Collection Inspiration: Tombs

Posted on 10/17/2023

With Halloween right around the corner, we're visiting famous tombs that are featured on notes from around the world.

It's that time of year for all things spooky and haunted, as Halloween quickly approaches later this month. Trick-or-treaters are gearing up for another fun candy-filled night. Pumpkins are carved, creepy decorations cover front yards and kids and adults alike are planning what costume to wear for the holiday.

While there isn't official Halloween-themed paper money in circulation, that doesn't mean there aren't any spooky images on banknotes. Here, we conjure the dead from their places of rest — or unrest — with 10 examples of banknotes from around the world that feature tombs.

Ten Notes Featuring Tombs


The first tomb on our list is located in Afghanistan and is the most historically important monument in the city of Kandahar. The Tomb of Ahmad Shah Durrani was built for the founder of the Afghan Empire. Ahmad Shah Durrani, known as the father of Afghanistan, ruled his empire from within Kandahar from 1747 to 1772. Upon his death in 1772, he was buried in the center of the city, where this large, intricate tomb was erected. The monument is memorialized on the Afghanistan/Republic, Afghanistan Bank ND (2004) 1,000 Afghanis note.

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In 1926, the construction of a tomb dedicated to the first provisional president of the Republic of China began. Sun Yat-sen is considered an instrumental figure in overthrowing the Qing dynasty during the 1911 Revolution. After he passed away in 1925 due to cancer, a committee held a design competition for a planned mausoleum to be located at the foot of the second peak of Purple Mountain in Nanjing, China. Two decades later, an image of the tomb of Sun Yat-sen would be featured on the China, Central Reserve Bank of China 1944 200 Yuan note.

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Arguably the most famous tombs in the world, there are at least 118 structures that are considered Egyptian pyramids, which were mostly built as tombs for pharaohs and their consorts. The most well-known of the bunch is found outside of Cairo at Giza. Known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Great Pyramid was constructed between 2600 BC and 2500 BC. The pyramids continue to be among the most mysterious structures ever built, as experts still search for answers as to how the massive tombs were erected. In the early 1900s, an image of one of the pyramids is seen in the background on the Egypt, National Bank 1913-20 5 Pounds note.

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We travel to Paris, France, now to visit another world-famous tomb that was originally intended to be a church: the Panthéon. Built between 1758 and 1790, King Louis XV ordered the structure to be built for the patroness saint of Paris, Saint Genevieve. However, before construction was completed, the French Revolution began, and in 1791, the National Constituent Assembly voted to turn the structure into a mausoleum for distinguished French citizens' remains. Based on the Pantheon in Rome, Italy, an image of the mausoleum is featured on the France, Banque de France 1959 5 Nouveaux Francs on 500 Francs note.

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One of the oldest tombs on the list dates all the way back to the 6th century B.C. The Tomb of Cyrus contains the remains of Cyrus the Great (or Cyrus II of Persia), who was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Located in Pasargadae, which was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire, the mausoleum is thought to be the oldest base-isolated structure in the world and is one of the most important cultural heritage sites in Iran. In fact, on October 29, the seventh day of Aban is celebrated as Cyrus the Great Day as Iranians gather at the famous tomb for the unofficial holiday. The mausoleum is featured on the back of the Iran, Bank Melli ND (1938) / AH1317 500 Rials note.

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The Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi dates back to its commission in 1389. Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur ruled over parts of modern-day Iran, Afghanistan and other parts of Central Asia. During his reign over the Timurid Empire, he ordered this tomb built to replace a smaller mausoleum that was dedicated to a famous Turkic poet, Khoja Ahmed Yasawi. Construction came to a halt in 1405 following Timur's death. However, the unfinished tomb is still one of the most well-preserved ancient monuments in Kazakhstan. The tomb is prominently featured on the back side of the Kazakhstan, National Bank 2004 100 Tenge note.

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The Curtea de Argeș Cathedral is a large and intricately built structure that was built in the late 19th century in Romania. Dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God, which is a Great Feast of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, the cathedral contains numerous Romanian kings and queens' remains. The structure adorns the back of the Romania, Banca Nationala 2017 1 Leu note.

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As the largest Gothic church in the world, the Seville Cathedral in Spain was registered by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site in 1987. Taking more than 100 years to build, work began on the church in 1402 and was completed in 1519. At the time of its completion, it became the largest cathedral in the world; previously, the Hagia Sophia had held that distinction for centuries. The church's royal chapel contains tombs that hold the remains of several integral figures in Seville history. They include the city's conqueror, Ferdinand III of Castile, King Peter the Cruel and, most notably, Christopher Columbus and his son Diego. An image of the cathedral is featured in blue at the bottom of the front of the Spain, Banco de Espana 1928 1,000 Pesetas note.

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Located in Lahore, Punjab, the Tomb of Allama Iqbal (or Mazar-e-Iqbal) is the final resting place of the national poet of Pakistan. Built after the poet's death in 1938, the mausoleum is adjacent to the walls of the iconic Mughal-era Badshahi Mosque, which is within the gardens of Hazuri Bagh. The structure is designed in the Mughal architectural style and features a rectangular mausoleum that includes a tombstone that was gifted from the people of Afghanistan. The famous tomb is seen on the Pakistan, Government of Pakistan ND(1983) 1 Rupee note.

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Standing in the center of old Caracas, Venezuela, and flanked by an 18th-century military fortress and the country's National Pantheon sits the newest tomb on our list: the Simón Bolívar Mausoleum. The tomb was built as a resting place for Bolívar's remains after former president Hugo Chávez had them exhumed in 2010 to help determine the cause of death of the legendary Venezuelan military and political leader. The modern arched structure opened in 2013 and cost $130 million to erect. As one of the most famous figures in Latin American history, Bolívar is considered Latin America's equivalent of George Washington. The historical figure and his tomb are both prominently featured on the Venezuela, Banco Central 2019 50,000 Bolívares note.

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If these banknotes featuring tombs 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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