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A Closer Look at the First Banknotes from Afghanistan

Introduction of Paper Money in Afghanistan

In August of 1919, at the conclusion of the Third Anglo-Afghan war, the country of Afghanistan severed its ties with Great Britain, which had previously had effective control over Afghanistan’s foreign policy. Amanullah Khan became Emir (later King) and ended the country’s isolation from the rest of the world. As part of his reforms he would introduce the first paper money in the country. The notes, which were uniface, were issued by the Afghani Treasury in four denominations: 1 Rupee (Pick-1), 5 Rupees (Pick-2), 50 Rupees (Pick-4) and 100 Rupees (Pick-5). The 1 and 5 Rupees were dated either SH1298 or SH1299 (1919 or 1920 AD respectively), while the 50 Rupees was only dated SH1298 and the 100 Rupees was only dated SH1299. The notes had a perforated left edge to which was attached a stub, which was to be removed upon issuance and kept at the Treasury. The notes were printed locally (as were all from the first two series) and carried no watermark.

Afghanistan 5 Rupees SH1298 (1919 AD). The first date and part of the earliest paper money issue of Afghanistan. The stub at left contains the date and serial number and was to be retained at the Treasury after the notes were issued. Notes with the stub intact (as on this example) are worth more than notes without the stub.

New Notes Introduced

This first series was largely unpopular with the local population due to the lack of the image of the Emir and their unfamiliarity with the concept of paper money. In 1926, when Amanullah Khan changed his title to King a new series was issued, now denominated in Afghanis. This series, printed on both sides, was introduced in 1926 and included a 5 Afghani denomination (Pick-6) and a 10 Afghanis (Pick-8). New designs were introduced in 1928: a 10 Afghanis (Pick-9) and 50 Afghanis (Pick-10). The 1926 and 1928 series exist both with serial numbers as issued and without serial numbers, which are most properly classified as remainders. The notes contain either no watermark or lattice pattern watermark. A different 5 Afghanis (Pick-7) is perhaps best classified as a proof and may or may not have been issued for circulation (although we would argue it was not, as most survivors are high grade and clearly circulated examples typically not come on the market).

A remainder of the second issue 10 Afghanis, issued SH1307 (1928 AD). Without serial numbers, this particular example was never issued into circulation.

During the Afghan Civil War in the late 1920s, Habibullah Kalakani defeated Amanullah Khan and ruled Afghanistan from January to October 1929. During this period, known as the Baccha i Saqao revolution (named after the nickname of Habibullah Kalakani) examples of the 5, 10 and 50 Afghanis of the second issue that were in circulation at the time were validated with three purple handstamps. Listed in the Pick catalog as Pick-11, Pick-12 and Pick-13, all carry serial numbers and are generally in lower grades. The handstamps are usually found on either side in varying combinations. It must be noted that examples with all three handstamps clear are scarce, as most examples have at least one or more of the handstamps blurred, making them hard to read.

Purple handstamps are seen on this 50 Afghanis dated SH1307 (1928 AD), indicating that it was validated during the Baccha i Saqao revolution. Unusually, this example has survived in uncirculated condition, although the majority of these revolutionary issues are found in lower grades.

A New Discovery

A new variety of a 10 Afghanis with single black handstamp has recently appeared. Previously unreported, it at first glance appears to be linked to the Baccha I Saqao revolution. The text reads amīr habībullâh khâdame dīne rasūl allâh (Emir Habibullah servant of the religion of God’s Prophet = Bacha-ye Saqao) and it has a date in the lunar calendar (AH1347, or 1929). Unusually, the handstamp is not placed on an issued note but on a remainder of Pick-9. Whether this was an unauthorized trial piece or a local issue remains unclear, but as this was never reported in almost 100 years since it was issued the number of pieces with this handstamp must be very small.

10 Afghanis with single black handstamp, unreported until now. Possibly a local issue or trial piece, this is definitely linked to the Baccha i Saqao revolution, although its exact significance remains unknown until now.


The discovery of this piece proves that not only the early banknotes of Afghanistan are worthy of further study (there are other mysteries, such as the presence of what appears to be ink stains on the first issue, that appear to be too uniform to be coincidental) but also that there are new discoveries waiting to be made. A basic type set of the first two issues of Afghanistan is relatively easy to complete, although the higher denominations of the first issue are difficult to find with the stub attached. Specialists can dive further into this series, but as of yet little has been published about these fascinating banknotes, meaning that much detail remains to be discovered. For a selection of early Afghani banknotes currently listed on our website, please see the Kabul Collection of Afghanistan, ending on December 22.

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