Collection Inspiration: Notes that Roar

Posted on 10/20/2020

Lions are found on vintage and modern banknotes from around the world.

Paper money collectors often focus on a particular nation or even a particular series. This column is designed to offer ideas for building a collection of notes from around the world based on a common element. This month, we look at lions on banknotes.

Lions' historical range once covered most of Africa. Today, they are a vulnerable species, and nations like South Africa have taken steps to protect them.

South Africa ND (2016) 50 Rand graded PMG 68 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ.
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Lions actually once lived as far north as southern Europe – though they are extinct there today. This Romania note uses lions in its heraldry on the back.

Romania 1947 100,000 Lei graded PMG 55 About Uncirculated.
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Lions are mentioned dozens of times in the Bible and have sparked the imagination since antiquity. The front of this Italian note features a winged lion, a symbol representing St. Mark, author of one of the four Gospels and the patron saint of Venice. (Today, the highest prize of the Venice Film Festival is called the Golden Lion.)

Italy 1980 100,000 Lire graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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The back of this Denmark note shows a lion from the architecture of Viborg Cathedral.

Denmark 1997 200 Kroner graded PMG 68 Super Gem Unc EPQ
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Christian realms didn’t have a monopoly on the use of lion imagery. The Lion and Sun design is a centuries-old symbol of Iran and was even part of its flag before 1980. It appears front and center on this vintage Iranian note.

Iran ND (1938) / AH 1317 500 Rials graded PMG 58 Choice About Unc EPQ
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The lion has also long been associated with the United Kingdom, whose coat of arms features the Lion and the Unicorn design. (The lion represents England, and the unicorn represents Scotland.) The Lion and the Unicorn sometimes appeared on currency used in the British Empire, including on the back of this 1936 Bahamas note.

Bahamas 1936 (ND 1963) 10/- Shillings graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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The breakup of the British Empire didn’t dim the appeal of lions in some of its former colonies. Even today, the notes of Hong Kong, China often feature lions.

Hong Kong, China 2010 500 Dollars graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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This South Carolina Colonial Note was issued at a time when the United States was fighting for its independence from the British. The theme of Hercules battling a lion represents the Revolutionary War. (In ancient Greek mythology, one of the tasks of the divine hero Hercules was to defeat a fearsome lion.)

South Carolina 1779 $90 Colonial Note graded PMG 63 Choice Uncirculated
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Other banknotes from the Western Hemisphere also feature lions. The front of this note from Paraguay incorporates its national emblem, a lion with a Phrygian cap.

Paraguay 1952 (ND 1963) 500 Guaranies graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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One of Africa’s apex predators, lions hunt by staying out of sight. So, it seems fitting to conclude with a Malaya note that has a hidden lion. (Look closely at the watermark!)

Malaya / British Administration 1941 (ND 1945) 5 Dollars graded PMG 65 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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PMG often features banknotes with lions on Saturdays in its Note of the Day feature through its social media accounts. To learn how to follow PMG there, go to

If you own a banknote with a lion on it, talk about it and share images of it with fellow collectors on the PMG Chat Boards by clicking on the button below.

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