Collection Inspiration: Notes that Roar
Posted on 10/20/2020
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.
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.
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.)
The back of this Denmark note shows a lion from the architecture of Viborg Cathedral.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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
Click image to enlarge.
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 PMGnotes.com/connect
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