Collection Inspiration: Unusual Denominations

Posted on 2/20/2024

February 2024 has an odd number of days, so let’s look at some banknotes with unusual denominations.

Countries sometimes issue currency in unusual denominations. This is done for various reasons, typically to ease foreign exchange rates or to call attention to an event the note is commemorating.

Currency today is denominated in a way that makes it easy for people to calculate transactions with the mathematical system they are used to: Base 10. A currency will typically come in units of 1, 5 and 10, with units of 20, 25, 50 and 100 also being commonplace. The unit of 2 is sometimes used, but it can be a tough sell, with the $2 note in the United States and the 2,000 Yen note in Japan generally being shunned in circulation.

But there are even stranger denominations. To commemorate this year’s Leap Year — with February having an odd 29 days — this month’s Collection Inspiration focuses on these quirky banknotes.

Eleven Notes with Unusual Denominations

Newfoundland, Government Cash Note 1905 80 Cents

Newfoundland is a small Canadian province on the Atlantic Ocean that was previously a British colony. To ease the burden of foreign exchange during a time of economic distress, Newfoundland revised its currency and, beginning in 1901, issued an 80 Cent note. The 80 Cent note is now a highly desirable collectible, with the example seen here selling for thousands of dollars.

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Turkey, Ministry of Finance ND (1916-17) 2.5 Livres

The Ottoman Empire belatedly entered World War I at the behest of their German allies. The empire, which at the time included Turkey and much of the Middle East, was lagging behind industrially and was deeply in debt after a previous war. Early in World War I, Ottoman currency got some support from German gold reserves, but inflation became rampant and coins scarce. This 2.5 Livres found a place in circulation between the 1 Livre and 5 Livre notes.

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China, Sinkiang Provincial Bank 1948 6,000,000 Yuan

Following Japan’s occupation of China in the late 1930s, Free China — the provinces not under Japan’s control — were under control of the Nationalist government. Heavy military expenditures by the government led to a period of such severe hyperinflation that prices rose over 100,000% from August 1948 to April 1949. To curb some of the inflation, the Chinese Nationalist government repossessed all gold, silver and foreign currency before issuing new currency at a rate of 1 unit of new currency to 3 million of old currency, resulting in massive denominations. This 6,000,000 Yuan note is the largest known denomination for any Chinese banknote. Its circulation lasted only one year before it was discontinued by the new government.

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Tonga, Government of Tonga 1966 4 Shillings

A country consisting of a collection of Pacific islands, Tonga has seen various currencies in its economy throughout history. When the islands became a protected state under Britain in 1900, the Tongan economy began to slowly transition to using traditional British currency. In 1921, £5 notes were introduced along with denominations of 4 Shillings, 10 Shillings and £1. These notes would continue to circulate until 1967, when the pound was replaced by the pa’anga.

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Viet Nam, State Bank 1981 (ND 1982) 30 Dong

The Vietnamese Dong was introduced in 1946 as a replacement for the French Indochinese Piastre. For a while, North Vietnam and South Vietnam had different denominations of dong, but this changed with the country’s unification in 1978. The dong was revalued, which led to a period of inflation that necessitated the introduction of new denominations. One of these denominations was the 30 Dong, introduced in 1981. It was withdrawn in 1985 because of inflation and economic uncertainty, which reduced its value.

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Thailand, Bank of Thailand ND (2006) 60 Baht

Unlike the previous banknotes, this Thailand 60 Baht wasn’t introduced to ease inflation or foreign exchange. Instead, the Government of Thailand issued the 60 Baht banknote to commemorate King Rama IX’s 60th birthday. Because it is a commemorative note, the 60 Baht wasn’t intended for circulation, but it is technically legal tender.

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Tajikistan, National Bank 2010 3 Somoni

The somoni replaced the rouble as the currency of Tajikistan in 2000. Various banknote denominations from 1 to 100 Somoni were printed in 2000. The 3 Somoni banknote followed in 2010 after inflationary pressure necessitated printing new denominations, including 200 and 500 Somoni notes.

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Bangladesh 2018 70 Taka

Bangladesh achieved independence from Pakistan in 1971. To fight the country’s rising poverty rates and gain control of the failing economy, Bangladesh partnered with several other countries to form the Developing Bangladesh initiative — a global effort to promote economic growth that has ultimately resulted in poverty within the country being cut in half. To commemorate the initiative’s success, the Bangladesh Bank released a commemorative 70 Taka note. The text on the back of the note includes the aspiration of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that “Bangladesh will be a developed country by 2041,” which is 70 years after its independence.

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Solomon Islands 2018 40 Dollars

The Solomon Islands gained their independence in 1978. In 2018, to celebrate 40 years of independence, the Central Bank of Solomon Islands released a commemorative 40 Dollars note (which roughly equals $4.74 US Dollars). The note features a portrait of the Solomon Islands’ national flag in the background with a montage of people in a canoe. The other side shows a person blowing into a conch, along with a map of the country in the bottom left.

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Poland, National Bank 2019 19 Zlotych

This 19 Zloty note was issued by the Polish Security Printing Works (Polska Wytwórnia Papierów Wartosciowych, or PWPW) in 2019 as part of Poland’s Independence Series of banknotes. The odd denomination is a nod to the year 1919, when the PWPW was created, and the note’s release in 2019 celebrates the bank’s 100th anniversary. Only 55,000 of these notes were issued by the bank, and they were never intended to circulate.

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Indonesia, Bank Indonesia 2020 75,000 Rupiah

In 1945, Japan gave up its control of Indonesia, which it had occupied for three years during World War II. Two days later, on August 17, Indonesia declared its independence from the Netherlands. To celebrate the country’s 75th anniversary of independence, the Bank of Indonesia issued a commemorative 75,000 Rupiah banknote in 2020. The front features Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta — the nation’s first president and vice president, respectively — while the back features children in traditional Indonesian clothing.

Click images to enlarge.

If these banknotes featuring unusual denominations 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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