Paper Money

Elizabeth II portraits changed over time for many nations

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth II appeared on Bermuda’s £1 bank notes. After decimalization, her portrait graced the $1 note.

All images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Premonition or not, on June 22, the Sydney Morning Herald ran a feature it called “How the Queen Changed the Face of Money,” which went far beyond the many Australian and Canadian issues that are well-known in the Commonwealth and were reviewed in the Oct. 10 issue of Coin World.

The story mentions that the queen has a Guinness World Record for appearing on the most currencies. She is on coins of at least 35 different countries and on bank notes of more than 30. Rather than offering a listing by country, the Herald article took the unusual approach of showing an illustrative but not exhaustive list of notes showing the queen as she aged, starting as a young child on Canada’s $20 note of 1935. There were many others, with Bermuda among the most comprehensive. The portraits are often the same.

She is shown by the British Overseas Territory in profile as a 26-year-old on the 5-shilling notes of 1952 and 1957 and 10-shilling notes of those years and 1966. On the other three notes of this series, the £1, £5, and £10 issues, she is shown crowned in a three-quarters facing left profile.

Five more series were issued by Bermuda after decimalization in 1970, with her portrait amended three times as years passed. Bermuda switched to flora and fauna on its bank notes in 2009.

After Bermuda, if the bank notes of Belize (British Honduras, until 1973), look familiar it is because the notes use the same portrait as the first Bermuda pound issues. The portrait was static from the British Honduras notes of 1953 through the ones under the name of Belize in 1980. Thereafter, newer images were used, the last in 1990, also similar to those of Bermuda.

Elizabeth was depicted on every bank note of the Bahamas from 1953 until 1992. From then on, her image was on only one or two notes in each series. Although the portraits evolved over time, the most famous Bahamian bank notes had nothing to do with how she looked but with the denomination. The 1968 series had, in fact, two odd denominations.

One was a half dollar note that was also issued intermittently from 1965 to 2001. The other was a $3 note. The Sydney paper says the odd values were needed to match the £1 denomination, but a look at the view of Paradise Beach depicted on the note backs may cause some, such as a Heritage Auctions cataloger, to question whether the notes were really about promoting tourism.

The $3 denomination was also issued in 1968 and 1974.

On the most recent $3 note, issued in 2019 as part of the new Crisp Evolution series, a front-facing portrait of the queen is at the right, as well as in a watermark to the left.

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