note.

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In 1713, under the Treaty of Utrecht, Gibraltar was ceded to Great Britain. Ever since, the British Overseas Territory has been an important base for the Royal Navy due to its control of the Strait of Gibraltar, especially during the Napoleonic Wars and World War II. The Royal Navy has a long and storied history, and Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronte played a prominent role in several major British victories during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

For his contributions, multiple monuments have been created in the admiral's name, including Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London, and the Nelson Monument in Edinburgh. He was also honored with his portrait featured on the Gibraltar / British Administration 1995 £20 note, which also features the late Queen Elizabeth II.

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Guernsey is a British crown dependency in the Channel Islands. While the island is not part of the United Kingdom or a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, it is heavily influenced by Great Britain and uses the Pound sterling as currency.

James Saumarez, 1st Baron de Saumarez was an admiral of the British Royal Navy in the late 1700s and early 1800s. He is most well-known for his victory at the Second Battle of Algeciras during the French Revolutionary Wars. For his contributions, Saumarez was honored when his portrait was featured on the Guernsey / British Administration ND (1991-95) £20 note.

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Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter was an admiral in the Dutch Navy in the 1600s and was the commander of the Dutch fleet during the Second Anglo-Dutch War. De Ruyter is known as one of the most revered naval commanders in history, is considered one of the founders of the Netherlands Marine Corps and is a Dutch folk hero to this day.

In honor of his military achievements, the Royal Netherlands Navy has named numerous vessels after the admiral and his flagship. In addition, an artistic rendering of De Ruyter's portrait is featured on the Netherlands, Nederlandsche Bank 1970 100 Gulden note.

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Peter Jansen Wessel Tordenskiold was a nobleman from Norway who spent his short-lived career in the Royal Dano-Norwegian Navy. Rising to the rank of vice-admiral, Tordenskiold is most well-known for his exploits in the Great Northern War of the early 1700s. Due to his courage at sea, he quickly rose up the ranks and is considered one of the most famous naval officers in the history of both Norway and Denmark. The vice-admiral died in a duel in 1720 at the age of 30, but his legacy lives on, and he was honored as one of two portraits (his on the right) that are featured on the Norway, Norges Bank 1901-16 10 Kroner note.

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Miguel María Grau Seminario is an esteemed Peruvian naval officer who is known as a military hero from the War of the Pacific in the late 1800s. Nicknamed el Caballero de los Mares, which is Spanish for "Gentleman of the Seas," the admiral was characterized by his honorable treatment of his defeated enemies. As a legendary officer of the Peruvian Navy, Admiral Grau is one of the most famous naval commanders of the Americas. Just over a century after his death, the admiral was commemorated on the Peru, Banco Central de Reserva 1988 5,000 Intis note.

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Carlos Viegas Gago Coutinho, commonly known as Gago Coutinho, was a man of many interests in his lifetime, which spanned from 1869 to 1959. Gago Coutinho was a Portuguese geographer, cartographer, historian, aviator and naval officer. He served as a vice-admiral of Portugal's Navy for more than 35 years and was named admiral in 1958 at 89 years old.

The admiral was also an aviation pioneer, as he and Sacadura Cabral were the first pilots to cross the South Atlantic Ocean by plane in June 1922, flying from Lisbon, Portugal to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A century after the historic flight, in June 2022, officials revealed that Faro Airport would be renamed to Gago Coutinho Airport. Further, the admiral was honored when his portrait was featured on the Portugal, Banco de Portugal 1978 20 Escudos note.

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South Korea

Admiral Yi Sun-sin was a Korean military officer in the 16th century who was an integral figure of the Imjin War during the Joseon Dynasty. In his naval career, he won over 20 recorded battles at sea against Japanese forces. His victories came while he and his men were often outnumbered and under-supplied, leading to Yi becoming widely regarded as an iconic naval officer. The admiral is a national hero in Korea, and has been celebrated with several awards, landmarks and towns named after him. Multiple documentaries and movies are based on his military heroics as well. Further, Yi was honored with his portrait being featured on the South Korea, Bank of Korea ND (1973) 500 Won note.

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Álvaro de Bazán y Guzmán, 1st Marquis of Santa Cruz was a Spanish admiral who had an almost 50-year career at sea without ever being defeated. He took part in numerous important battles in the mid- to late 1500s and is a legendary naval officer in Spain. So much so that multiple Spanish Navy ships are named after him, and he was mentioned in the famous epic novel Don Quixote written by Miguel de Cervantes. The admiral's portrait also graces the Spain, Banco de España 1953 1 Peseta note.

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United States

David Glasgow Farragut was a high-ranking naval officer during the American Civil War and was the first-ever admiral in the US Navy. At only 11 years old, Farragut served in the War of 1812 and took over command of the USS Ferret at only 22 years old. Prior to the Civil War, he also participated in anti-piracy operations in the Caribbean Sea and took part in the Mexican-American War. Farragut is well-known for his order of "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" from the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. The decorated admiral has been honored in numerous ways for his service to the Navy, including Farragut Square in Washington, D.C. and four US Navy destroyers. Among other honors, Farragut was also memorialized on the 1890 $100 Treasury Note. He is one of only 53 individuals to ever be featured on US banknotes.

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If these banknotes featuring Admirals inspired you, check out our other Collection Inspiration columns for more collecting ideas. Also, be sure to follow PMG on Facebook, on Instagram and on Twitter for other articles and interesting notes posted daily.

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