Paper Money

Tombs and skeletons on paper money

Editor’s note: In the October monthly Coin World cover feature, several staff writers embraced the spirit of Halloween and highlighted the spookier items in numismatics. This is one of a series of articles from the Collecting the Macabre feature that will appear online at 

Read more from the series:

Graveyards, cemeteries and other final resting places have been used as the settings for scary stories throughout time.

All manner of traditions and superstitions involving passing through or near a graveyard have grown up around the idea of spirits of the dead haunting particular places.

But collectors of paper money don’t have to be spooked. Depictions of final resting places can become a theme for collecting.

Many world notes feature designs showing ancient and modern burial places .


For example, the depiction of an ancient portal tomb can be found on the back of the 2009 Clydesdale Bank £100 note.

The design depicts a group of Neolithic monuments, part of the UNESCO Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site on the Scottish island of Orkney.

These monuments include a large, chambered tomb, sometimes referred to as a cairn, called Maeshowe. Nearby the tomb are two ceremonial stone rings — the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness.

Maeshowe is surrounded by a ditch and a raised bank, and had one central chamber and three side chambers.

The Ring of Brodgar is a circle of upright stones surrounded by a large circular ditch.

The Stenness stone ring was originally surrounded by a ditch and is often referred to as a henge.

The £100 note illustrating this story was one of four notes — £5, £20, £50 and £100 — sold by Heritage in a single lot for $381.88 Sept. 20, 2013.


The face of the 1917 5-krone note of Denmark shows a depiction of a portal tomb called Carlsstenen near the city of Frederiksvaerk in Denmark.

The tomb was built about 3500 to 3300 B.C. and was for one or two occupants, according to the website 1001 Stories of Denmark,

Traditional portal tombs, found in many places around the world, are usually built with two or more upright stones supporting a large flat horizontal capstone.

United States

Though the lone U.S. example does not specifically depict a final resting place, it is an interesting image nonetheless.

After all, many people assume they will find a skeleton in a tomb, and apparently that was on the mind of the person who reworked the portrait on the face of a Fifth Issue 25-cent fractional note.

The face of an unaltered note features a portrait of Robert J. Walker, the Treasury secretary from 1845 to 1849.

These notes were in circulation from 1874 to 1876.

Someone transformed Walker’s rather glum-looking portrait into a grinning head and shoulders portrait of a skeleton. Satirical notes like this one show up at auctions from time to time. The altered note, no grade given, was sold in 2005 by Heritage Auctions for $54.

Keep up with all news and insights:

Community Comments