Belgian Congo Banknotes

Posted on 6/18/2019

The Belgian Congo has a variety of banknotes that depict wildlife, nature and moments from everyday life.

The King of Belgium from 1865-1909, Leopold II, gained personal control of the Congo Free State in 1885 under the claim of humanitarian and philanthropic work, which was very far from the truth. The world realized that horrendous acts were occurring under Leopold’s rule and removed him from power in 1908. After becoming an official Belgian colony in 1908, some of the old troubling practices gradually disappeared.

Belgium soon established a local government and opened the Bank of the Belgian Congo. The bank issued its first notes in the 1910s and has depicted a stunning Africa throughout its operation. The first issues were redeemable only at the branch of issue. These branches were Boma, Elisabethville, Kinshasa, Matadi, and Stanleyville (though Boma never issued notes). In 1927, the government made all currency redeemable at any branch, adding “Payables a vue” to their notes, which means payable on sight in French.

The reverse of the 1949 50 Francs (below) shows the iconic African Leopard deep in a jungle, which more than likely is the Congolese Rainforest. The forest is home to many animals and spans across six countries. Many of the animals found in the forest are endangered in some way, and the African leopard is no exception as it’s listed as vulnerable.

Belgian Congo, Banque du Congo Belge, Pick# 16g, 1949, 50 Francs, back
PMG graded 50 About Uncirculated
Click image to enlarge.

The obverse of the 1952 20 Francs (below) depicts a pirogue being paddled down a river. This depiction shows a common sight of Congolese life, as the country is full of winding rivers. It has the second biggest river in Africa, the Congo River, which is second only to the Nile. The pirogue is usually made from a single log that is dug out. It is exceptionally efficient in travel as it can move farther than a canoe in one paddle. It is difficult to master as it is shallow and prone to tipping.

Belgian Congo, Banque Centrale, Pick# 23, 1952, 20 Francs, front
PMG graded 35 Choice Very Fine EPQ
Click image to enlarge.

The obverse of the 1937 10 Francs shows a market scene from the city of Usumbura, which has been known as Bujumbura since 1962 after Burundi gained its independence from Belgium. The city of Usumbura resided in the Ruanda-Urundi territory, which came under German rule in the late 1800s. Ruanda-Urundi then was incorporated into German East Africa. After being defeated in World War I, Germany was forced to give up its territorial claims in Africa. German East Africa was divided between Britain, Belgium and Portugal. Belgium was given Ruanda-Urundi.

Belgian Congo, Banque du Congo Belge, Pick# 9, 1937, 10 Francs, front
PMG graded 64 Choice Uncirculated EPQ
Click image to enlarge.

The reverse of the 1937 10 Francs shows antelope among the trees in a savanna. A savanna is a grassland ecosystem with sparse tree coverage and supports a wide range of animals. The antelope in Africa have nearly 100 species that can be found throughout the continent.

One of the trees shown on the note is the Umbrella Thorn Acacia, which is another common sight in Africa. The tree is normally found in savannas and has a wide range of uses with its sap, bark and roots. The sap can be formed into Gum Arabic, which is a food stabilizer. The bark is used in tanning animal hides and the roots of the tree can be used for medicine.

Belgian Congo, Banque du Congo Belge, Pick# 9, 1937, 10 Francs, back
PMG graded 64 Choice Uncirculated EPQ
Click image to enlarge.

Belgian Congo ceased to exist in 1960 and was formed into the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country struggled as Belgium left a void of stability; soon, civil war broke out, which was labeled “the Congo Crisis.” A number of coups lead the Democratic Republic to fall under the rule of Dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. The country’s name was changed to the Republic of Zaire and Mobutu officially ruled over the country from 1965 until 1997. The country returned to its original name of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997 but still experiences political unrest.

The notes shown are truly works of art with beautiful representation of Congolese life. PMG has graded less than a thousand notes from Belgian Congo but most of these can be bought for less than a thousand dollars. We have no registered sets in our registry for Belgian Congo; start today and you could be the first!


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