A Journey to the Azores

Posted on 7/23/2013

There have been some very cool banknotes that have made their way into PMG in recent months, and it is interesting to note that a lot of these banknotes aren’t being bought at major auction houses. It just goes to show you that there are still treasures to be found – you just have to look for them.

The banknote that I want to talk about is from the Azores which is located about 930 miles west of Lisbon, Portugal. There aren’t many banknotes to collect (but most are hard to acquire) as Pick lists 14 notes from its General Issue volume.

The Azores issued banknotes from 1885 until 1905 and they were in circulation until 1931. The Azores currency had a goodwill average discount of 25% compared to the Portuguese Escudo. The 10 Mil Reis Ouro note (P-11) has very stunning yet subtle browns and yellows. The Azores banknote was originally a Portuguese note (Portugal P-81) that was overprinted to create the 10 Mil Reis Ouro. A black overprint of the word Açôres (Azores in Portuguese) appears four times on the front and five times on the back. There are two different variations of how Açôres is shown: with and without bars surrounding the word. This banknote is the variety without bars. Pick does not break P-11 down into an ‘a’ or ‘b’ variety. The new, slightly different banknote is overprinted with what is translated to “payable to Azores agencies” in the middle of the banknote, as well as Moeda Insulana which is translated to currency insulana. Currency insulana was the currency for the islands near Portugal (Azores and Madeira).

On the left side we can see Luis de Camões sitting under a tree writing in a book. Luis de Camões was known as Portugal’s greatest poet and has been compared to many of the world renowned greats such as: Shakespeare, Homer, and Dante. I would like to think that de Camões is writing about the other vignettes that grace this note – the Mermaids found at the bottom center with their seducing glances for the nearby galleons and the racing chariot dominating the top right corner.

On the back of the banknote we see the same color scheme just as delicate as the front. The portrait found at the top left is of Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu who was known as “Henry the Navigator”. Infante Henry was responsible for many of the trades and exploration of early Portugal. However, the Azores was not one of them. Infante commissioned Gonçalo Velho Cabral in 1427 to “discover some land, west of Portugal and return with notice.” It was at this time that Carbral discovered the Azores. On the center of banknote we see two allegorical female heads in the underprint. These are gorgeous representations of the female form.

Lastly I’d like to point out the intricate scroll work that rides along the border of the banknote. The crest of Portugal anchors this design while large counters sit on both the left and right corners. The engraver chose to place a third counter in the top right corner and for balance within the banknote spelled out Dez Mil Reis instead of another 10.

As you can see this banknote has many wonderful characteristics that tell a story of imagination to discovery, and regardless of the grade it’s a beautiful example.

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