Collection Inspiration: Primates

Posted on 8/17/2021

Sometimes, banknote collecting is monkey business.

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 notes featuring primates, big and small.

Primates are some of the world’s most lovable and inquisitive creatures. It is a large, diverse family that includes lemurs, galagos, lorisids, apes and monkeys. There are about 300 species of primates worldwide, including the ones immortalized on these notes.

Deep in the rainforests of sub-Saharan Africa lives the largest members of the primate family, the majestic gorillas. Depending on the species, a full-standing male averages 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs about 340 pounds. A troop has between 5 to 30 gorillas and is led by a silverback male, which is displayed on this Rwanda note.

Rwanda, Banki Nkuru 2014 5,000 Francs graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Unc EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

In the heart of the Indonesia and Malaysia rainforests live the orangutans, one of which is featured on this Indonesian note. An intelligent species, these primates create and use tools to extract termites from nests and retrieve honey from hives. They are critically endangered because of poaching, habitat destruction and illegal pet trading; however, several conservation centers are dedicated to the orangutans’ rescue, rehabilitation and reintroduction.

Indonesia, Bank Indonesia 1992/1996 500 Rupiah Replacement/Star
graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

The brown spider monkey makes its home in the forests of Colombia and Venezuela and is known for its long appendages, including the tail, which acts like a fifth limb. They spend their life in the trees only to descend to drink water or eat soil, which provides nutrients. This 2018 Venezuela 100 Bolivares captures the arboreal living of this monkey.

Venezuela 2018 100 Bolivares Replacement/Star graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ★
Click images to enlarge.

The only free-living primate in Europe is the barbary macaque on this Gibraltar note. A population of 230 lives in Gibraltar, while an estimated 12,000 to 21,000 macaques are found to the south, in Algeria and Morocco. Since 2008, this primate has been on the endangered list due to poaching and habitat loss from logging.

Gibraltar/British Administration 1995 50 Pounds graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

Featured on this colorful note is the intelligent Panamanian white-faced capuchin, one of the most recognized monkeys in the entertainment industry. Capuchins are famous from “organ grinder” street performances and, more recently, as entertainers on TV show and films, such as “Jack the Monkey” from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

Costa Rica, Banco Central 2009 5,000 Colones graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Unc EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

The Mona monkey lives in forests between Ghana and Cameroon and has been introduced to the islands of Grenada and Saint Thomas and Prince, as seen on the latter’s 2016 100 Dobras banknote. About 35 monkeys live in a group, and their diet consists of fruit, insects and leaves.

Saint Thomas & Prince, Banco Central 2016 100 Dobras
graded PMG 65 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

Endemic to Sri Lanka, the purple-faced langur lives in closed canopy forests. They are located in the southwestern part of the country and are endangered because of human encroachment. There are four recognized subspecies, which exhibit different characteristics such as cranial and fur markings.

Sri Lanka, Central Bank of Ceylon 1979 20 Rupees graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

All wild lemurs, including the ruffed lemur, reside in the forests of Madagascar. Threatened by habitat loss and hunting, the ruffed lemurs are critically endangered; however, there are several organizations dedicated to the conservation of these primates.

Madagascar, Banky Foiben'i 2004 1,000 Ariary graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

The golden lion tamarin in Brazil is recognized by its bright reddish-orange fur, with tufts framing its face that look like a lion's mane. Because of poaching, pet trading and deforestation, these creatures are endangered, with about 3,200 individuals reduced to living in three small areas in the rainforests.

Brazil, Banco Central ND (2002) 20 Reais graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

The Philippine tarsier is endemic to the forests of the Philippines and is one of the smallest primates in the family. These creatures average between 3.35 to 6.30 inches and weigh only around 2.8 to 5.6 ounces. Because their eyes are fixed to their skull, they have an adaptation in their neck that allows tarsiers to swivel their head 180 degrees. This adorable little primate takes center stage on the back of this Philippines 200 Piso.

Philippines 2010-15 200 Piso Replacement/Star graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Unc EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

To complete the ensemble of primate note collecting, Macau’s Year of the Monkey 10 Patacas celebrates primates worldwide. Although there are variations to the story, legend has it that the Jade Emperor decreed the years of the calendar would be determined by the results of a great race. The monkey, rooster and goat worked together to cross the river and were awarded spots in the zodiac, with the monkey in ninth place.

Macau, China 2016 10 Patacas "Year of the Monkey Commemorative"
graded PMG 68 Superb Gem Unc EPQ
Click images to enlarge.

If you’re an animal lover and want to explore more fun ways to collect wildlife on banknotes, check out the Collection Inspiration columns on oxen and lions. Or discover more interesting ways to collect below.

Related Links:

Discuss on the PMG Chat Boards

Stay Informed

Want news like this delivered to your inbox once a month? Subscribe to the free PMG eNewsletter today!


You've been subscribed to the PMG eNewsletter.

Unable to subscribe to our eNewsletter. Please try again later.

Articles List