These countries no longer exist – Yet their banknotes endure. Which one is your favorite?
Czechoslovakia was formed from several provinces of the collapsing empire of Austria-Hungary Empire in 1918 at the end of World War I. This 100 crown note was issued just two years later. Czechoslovakia ceased to exist in 1993, when it broke into the independent countries of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
This evocative note features a depiction of a Slavic goddess with an interesting back story. It was designed by renowned art nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha. The model was Josephine Crane of Chicago, daughter of industrialist Charles Crane, who was patron of Mucha and a supporter of Slavic nationalism and Czechoslovakian independence. The reverse side of the note features a depiction of Prague flanked by two women wearing traditional Slavic garb.
Saar (or Saarland) is a region in present-day Germany that after World War I changed hands between France and Germany a few times. After World War II, France occupied the region and a small series of banknotes was issued that circulated along with the French franc but were denominated in marks. This note is the second highest denomination of this series, which is very scarce in all grades. In 1957, the German-majority region voted to join the Federal Republic of Germany and no additional Saarland notes were printed.
CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA
Our top choice for most interesting note from the Confederate States of America is this lightly circulated $50 note from the second confederate series, printed in 1861. The central image depicts two women sitting on what appears to be a bale of cotton, with an industrial building in the background. Interestingly, it also features an image of George Washington in the bottom right corner, a founder of the United States the confederates rebelled against.
This is a scarce denomination and type, of which just 5798 were issued. It was printed in New Orleans by a branch of the northern American Bank Note Company, which would soon cease printing notes for the confederacy. This particular note features a manuscript endorsement by Captain Edward A. Palfrey, A.C.S. dated September 27, 1861.
This interesting note tells a tale from the twilight of African colonialism. In 1965, colonial Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) unilaterally declared independence from the declining British Empire after a long dispute with the United Kingdom over the terms under which the colony could become independent. The unilateral declaration was not accepted by the UK or the UN and Rhodesia was quickly sanctioned and blockaded.
So the Rhodesia government in Salisbury (now Harare) began printing and issuing its own notes, including this 1966 5-pound gem. Despite Rhodesia’s purported independence the note still features a portrait that appears to be of Queen Elizabeth II, as well as an image of an African gazelle. This scarce note is in excellent condition and is sought after by collectors of both African and British Commonwealth notes
REPUBLIC OF TEXAS
During the early years of the Republic of Texas (1836-1846) notes issued by state-chartered banks in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee were the most commonly used. But the use of such notes, along with those issued by private firms and municipalities (know as “shinplasters”), were eventually prohibited, and the republic began to issue its own banknotes.
A fascinating example of such currency is this $50 Republic of Texas note from 1840. It features an image of a steamship in the foreground and that of a scantily clad beauty reminiscent of lady liberty on the left. It is signed by both the president and treasury security of the republic. The reverse side features the star of Texas with the five letters of the word Texas interspersed between each prong of the star.
DOMINION OF NEWFOUNDLAND
After a long history of indigenous inhabitation, followed by French, British and other European colonial settlement, Newfoundland established its first colonial assembly in 1832. The colony rejected confederation with the rest of Canada in 1869. But in 1948 Newfoundlanders voted to confederate with the British Dominion of Canada becoming Canada’s 10th province in 1949.
This interesting one-pound note was issued by the Union Bank of Newfoundland in 1880 during the period of Newfoundland home rule as a British colony. It features a depiction of a sailing ship in the center, flanked by a portrait of the Queen of England and a drawing of what appears to be a large seal.
Yugoslavia, which translates roughly to the land of the South Slavs, existing in various forms for most of the 20th Century. At the end of World War II when its monarchy was abolished by the incoming communist government, it was renamed the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia.
This beautiful 100 Dinara note was issued under that regime. The front side features a mural-like depiction of workers maintaining a locomotive reminiscent of the artistic school of socialist realism. The reverse side features a similar note-wide depiction of farmworkers harvesting bales of hay. This particular specimen is in excellent condition and appears to be fully uncirculated.
REPUBLIC OF BIAFRA
Part of what’s interesting about this note from the Republic of Biafra is that it’s a vestige of a nation that itself existed for only three years. Biafra declared independence from Nigeria in 1967 due to ethnic conflicts within that country. Nigeria invaded and blockaded Biafra leading to massive suffering and starvation. After 2 ½ years of war, Biafra surrendered and was re-integrated into Nigeria.
Like most Biafran notes, this 10-shilling note belies the violent short history of the issuer state, by featuring a peaceful-looking palm tree. Under it, shines the rising sun emblem from the Biafran flag, with 11 rays representing the 11 provinces of the former British protectorate from which Nigeria and later Biafra evolved.
This is a note from a bygone era that many still remember. The German Democratic Republic (GDR), also known as East Germany to many in the West, existed from 1949 until 1990. It arose from the Soviet occupied areas of Germany after World War II and was part of the Soviet-dominated Eastern bloc. The territory of the former GDR was reunified with the rest of Germany in 1991.
This 500-mark note was issued by the GDR in 1985 and features its national emblem, an example of what has been called “socialist heraldry”. It’s a depiction of a hammer and a compass, surrounded by a ring of rye grains. The reverse side features a smaller version of the emblem and a depiction of what appears to be a government building.
REPUBLIC OF KATANGA
Another short-lived African state that arose out of the turmoil of European decolonization was the Republic of Katanga. It broke away from the newly independent Republic of Congo in 1960. But the relatively wealthy breakaway state was supported by the Belgian military, leading Congolese authorities to appeal for United Nations support in restoring the stability of the entire former colony. The UN responded with the intervention force and Katanga was defeated and re-integrated into the Congo in 1963.
This 1000-Franc note was of the highest denomination printed as part of the second series of Katanga notes. It features an image of an African woman working in the fields with a baby on her back. The reserve side features a circular graphic composed of African masks and spears.