What items in the paper money hobby might appeal to the person who
values brains over brawn?
Although government buildings, politicians and local wildlife tend
to be the most frequently honored subjects, a few scientists have been
placed on the paper money of various nations.
Ruggiero Giuseppe Boscovich (1711 to 1787) is a name few
21st-century Americans will recognize, but the Croatian-born Jesuit
priest was an extraordinarily productive scientist who displayed his
knowledge in math, astronomy, physics and cartography.
Boscovich (without computers or calculators) devised the formula
to calculate planetary orbits. He was also a prolific author on
Boscovich appears on all 12 denominations of notes issued by his
native Croatia from 1991 to 1993. Hyperinflation was the reason for
the large number of denominations, as notes from the 1-dinar issue to
the 100,000-dinar issue were printed.
All of these issues are supremely affordable, so which ones stand
out? The purple 25-dinar notes and the brown 2,000-dinar notes have
appeal as odd denominations. It’s also possible to build a short set
of the four highest face value notes of 5,000-, 10,000-, 50,000- and
100,000-dinar denominations. Geometric calculations can be found on
the right half of the face of all the notes depicting Boscovich. An
image of the Zagreb Cathedral is on the back of each note.
Karl Landsteiner’s discovery of the rhesus (Rh) factor of blood
types made it possible to more safely perform blood transfusions.
That, along with his other scientific accomplishments, earned
Landsteiner (1868 to 1943) top billing on the face of the Austrian
1,000-schilling notes of 1997. His portrait on the face is paired with
a depiction of him working in a science lab on the back. A lack of
funding in impoverished post-World War I Europe led Landsteiner to
immigrate to America in 1923, where he continued to add to his lengthy
list of scientific accomplishments.
Is there a note that could catch the attention of scientific-types
and film buffs? The German 200-mark notes of 1989 to 1996 would cover
those diverse areas.
Bacteriologist Paul Ehrlich — co-recipient of the 1908 Nobel Prize
for medicine — is honored with his portrait on the face on these
notes, which circulated just before Germany replaced its national
currency with the euro. A microscope is the main theme on the back.
Ehrlich’s best known achievement involved the creation of
Salversan in the first decade of the 1900s. This effective cure for
syphilis was the subject of the 1940 Warner Brothers film Dr.
Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet. Edward G. Robinson stepped away from his usual
gangster roles to play the scientist.
Marie Sklodowska Curie is one of the best-known figures in a field
that is largely made up of men.
Born in what is now Poland in 1867, the young woman displayed
great abilities in science and eventually moved to Paris to study and
work in that field.
It was in Paris where the young Pole met and married Pierre Curie,
forming a dynamic duo of scientific achievement. Marie Curie became
the first person to win the Nobel Prize twice, as she was awarded for
her work in physics in 1903 and in chemistry in 1911.
The Curies worked extensively in what is now known as
radioactivity. Always nationalistic and a staunch supporter of an
independent Poland, Marie named the first element she discovered
(polonium) after her native land in 1898.
Marie Curie is on the very short list of those honored on the
paper money of multiple nations.
Portraits of her and her husband appear on the face of the French
500-franc notes of 1994 to 2000. This was the largest denomination
circulating note of the pre-euro era, so it won’t be a low-priced
find. The back of the note depicts scientific tools and the atomic symbol.
She also appears on the face of Poland’s 20,000-zloty notes of
1989. If you’re working on a tight budget, this is the Curie note to acquire.
Another well-known scientific figure — astronomer Nicolaus
Copernicus — plays an even more prominent role on Polish paper
currency. He appears on the face of various 100-zloty notes beginning
with a 1948-dated collector set, and his portrait was used on Poland’s
paper money well into the 1980s.
Copernicus is best known for establishing the heliocentric system,
which states that the Earth rotates on an axis while it and other
planets orbit around the sun.
Astronomy was one of Copernicus’ many interests and avocations, as
he was a true Renaissance man both in his life and the era when he
lived. The resume includes working as a mathematician, physician,
linguist and translator, economist and artist.
You don’t have to be an Einstein to enjoy the paper money hobby —
but it’s possible to collect a nicely detailed portrait of Albert
Einstein on the face of Israel’s 5-lira notes of 1968 to 1973.
The back design depicts a nuclear reactor. This note is a
lower-priced item in all grades. ■