My Banknote Collection First Volume Page 1

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At a casual glance, the collection may seem to lack even a slight approximation to unity. In starting the collection, I sought banknotes from times and places that struck a resonance with me. There was a species of unity, but not one necessarily discernable to others. Unlike most banknote collectors, I preferred notes which had clearly been used. Part of their romance for me was that they’d been employed to buy whatever people bought in Central Asia around the time of the Russian revolution, perhaps, or China amid the chaos of the early twentieth century.Resized 2
Themes that were clear to me, if to nobody else, became fudged when an American friend gave me a lot of banknotes, most of them modern and uncirculated, many from places about which I had (and have) no strong feelings. When my friend died, there seemed reason to retain these notes permanently, as a species of memorial. Some of the modern notes transpired to be interesting in their own right – not least those from the de facto states of Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria. Others are present, essentially, not for their own sake but because of the person who gave them to me.

Volume 1

Egypt to Hungary

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The volume and, indeed, the collection, starts in Egypt, for that is where the western imagination began. The collection moves on to England, for that is where my life started (and continues). Thereafter, the volume shifts across Europe from Belgium to Hungary – progressing (as nearly as practicable, and saving the geographical pardon of Iceland) from west to east. Iceland didn’t really fit, and I slipped the note (a modern one donated by my late friend) into a point where there was a space for it: an empty pocket at the end of France. The sequence is:

  • Egypt

  • England

  • Belgium

  • France

  • A cheque (on a page that was always going to be a bit random)
  • Iceland (whoops!)

  • Germany

  • Austria-Hungary

  • Austria

  • Czechoslovakia/Slovakia/Bohemia-Moravia

  • Hungary

Egypt Page 1

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Top: National Bank of Egypt: Five (Egyptian) Pounds, dated to 13th June 1940.
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The English inscriptions, more prominent than the Arabic (“I promise to pay the bearer on demand…” etc.) demonstrate the continuing British control of Egypt during the Second World War. The signature of someone surnamed Cook tells the same story.
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The largest picture on the front is of a modern building, presumably the bank. Two smaller pictures depict the heads of Old Kingdom Egyptian statues. On the left is a king. I’m pretty sure that the sculpture is one in Cairo Museum depicting King Mycerinus. On the right, more easily and exactly identified, is a lady named Nefert. Curiously, Nefert’s statue (also in Cairo Museum) is one of a pair – the other depicting her husband Ra-hotep. I am at a loss to guess why Nefert is here coupled with a king from a couple of reigns after her time, rather than with her husband. Was it through ignorance on the part of bank officials, or done knowingly?Resized note 1 front detail 1

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The picture on the back shows a medieval or modern building I am unable to identify (a tomb, perhaps), and some palm trees.Resized note 1 reverse
Middle and Bottom: Two later National Bank of Egypt notes.

  • Middle: 50 Piastres dated to 1960.

  • Bottom: One Egyptian Pound dated to 1956.

Unlike the 1940 note, these two contain no English writing on the front, although the value and the name of the bank are written in English on the back. The dates (written on the front, not the back) are in Arab (not European) numerals, but the years are from the Christian calendar, not from the Islamic one.
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The pictures on both notes are of ancient Egyptian antiquities. On the front is the statue of a pharaoh (the same on both notes). I’m unable to identify the king – but on stylistic grounds (the fullness of his lips, etc.) he looks to date to the New Kingdom or later. On the backs of the notes are two different views of the Temple of Isis at Philae.
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