The hobbyist who wants to combine architecture and an interest in
paper money will need to exercise some discernment and discipline when
That’s because too many notes feature drab, nondescript government
buildings as the main theme.
A little focus can mean reduced spending and a collection that
stands out in eye appeal and variety.
Argentina has long been recognized as the South American nation
with the greatest European influence, and those ties show up in its
architecture. Check out the Plaza de Mayo building in Buenos Aires on
the back of the 1,000-peso notes of 1976 to 1983. This piece of
currency costs less than $5 even in Crisp Uncirculated condition.
Hyperinflation destroyed Argentina’s economy in the 1980s and
1990s. The austral denomination replaced the peso, but the new
currency soon lost its value.
The peso returned in 1992, and the revived 1-peso notes display
the National Congress building on the back. This structure has more
than a passing resemblance to the White House.
Collectors who want a second helping can obtain the Argentina
2-peso notes that feature the Mitre Museum.
In Austria, 50-schilling notes were the workhorse in the nation’s
economy before the euro became the national currency.
The purple version of these notes, issued in the 1970s and 1980s,
depicts the famed Burg Theater on the back. Austrian actor Ferdinand
Raimund (1790 to 1836) is honored on the face of the note.
An aluminum smelting facility isn’t the kind of building that
might be expected to grace a piece of paper money, but that is the
overhead scene on Bahrain’s half dinar notes of 1973 to 1998.
Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious complexes ever built.
Located in modern-day Cambodia, Angkor Wat dates back to the 12th
century and has been used by Hindus and Buddhists.
It’s an imposing site even in its abandoned state, and a wide view
of the remains can be found on the back of the 1973 100-riel notes
issued by the Khmer Republic.
A vignette of Angkor Wat makes another appearance on the face of
the green 5-riel notes of 1975. The newer release also features a
landscaping crew on the back.
Canada’s first Parliament building is displayed in all its ornate
elegance on the back of the commemorative 1867-1967 Canadian $1 notes.
This commemorative note marked the centennial of the Constitution
Act that established the Dominion of Canada and nationhood for
America’s northern neighbor. This note was printed in large quantities
and is very inexpensive in all grades.
Built to be practical rather than artistic, a sugar refinery is
shown on the back of the 1-peso notes issued from 1979 to 1988 by the
With a permanent population of approximately 2,500 plus a small
military base, the Falkland Islands needs no skyscrapers.
Despite the lack of such edifices, examples of the British
overseas territory’s architecture — the Christ Church cathedral in
Stanley and the governor’s residence — cover the backs of the £1, £5,
£10, £20 and £50 notes.
Architecture at the most basic level makes occasional appearances
on paper money. There’s a tropical thatched hut on Fiji’s green
50-cent notes issued from 1968 to 1971.
The 5-cedi notes of Ghana, issued from 1973 to 1978, have a
terrific vignette of a woman wearing a large hat on the face of the note.
The real architectural prize is the vignette of conical native
huts on the back, a view of some of the most intriguing architecture
you’ll find on world paper money.
The well-known Quetzalcoatl pyramid dominates the back of the
Mexican 20-peso notes issued from 1972 to 1977.
Here’s how to become a millionaire and have something of
architectural merit all at once:
Peru’s 1-million-inti notes of 1990 include a view of the
classically styled medical college at San Fernando.
Malakanyang Palace in the Philippines makes two appearances on the
nation’s circulating folding money.
The 20-piso Philippine notes issued from 1969 and into the 1970s
along with the updated version issued from 1986 to 1994 are both
available for $1 to $10 depending on condition.
While many of the buildings that appear on world paper money are
nothing special to those who appreciate creative design, a fair number
of notes carry vignettes that nicely display the talents of great
architects and local ingenuity.
Best of all, notes displaying various examples of architecture
won’t require a hefty mortgage. ■