The Color of Money from Around the World

In honor of this month’s release of the United States’ redesigned five dollar bill I have been scouring through the 191 currently circulating currencies of the 192 member states of the United Nations to find some of the most colorful, unique and dramatic bank notes.

The New Five

Photo from

The redesigned $5 bill was unveiled on September 20, 2007, and was issued on March 13, 2008. Previously covered here on COLOURlovers, the redesign involves some very noticeable changes, mostly for security reasons, but also in an attempt to make the bill more friendly to the visually impaired.

The new five incorporates the use of micro printing of type to make it more difficult to copy. On the front, “FIVE DOLLARS” is written inside the left and right borders. “E PLURIBUS UNUM” is printed at the top of the shield. “USA” is between the columns of the shield and “USA FIVE” is printed on the edge of the most noticeable change, the giant purple “5”.

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The giant purple “5”. Yes, well, it was added to help those who are visually impaired but it may just leave more of us wishing that we were. Not that I necessarily dislike it, mostly I’m not too concerned with what the money looks like since I’m not collecting it for its aesthetic qualities, but a more reasonable choice, or at least a more colorful choice, would have been just to make the whole thing purple and start color coding all of the bills, much like many, if not most, other countries do. Maybe the Government doesn’t want to get too far away from our ‘greenback’.

One Interesting thing about the new five is the use of the EURion constellation which many photocopiers will refuse to copy. This pattern, which is used for the series of little yellow “05”s, is used on many other currencies as well.

Other changes to the bill include the increased use of water marks and an added security strip like those already used for higher denominations.

The Most Colorful Currencies

Compared to those previous drab gray and green bills the US has made some colorful changes to the currency, but it is still nothing compared to the beautifully crafted and colored currencies of Venezuela, Switzerland, and Kyrgyzstan.

The Bolívar Fuerte

Bolívar Fuerte

The Bolívar Fuerte is the new currency of Venezuela since January 1, 2008. It replaced the old Bolívar which was the currency between 1879 and 2007. My personal favorite currency, it is a great example of the amazing bright and colorful notes that are seen throughout many South America countries.

The Bolívar Fuerte includes illustrations of Francisco de Miranda, Pedro Camejo, Cacique Guaicaipuro, Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi, Simón Rodríguez and Simón Bolívar, on the fronts. On the backsides, the notes feature Amazon river dolphins, a giant armadillo, an American Harpy eagle, the hawks bill turtle, a spectacled bear and the red siskin.

The Swiss Franc

Swiss Franc

The Swiss Franc is the legal currency of Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The current eighth series of banknotes was designed by Jörg Zintzmeyer around the theme of the arts and was released in 1995. All the banknotes are quadrilingual and display information in each of the four national languages. The notes feature Le Corbusier, Arthur Honegger, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Alberto Giacometti, Charles Ferdinand Ramuz and Jacob Burckhardt.

In February 2005, Switzerland held and open competition for the design of the 9th series, planned to be released around 2010. The results were announced in November 2005, but the selected design drew widespread criticisms from the population.

The Kyrgyzstani Som

Kyrgyzstani Som

The Som is the currency of the Kyrgyz Republic in Central Asia. The som was introduced in May 10, 1993 and replaced the Soviet ruble. The notes include illustrations of musicians, dancers and scientists on the the fronts of its notes. The colors are very subtle but they create beautiful compositions. What I find most amazing about these notes is the incredibly intricate and unique patterns in the center of each bill.

More Colorful Currencies

Ghana Cedi

Brazil Real


Rwandan Franc

Chinese Yuan

Nigerian Naira

Colombian Peso

Indian Rupee

Serbian Dinar

Estonian Kroon

Taiwan Dollar

Turkish lira

Ukrainian Hryvnia

Vietnamese Dong

Bermudian Dollar

South Korean Won

Chilean Peso

Images complied from Wikipedia.

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Author: evad
David Sommers has been loving color as COLOURlovers' Blog Editor-in-Chief for the past two years. When he's not neck deep in a rainbow he's loving other things with The Post Family (, a Chicago-based art blog, artist collective & gallery.

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