Topical collecting is a natural and popular method for bringing
newcomers into the paper money field. Notes depicting classroom scenes
will appeal to all kinds of students of the hobby no matter their age.
Such vignettes haven’t been placed on North American issues yet,
but a number of moderately priced notes from around the world allow
the studious to build a collection with an unusual theme.
On the Angola 1,000-kwanza notes from 1976, the teacher and
students are shown in a thatched pole structure that is open to the elements.
Check the anti-ignorance message on the 1974 500-franc notes
issued by the Central African Republic, as vignettes of a group of
students and chemical testing are the dual themes featured on the back
side. This note is going to be on the high end of the thrifty
collector’s price range even in circulated grades. The identical
vignette was also used on Cameroon’s red 500-franc notes from the late
1970s and early 1980.
The 1997 1-nafka notes from Eritrea make the point that education
can be as basic or expensive as the situation dictates. Children are
shown in a village school on the back, and a trio of native girls can
be seen on the face. This brown and black note shouldn’t cost more
Dictatorial governments sometimes ban or attempt to micromanage
education, and Greece’s 200-drachma notes issued from 1995 to 1998
provide such a history lesson.
A Greek Orthodox priest is shown instructing students in a secret
school during the Ottoman (Turkish) occupation of 1458 to 1821. Since
the 200-drachma notes were the lowest denomination note in the
pre-euro era, it’s an affordable and attractive addition to any collection.
A classroom scene complete with blackboard was the long-running
theme on Guatemala’s 5-quetzale notes. First issued in 1969, the
purple notes were commonly seen in circulation into the 1990s before
the design changed to show a different portrait of a grade school classroom.
The low price (at least in circulated condition) of these notes
also provides collectors with a rendering of the colorful, long-tailed
quetzal, the Guatemalan national bird found in densely wooded jungles.
A vignette of a female graduate, complete with western-style cap
and gown, dominates the back of the Indonesia 1985 10,000-rupiah
notes. The Indonesian 20,000-rupiah notes, first issued in 1998,
depict a group of grade school students seated at desks.
The Kenyan 20-shilling notes of 1981 to 1987 will bring a smile to
those who enjoy reading, as four village women share a newspaper on
Literacy isn’t something that can be taken for granted even in the
sophisticated 21st century. These notes show that acquiring basic
reading and math skills can make a significant difference in a
person’s earning potential in much of the world. A trio of grade
school students read their lessons on the back of the Rwanda 500-franc
notes of 1998. The multicolored face design features mountain gorillas
and it’s a $10 or less purchase depending on condition.
If money is tight, the Lao 1-kip notes of 1979 can be obtained for
next to nothing even in Crisp Uncirculated condition. The classroom
scene on the back stands in stark contrast to the marching Marxist
militia on the face.
Students at work share the face of Syria’s 1998 50-pound notes
with such unlikely elements as a soccer stadium, a modern office
building and a luscious cluster of grapes. An ancient water wheel can
be found on the back of this inexpensive collectible.
First issued in 1999, Taiwan’s 1,000-yuan notes more than hold
their own for eye appeal. Four students examine a globe on the face
while a pair of pheasants and a mountain make up the back design. With
a current face value equal to nearly $35 U.S., this won’t be a
low-cost purchase, but some things are worth the price.
Standing students (no money for chairs?) are shown writing or
taking notes on Zambia’s 5-kwacha notes of 1976, and a teacher
provides some one-on-one instruction to a student on the 2-kwacha
notes that saw extensive circulation during the 1980s.
The 5-kwacha notes are much more affordable in circulated grades
than in “new” condition, while the 2-kwacha notes are an excellent
choice for low-budget shoppers.
Even with the variety of notes that carry an educational focus,
some scenes have yet to appear.
Will paper money showing young mechanics working on a car or motor
scooter, computer training or young interns in a hospital make the
roster one day?
One thing is certain. Collectors who thoroughly educate themselves
in paper money will be far better off than collectors who take a
casual approach to learning. ■