Editor’s note: The following is the first of a three-part Coin
World series about collecting paper money featuring airports,
airplanes and other forms of air travel, prepared by Michele Orzano
for the December 2014 monthly edition of Coin World.
Flying through the skies, climbing above the clouds to where the sun
is always shining, has been a dream for many people through the centuries.
Those dreams show up in fairy tales that tell of people flying on
rugs or trunks, and even of people themselves soaring through the air
without benefit of wings or something to ride.
So it is no surprise that powered flight in all its forms stirs so
much excitement in so many people — among them paper money collectors.
U.S. and world notes depict powered flight and many of its proponents
in several forms.
Let’s take a round-the-world-flight to see what’s available to collect.
The “land down under” is very familiar with powered flight and
Australia’s paper money designs have celebrated that fact.
A portrait of World War I veteran pilot and aviation pioneer Sir
Charles Kingsford-Smith appears on the face of the 1968 $20 Australian note.
Kingsford-Smith set many world records for flying, including making
the first trans-Pacific Ocean flight from the United States to Australia.
In 1935, while he was attempting to break the England to Australia
speed record with co-pilot Tommy Pethbridge, their plane is thought to
have crashed in the sea off the coast of Burma (now Myanmar). Their
bodies were never found.
Lawrence Hargrave, another aeronautical pioneer, is honored on the
back design of the 1968 $20 note. He’s credited with perfecting a type
of box kite. Versions of his experiments are also included in the note design.
The face of the 1994 $20 notes of Australia shows early pioneer Mary
Reibey, but it’s the back design where things take flight. It shows a
portrait of the Rev. John Flynn, who offered medical services to
isolated communities of Australia, first using camels for
transportation but eventually using airplanes.
The creative juices started early for Alberto Santos-Dumont, a
Brazilian aviator honored in 1966 with his portrait on the face of the
10,000-cruziero notes of Brazil. His powered box kite, the 14 Bis, is
depicted on the back.
He was born in Brazil in 1873, and as a young boy on his family’s
coffee plantation he became fascinated with machinery. He did most of
his aeronautical studies and experiments in Paris where he had moved
at age 18.
He made his first balloon ascent in 1897. After building and flying
his own balloons, he moved on to powered dirigibles, becoming a leader
in that segment of aviation. In 1905, he turned his attention to
heavier-than-air craft, and in 1906 in the 14 Bis, made the first
verified heavier-than-air flight in Europe.
China’s reverence for flying dragons may have been the impetus for
the nation to consider depictions of flight on its paper money.
The Central Bank of China’s tiny 5-yuan notes from 1942 show an
airplane on the back.
A monoplane is depicted on the back of the 25-yuan notes of China
issued in 1941 by the Bank of Communications.
A propeller-powered airplane is shown on the face of the 2-fen notes
issued by the Peoples Bank of China in 1953.
Read the rest of the series:
world paper money designs depict airplanes, airports and legendary pilots
pilots from different eras can be found on notes from around the world
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