The History of Gambian Banknotes

Posted on 10/15/2019

The latest series of Gambian notes contains a blend of old and new imagery dating back to the first series of notes.

You would be forgiven if, while looking over a map of Africa, your eyes missed The Gambia. With an area only slightly over 4,000 miles and a population of only 1.8 million, it is continental Africa’s smallest nation. It lies nestled on the western edge of Africa, surrounded on three sides by its neighbor Senegal, with only its western coast peeking out onto the Atlantic Ocean.

The Gambia first adopted paper currency in 1916, with the introduction of shillings and pounds under the West African Currency Board. Identical to the notes being used across much of West Africa at the time, these notes would remain in circulation for nearly 50 years, whereupon in 1965, The Gambian Currency Board would be established. Under this new system, the Gambian Pound and Shilling would be introduced. While this series of notes had a relatively short run – lasting only 6 years – it marks the turning point where The Gambia began to distinguish itself from much of its neighboring West African States in its decision to use this unique currency type.

The notes themselves are very standard for the time, with only 3 denominations – 10 shillings, 1 pound, and 5 pounds – being printed. The obverse design on all three is that of a sailboat, with a watermark area adjacent at right. On the reverse are various scenes of Gambians at work, be it harvesting in the fields, unloading cargo at a dock, or processing crops. These designs – in particular the sailboat – would be used in several other series of notes, with only minimal design changes.

Gambia, Currency Board, Pick# 2a, ND (1965-70), £1, front.
PMG 58 Choice About Uncirculated EPQ
Click image to enlarge.

Gambia, Currency Board, Pick# 2a, ND (1965-70), £1, back.
PMG 58 Choice About Uncirculated EPQ
Click image to enlarge.

In 1971, The Gambia would make a strong divergence away from much of Africa, opting to create their own currency rather than use the colonial-era systems of pounds or francs. This system, created by the newly established Central Bank of The Gambia, would introduce the uniquely named Butut and Dalasi to the economy. These currencies – whose names derive from "dollar" and the Wolof word "butuut," or small thing – are still in use to this day, with the most recent series being introduced throughout July and August of 2019.

Gambia, Central Bank, Pick# 6a, ND (1972-86), 10 Dalasis, front.
PMG 65 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click image to enlarge.

Gambia, Central Bank, Pick# 6a, ND (1972-86), 10 Dalasis, back.
PMG 65 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click image to enlarge.

These newer notes distinctly lack the smiling visage of the former president and dictator of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh – or, as his more eloquent full title would introduce him, President Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh. Having gained control of the country in a bloodless coup in 1996, Jammeh was finally ousted during The Gambia’s first democratic elections in 2017.

The 2019 series of notes are a wonderful blend of old and new, simultaneously using aspects from the first series of notes, as well as adding a pleasant amount of variety through the numerous birds dotting the face of each of the notes. The 100 Dalasi note is a great example of this, bearing the African Crested Crane on its face – a brand new addition to Gambian currency – as well as having the iconic image of men fishing on its back, originally having been used on the back of the first printing of the 10 Dalasi note from 1971. Others, like the 2019 10 Dalasi note – with its never-before-seen Kunta Kinteh Ferry back – alludes to a new age of Gambian banknotes, one hopefully in line with its bright and democratic future.

Gambia, Central Bank, Pick Unlisted, 2019, 100 Dalasis, front
PMG Gem Uncirculated 66 EPQ
Click image to enlarge.

Gambia, Central Bank, Pick Unlisted, 2019, 100 Dalasis, back
PMG Gem Uncirculated 66 EPQ
Click image to enlarge.

Gambia, Central Bank, Pick Unlisted, 2019, 10 Dalasis, front
PMG Gem Uncirculated 66 EPQ
Click image to enlarge.

Gambia, Central Bank, Pick Unlisted, 2019, 10 Dalasis, back
PMG Gem Uncirculated 66 EPQ
Click image to enlarge.


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