Collection Inspiration: Dragons

Posted on 1/23/2024

The Year of the Dragon is upon us, so we're celebrating the Chinese New Year with notes from around the world that feature images of the mythical creature.

The new year is here! And as we edge further into 2024, the Year of the Dragon arrives February 10. Also known as Loong, the dragon is the fifth representation of the 12-year cycle of animals that make up the Chinese zodiac. Based on the Chinese calendar, 12 animals and their traits are assigned, one to each year. The full list of animals, in order, is: the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

First appearing in the Warring States period around the 5th century B.C., the Chinese zodiac has been an important reflection of traditional Chinese culture and philosophy for centuries. While its origins may have started in China, the zodiac is popular in several neighboring countries in East and Southeast Asia. As the Year of the Dragon returns for the first time since 2012, we're celebrating with 10 examples of banknotes from around the world that feature dragons.

Ten Notes Featuring Dragons


In the early 1970s, Burma, the Southeast Asian country also known as Myanmar, released an attractive Union of Burma Bank ND (1972) 25 Kyats note with several overlapping designs and images. The front features a military portrait of General Aung San. The back shows arguably the most unique dragon on our list: a Pyinsarupa. The Pyinsarupa, also known as phaya luang, is a mythical creature from Burmese folklore, which is made of parts of an elephant, a bullock, a horse, a white carp and a dragon.

Click images to enlarge.


As the only note from the New World on the list, Canada has a subtle dragon on the Canada, Bank of Brantford 1859 $1 note. The front contains all of the imagery and, if you're not careful, you'd miss the small image of the dragon entirely. The three images on the front are: a young woman sitting with livestock at top center, a group of cows being herded through town at the bottom right and a depiction of Saint George and the Dragon at the bottom left. At the time, Canada was part of the British Empire, which used the Saint George and the Dragon motif on its Sovereign gold coinage.

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As expected, China's note does not disappoint when it comes to the imagery of the dragon. In 2000, during one of the 12-year cycles of the Year of the Dragon, the country released a commemorative 100 Yuan note. The colorful note's back shows an image of the China Millennium Monument. However, the prominent dragon on the front stands out. The design of the mythical creature was taken from the Nine-Dragon Wall at the Imperial Palace in Beijing.

Click images to enlarge.

French Indochina

From 1887 to 1954, a grouping of French colonial territories in mainland Southeast Asia were known as French Indochina. In the early 1900s, the Bank of Indochina issued the French Indo-China, Banque de I'Indo-Chine 1910-16 5 Piastres note, which included multiple images of dragons. The front features flowers in the lower center foreground and several ships in the background, but the scene is encircled by a unique border consisting of parts of a dragon. The back features more literal representations of a dragon, with a full-bodied dragon on the left and a dragon head on the right.

Click images to enlarge.


The Germany, Imperial Treasury Note 1904 5 Mark note has no lack of imagery on its blue-colored front and back. The front shows a large depiction of Germania, the personification of the German nation, alongside a young boy and a dove. To their right are symbols of shipping, mechanical engineering, trade and agriculture. The back features text stating "5 Mark" with a large dragon wrapped around it and guarding a treasure that sits just above the denomination.

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Great Britain

This subtly multi-colored note from the Bank of England is the second on our list to feature a rendering of Saint George and the Dragon. The front shows a helmeted bust of Britannia framed on the left and the scene of Saint George and the Dragon framed at the lower center of the note. The back features a huge image of a lion carrying a key and chain in its mouth.

Click images to enlarge.

Hong Kong

The Hong Kong, Standard Chartered Bank 1933 1,000 Dollars note is another colorful banknote with a prominent image of a dragon. The front features yellow and orange colors with a full-bodied dragon placed to the right. The back contains an image of a Standard Chartered Bank building on the left while a large Bauhinia flower, from what is commonly called the Hong Kong orchid tree, is highlighted in the center.

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Issued in the earliest years of the Meiji era, or the first half of the Empire of Japan that lasted from 1868 to 1912, this is one of the most intricate and attractive notes on the list. The Japan / Constitutional Monarchy ND (1872) 1 Yuan note features a common design of Meiji Tshu-Satsu, with facing Onagadori (a historic Japanese breed of chicken) at the top and two dragons facing each other at the bottom inked in black. The more colorful blue and red back features an intricate ornamental design. The vertical layout and design make for one of the most unique notes on the list as well.

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Officially known as the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (MSAR), Macau is a city and special administrative region of China. So, it's no surprise that they recognized the Chinese zodiac during 1988, which was the Year of the Dragon, with imagery of the mythical creature on their banknotes. The Macau, Banco Nacional Ultramarino 1988 1,000 Patacas note features a prominent reddish orange border on the front. The right side of the border extends into the center of the note, with an overlayed image of a dragon atop it. The back features a similar reddish orange border, but within it is a full view of Governador Nobre de Carvalho Bridge and the Macau skyline from Taipa.

Click images to enlarge.


In what is the most literal representation of the Year of the Dragon on our banknote list, Mongolia recently issued a commemorative note specifically honoring the Chinese lunar year of 2024. Issued by the Bank of Mongolia, the Mongolia 2024 100 Togrog commemorative note features a simple black outline of a dragon on the front's center and with text that reads "Year of the Dragon" in the upper left. The back features a muted gray Mongol Bank logo. Paper Money Guaranty® (PMG®) is celebrating notes like these with the PMG Year of the Dragon label, which is the newest addition to the popular Lunar Series of special labels that feature the Chinese zodiac. You can learn more about the special PMG labels here.

Click images to enlarge.

If these banknotes featuring dragons 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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