A stunning story of a highly classified Cold War currency
intended for use should that war become hot was broken by The
Guardian on Aug. 19.
The top-secret notes were given the code name “E-17” and were
printed by the Warsaw Pact for use in captured NATO countries
potentially including Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. Their
existence was top-secret until 2015, 24 years after the alliance of
the Soviet Union and six of its puppet states dissolved. Their
existence was disclosed in August by Narodowy Bank Polski (National
Bank of Poland).
The notes were printed during the 1970s in from 1-zloty to
2,000-zloty denominations and featured the skylines of various Polish
cities. According to the story, they remained locked in chests “deep
in the bowels” of the central bank.
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Piotr Woyciechowski, head of Poland’s national mint, said, “This is
most likely the only series of its kind in Europe … now shown to the
world for the first time.” He also said that the notes will be on
display at the Polish Mint in Warsaw next year.
Examples of wartime contingency currencies are plentiful. To
American collectors, the brown seal notes issued for use in Hawaii
during World War II are most familiar. The difference was that the
Hawaiian notes were placed into circulation exclusively in the islands
while all other U.S. paper currency on the islands was withdrawn from
circulation. Then, in the event of a Japanese occupation, all the
brown seal notes would have been demonetized and rendered worthless to