20 Weird Banknotes With Bizarre Backstories

Here is a list of twenty currencies which looks unusual and has got bizarre backstories behind them. Some are beautiful, some are weird.

1. Five Lirot, Einstein’s Banknote (Israel)


Did you know? In 1952, Albert Einstein was asked to be the President of Israel? The newly formed Jewish state wished to honour the outstanding physicist for his contributions to science. Though Einstein turned the offer down, the State of Israel released a 5-lirot note in 1968 with an illustration of the scientist.

2. Antarctican Dollar


Though these bills are not legal tender anywhere, they are very much valued as a collector’s’ item. Produced by the “Antarctica Overseas Exchange Office”, they are sold at a value equal to their face value in USD.

3. Burmese 1-Kyat Democracy Note

Untitled image

An inspiring symbol of resistance against oppression, this note was intended to be an homage for General Aung San a key leader of Myanmar’s independence. The unknown designer, however, introduced a watermark to the left of the general’s image bearing the likeness of his daughter Aung San Suu Kyi who was now the rallying point of resistance against Myanmar’s military Junta.

4. Oranienburg Concentration Camp’s 50-Pfennig Note

Untitled image(3)

Local notes for day to day use in concentration camps were issued during the Nazi regime. Horst-Willi Lippert, a graphic artist imprisoned in Oranienburg Concentration Camp was tasked to design them. He sketched a pair of grim looking guards with rifles slung over their shoulders and manning a barbed wire fence on the 50-pfennig plates. He edited the top of “g” in the word Konzentrationslager (“concentration camp”) subtly changing it to Konzentrationslayer (“concentration killer”). The change can be seen in the image above. The Nazis never caught on to this. He managed to survive the war and lived to tell this amazing tale.

5. The Quasi-Universal Intergalactic Denomination

Untitled image(4)

The Quasi Universal Intergalactic Denomination (QUID) was produced with the idea of developing a currency for future space travellers. They were created by England’s National Space Center and the University of Leicester for Travelex, a company dealing with foreign exchange. The balls represent the Sun, with the other 8 planets of our Solar System circling along the QUID’s rim. In 2007, 1 QUID was worth around $12.

6. Notgeld (Germany)


After WWI, it was common to issue emergency money, made of almost any material including wood, in Germany and Austria. There were many weird ones, but one of the most strange is this note of a donkey doing serious business.

7. Punched out Mobutu Banknotes (Zaire)


After toppling the tyrannical regime of Joseph Mobutu, the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire), found itself in a shortage of cash. They decided to make do with the old 20,000-Zaire notes by simply punching Mobutu’s face from the currency.

8. 100 Million Billion Pengo (Hungary)


Hungary’s currency, the Pengo suffered one of the worst cases of hyperinflation ever recorded. It became so bad that they had to issue currency notes with denominations going into millions of billions! In 1946, Hungary came out with the 100 Million Billion Pengo. Its worth? Just about 20 cents US cents.

9. World’s Oldest Banknote: 1380 (China)


One of the earliest ever recorded use of paper money was in China around 800 AD, though the format was discarded by the Chinese in mid 15th century. The above image is of the Chinese Kuan note, the oldest banknote known, from around 1380.

Also Read: What Currency Should I Take On My China Visit?

10. Five Pounds (George Best Note) – Northern Ireland

The £5 note features the Manchester United legend and Northern Ireland football star George Best. The goal of the note was to create a unique memorabilia for the footballing legend. Not many of these notes were printed and it remains as a favourite collectors item.

11. One Hundred Trillion Dollars – Zimbabwe


In 2009, the inflation rate for Zimbabwe was one of the worst ever in the world. It became so bad that a loaf of bread cost more than 300 billion Zimbabwean dollars! The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe tried to counter this situation by printing banknotes with face value in the millions and billions. The $100 trillion banknote above was released in January 2009. It’s worth around US$300.

12. Ten Thousand Tenge Note – Kazakhstan

58047_BImage Source : banknoteindex.com

This beautiful 10,000 tenge snow leopard note issued by Kazakhstan in 2003 depicts a snow leopard gracefully running against a background of mountains.

13. South African Rand

92212967_BBM1WF_Close_up_shot_of_some_southImage Source : www.telegraph.co.uk

The icons of a typical African Safari had a special moment in 2005 in the form of the South African Reserve Bank releasing a series of banknotes celebrating these animals.

14. Samoan Tala

20-samoan-tala-photo-u1Image source : rnkr-static.com

Samoa’s 20-tala currency note. Vivid colours, beautiful hues and a lovely Waterfall on the front. The national bird of Samoa, Manumea, and the national flower, Teuila are depicted in the back.

15. Bermudian Dollar

2-bermudan-dollar-photo-u1Image source : rnkr-static.com

A note of real beauty, Bermuda’s $2 note shows  a Bluebird in all it’s glory on the front and makes up the backside with an equally interesting picture of the statue of Neptune and the clock tower at Royal Naval Dockyard.

16. Maldives Rufiyaa

50-maldives-rufiyaa-photo-u1Image Source : rnkr-static.com

A bunch of coconuts which is very commonly found in the Maldives and also the “Dhivehi Odi” are represented in the front of the note. The “Dhivehi Odi” is constructed from coconut timber and is used for inter-island transport. The backside tells the story of a typical marketplace in Maldives.

17. Easter Island Rongo

500-easter-island-rongo-photo-u1Image Source : rnkr-static.com

This 500 rongo note perfectly embodies all that we find intriguing and fascinating about the Easter Islands like the giant moai statue carved some 600-800 years ago and the indigenous tribal population.

18. Dutch Guilder – Netherlands


The NLG 250 banknote also referred to as the lighthouse was issued in 1986. Its design was much liked by around 97% of the public and it remains one of the most popular dutch notes till date.

19. Canada’s $1,000 Devil’s Face Bill

Untitled image(2)Image Source : listverse.com

Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait was used for a new series of Canadian banknotes in the 1950’s. The image, however, featured a tiara on the queen’s head, and the Canadians preferred informal depictions. Artists retouched the negative to make the necessary corrections but this had an unexpected result. After circulation began, people began noticing that the image of something akin to a demon hovered just behind the queen’s ear. Artists were instructed to remove this oddity and the series was reissued in 1957.

20. Cook Islands, Dollar 20 banknote


A distinctive tribute to the Polynesian culture, this Cook Island 10-dollar bill features a topless woman riding a shark. Though Cook Islands primarily uses the New Zealand Dollar, this note was issued for local use and as a collectors item. This currency is only for local use and is not accepted by any other bank outside the Cook Islands.

Also Read: New Swiss Franc Currency To Celebrate Nature and Science


Scroll to Top