Hidden Messages in Banknotes:
Part II, Sex and Scum
Posted on 12/23/2014
In the final edition of the Hidden Messages series, I will examine two banknotes with hidden words. Regardless of their intent, the engravers have produced a stir in the collecting community, and have caused many a numismatist to examine their currency with eagle eyes.
The island nation of Seychelles used Queen Elizabeth’s likeness, as did other British colonies, but with the exception of having just one series with the Queen’s portrait. The series of notes were introduced in 1968, and comprised the 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Rupee notes. However, the 10 and 50 Rupee notes are of particular interest, as these notes contain words hidden in their design. Every banknote in the series featured the Queen, but each had its own unique design, making it difficult to pinpoint whether any mistakes made were intentional. The 50 Rupee note featured a cluster of palm trees next to the Queen’s portrait that, when examined closely, formed the word “SEX.”
According to one source, the banknote’s designers were not responsible for the word, as their design differed from the final printed design. Some speculate it was simply a printing anomaly, while others point the finger at engraver Brian Fox, who worked for Bradbury & Wilkinson when the company was responsible for the printing of Seychelles’ currency. Amazingly, the error went either unnoticed or unreported for seven years. The following year, 1976, Seychelles achieved its independence from Britain, although they were still governed by Sir James Mancham, a British citizen. The banknotes were updated with Mancham’s portrait, but no apology is known to have been made by the Seychelles government.
Another banknote in this series with a hidden word is the 10 Rupee note. On the reverse side, under the turtle, the word “SCUM” can be discerned in the coral. This note does not appear to be as well known as the “sex note,” but seeing as how Seychelles had multiple instances of hidden words in their banknotes; it seems to be less of a coincidence than first believed.
The 10 Rupee note is not worth as much as the 50 Rupee note, despite its limited release in 1968 and 1974, while the 50 Rupee note was released every year between 1968 and 1973, with the exception of 1971. Stack's Bowers notes that the 1969 issue is the scarcest, even though the 100 Rupee note is the rarest of the series, as it was the first of its denomination for the country. Regardless of intent, these hidden messages make collecting fun, not only because of the notoriety of these notes, but also because of their sense of danger. One can almost picture an engraver “gone rogue” as some have put it. So keep a close eye on your banknotes, and you just might spot a hidden word or image surreptitiously placed in the design.