Fishing — both for sport and commercially — is big business around
the world. Although seafood is a minor part of most U.S. diets, fish
and other sea creatures are a primary source of meat in many cultures.
A fair number of world bank notes display fishing scenes, but
don’t expect to find on paper currency affluent anglers with $700
Orvis fly rods seeking mountain trout. Catching fish is a serious task
— as in subsisting or grinding out a modest living — for many people,
who seek everything from sardines to sharks.
Even with the growing number of trawlers that vacuum fish by the
ton while at sea, nets, spears and hand lines are the main tools in
what remains a low-tech venture for many commercial fishermen. It’s
hard and sometimes dangerous work, and a wide range of vignettes
involving the never-ending quest for the “big one” can be found on
The face design of the 50-riel notes issued by Cambodia from 1956
to 1975 are elegant-looking, featuring native fishermen tossing large
nets on Lake Tonle Sap, which is one of the most unusual bodies of
water in the world. For part of the year, the “lake” is something of a
giant ditch. When the swollen Mekong River dumps into Tonle Sap, the
lake becomes a vibrant, fish-filled inland sea that vastly expands in size.
Canada’s blue $5 note of the 1970s is a very attractive note. Sir
Wilfred Laurier is honored on the face, but the real eye grabber is
the salmon fishing boat on the other side. Crisp Uncirculated examples
command strong prices for a relatively recent issue, but the cost is
lower in circulated condition.
Africa usually doesn’t come to mind when fishing is the topic, but
look at the prize catch on the back of the 10,000-franc notes issued
by the Central African States. The note, first released in 1994,
features a local scene of canoes, beach front and natives, all forming
a design that could appeal to people outside the paper money hobby.
American anglers tend to have a low opinion of carp, but they are
held in much higher esteem elsewhere. Carp are found in a wide range
of colors and shapes, and the fish are especially prized in Asia and
Europe. That explains why a crucian carp is displayed on the back of
Denmark’s 50-krone notes that circulated from more than a quarter
century beginning in 1972.
While marlin, swordfish and tuna are highly prized by big game
seekers and commercial fishermen, many smaller species are caught for
the table without much fanfare, such as bluegills, crappies and
bullheads in freshwater, and hundreds of different species in every
imaginable shape in the world’s oceans and seas.
Several examples of such “eating size” fish swim around the outer
edges of the East Caribbean States $20 notes that have been in
circulation since the 1990s. These aren’t the trophy species profiled
in outdoors magazines, but sea creatures in the half-pound to 5-pound
range that play a major role in feeding the world.
How about something from an obscure place? The lower half of a cod
is the main theme of the Faeroe Islands 100-krone notes of recent
years. An ocean scene covers the back. In case you’re wondering, the
Danish territory sits directly north of Scotland and west of Norway.
Fishing is the main industry and source of export revenue.
Commercial and sport fishing can be a solitary or group pastime,
and a view of the-gang’s-all-here can be found on the back of Fiji’s
$5 notes of the 1990s. The vignette of a dozen or more native
fishermen pulling in a large net is something that may appeal to an
impulse buyer. Hope their net is overflowing with fish, as dividing a
meager catch among so many workers would be a sad experience.
The Gambian 10-dalasi notes enjoyed a long stretch in circulation
by African standards — from 1972 to well into the 1990s. A small-scale
fisherman in a canoe can be seen tossing a weighted net into a lake.
Plan on spending around $10 in Crisp Uncirculated for this attractive note.
You won’t see any outboard motors or depth finders on Ghana’s
10-cedi notes of 1979 to 1982. The fishermen on the back of this green
and purple note went out in search of the day’s catch with nothing
more than sturdy wooden boats and nets. The note is a bit less
expensive in all grades than the fishing-themed notes from Gambia.
Collectors who prefer higher or unusual denominations can obtain the
Ghana 2,000-cedi notes of the 1990s. Local fishermen are shown loading
nets into a native boat on this affordable piece of currency.
The popular American stereotype of a commercial fisherman combines
the ocean, frigid water and a stoic man in waterproof gear. Those
elements come together on Iceland’s 500-krona notes that circulated
from 1961 to the early 1980s. As is often the case with world notes,
eye appeal and low prices are the pleasant outcome for budget-minded collectors.
Moving from coldwater whiting and cod fishing to the tropics, the
boats shown on Indonesia’s 5,000-rupiah notes of 1975 are more
advanced than the canoes seen on some notes, as these watercraft are
rigged for sails.
The notes of Malawi often feature agricultural themes, so it’s no
great surprise to see a native poling his canoe across the water in
search of a meal on the 5-, 10-, 20- and 50-kwacha notes of 1995.
Check out the striped fish watermark on both sides of these colorful
notes. The red 5-kwacha notes are especially attractive, as they come
with a design showing a quartet of zebras.
Peru generally doesn’t come to mind when maritime topics are
discussed, but the South American nation has an ongoing commercial
fishing industry. Check out the three guys dressed for constant
exposure to saltwater spray on the back of the 1,000-sol notes of 1979
Located 600 miles from the east coast of Africa, the island
culture of the Seychelles means that seafood is a vital part of the
local diet and cuisine. Fishermen can be seen with a net on the 1977
50-rupee notes. Small-scale commercial fishing is the theme of the
50-rupee notes of 1989, and a pair of swordfish is part of the face
vignette on the 100-rupee notes of 1989. A black-spotted triggerfish
was placed on the 10-rupee notes of 1998, while several other
Seychelles notes display turtles that are sometimes used as a food source.
It isn’t always necessary to venture miles from shore to be
successful at catching fish, as proven by the fishermen standing in
waist-deep water on the Solomon Islands $2 notes that were issued in
four different series from 1977 into the 21st century. As a special
note the 2001 version is made from polymer.
Bank notes issued by Somalia also make it into the fishing net,
among nations offering fish-related designs. The face design of the
500-shilling notes issued in 1996 has all kinds of links to fishing. A
large vignette of a fisherman mending his nets, images of several
fish, a man poling a boat and a vignette of a lobster all appear on
the face of the note.
Even though enough fishing-related notes exist to keep a collector
occupied for some time, it’s a field that could use some more variety.
To name just three possibilities, Norway, the Philippines and Poland
have long had successful and significant commercial fishing operations
and it wouldn’t be inappropriate for those nations to issue a
fishing-themed vignette on circulating notes.
The first nation that puts out a sport-fishing note is going to
“catch” much attention from traditional paper money collectors and
anglers. Cast that note out, and reel in the customers. ■