Tag Archives: history

Communist banknotes: Part 4

China is a country that you really wouldn’t call communistic today. The current Chinese superpower is far from what the country was in the 1950s and 60s. The country is still highly authoritarian with only one accepted political party and with limitations in for example freedom of speech. Economically speaking the country is acting far from the ideals of Marx, but this is what has given the country its international success. But when it comes large parts of the country’s population the development have been devastating. Wealth in China is increasing hand in hand with pollution.

05 Kina - 100 Yuan - Mao

The country has certainly made an interesting journey during this past century, but whenever change is happening too quickly the man featured on this 100 yuan banknote has always been mentioned as an ideal to strive back to. This is Mao Zedong (1893-1976) who lead the communist party during the civil war that followed the Second World War. The communists were victorious and the country would change down to its foundations. Mao is a well-known figure, both from his portrait at Tiananmen Square in Beijing and pieces of art by Warhol. In China many see him as a symbol for the old and better way that existed before the economical reformations. As with many communist leaders they often get a nostalgic aura surrounding them. Let’s not forget that Mao was responsible for the murders of millions of dissident, the starvation of millions during the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961) and the destruction of cultural treasures during the Culture Revolution (1966-1976).

Now we got three bankotes left…

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Communist banknotes: Part 3

 Jugoslavien - 5000 Dinara - Tito

In the southern Slavic country of Yugoslavia communism would take another turn with the man featured on this 5000 dinar banknote. This is Josip Broz Tito – a sergeant who during took part in the liberation of Belgrade in 1944 and was saluted as a hero. He would hold a leading position in this new country that had been created after World War I and he became president in 1953, a role which he kept until his death in 1980. Tito would approach communism differently than his allies in the USSR had done and accepted a form of market socialism in his country. This, among other things, would later lead to frosty relations between them. But even though the Yugoslavian population was freer than the soviets you cannot deny the fact that Tito was a dictator. Many people today would however argue that the countries of Yugoslavia were better off during Tito’s reign because of the unity between different peoples that was emphasized. A decade after the death of Tito the Yugoslav republics entered a horrible time of wars and ethnic genocides. There’s still tension in the area, but with two of them already under the umbrella which is the European Union, perhaps Yugoslavia will be unified once again.

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Communist banknotes: Part 2

So, yeah… Many months has passed. What happened? I don’t know. I didn’t have enough time. I lost interest. I forgot about the blog. But hey, let’s try again and we’ll see what happens!

Better start from where we left of and pretend like nothing’s happened!

CCCP 10 Rubel 1961

This 10 ruble banknote from the Soviet Union features the portrait of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. It was he who led the Russian revolution of 1917 which ended the Russian Empire and started the USSR a couple of years later. Lenin was the first leader of a communistic country and the first one to put Marx’s theory in practice. Did he do it properly? That’s questionable. Following Lenin’s death in 1924 Josef Stalin claimed power and made sure the socialistic ideals wasn’t made reality with an authoritarian and oppressing rule. Lenin would however live on in iconography and rhetoric as one of the most famous symbols of the USSR and communism.

charkiv lenin

In many places of the old USSR you can still spot Lenin on public places. This is a statue in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

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Communist banknotes: Part 1

Communism is both deeply hated and deeply loved by many. But whatever your thoughts are on the ideology it’s still easy to get fascinated by the phenomena. In its essence the ideology strives towards a utopic and equal society without classes and without private ownership.
It’s safe to say that communism is not strong today. It is an ideology of the 20th century during which many countries held it as the only possible way of life. However, no country succeeded in realizing the utopic society. Way to often these countries got stuck in the proletarian dictatorship with limitations in freedom of speech and terrible prosecutions ending in mass murder of opponents in countries like the USSR and China.
The enemy of communism is of course capitalism. This we saw during the long conflict that was the cold war which fueled wars all over the world.
Now, what would be a stronger symbol of capitalism if not money itself? There is something hypocritical with communist symbols and leaders on the very same thing that de ideology strives to counter. But the communism that was created in different countries during the 20th century is not unfamiliar to creating cults around certain figures. Some leaders got almost a religious status in these secular countries. The personality cult of the communistic countries works actually esthetically very well together with the classical design of banknotes. This fact makes them especially fun to collect.
In a couple of posts I’ll present some examples of these banknotes from my personal collection. You’ll get to read about them in an order of when the different persons were active. We’ll start it of where communism began.

DDR - 100 Mark - Marx

Above is a 100 mark banknote from East Germany (DDR) and it features Karl Marx, the philosopher and sociologist that could be considered the founder of modern socialist and communism. Below you have another banknote from DDR. This is a 50 mark banknote and it features Marx companion, Freidrich Engels. Together they laid the basis of the ideology with The Communist Manifesto which is their most famous manuscript and one of the world’s most influential ones. It’s no wonder that Marx and Engels were featured on DDR’s highest valued banknotes. DDR was a socialistic state and both of them were from Germany. The back of the 100 mark banknote features a couple of buildings in East Berlin. Among them you have the Palast der Republik (the parliament at that time), the Berlin TV tower and the red city hall. On the back of the 50 mark banknote you have an industrial complex portraying the importance of heavy industry for the state.

DDR - 50 Mark - Engels

These were my two first communist banknotes and there are six more to go!

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The Royal Coin Cabinet

Earlier this week I made a daytrip to the Swedish capital – Stockholm. Stockholm is a city with about 1 million inhabitants (1,4 million if you count the suburbs) and it spreads over two sides of Lake Mälaren and some islands in between. My favorite part of Stockholm is Gamla Stan (the Old Town) and this is where I spent most of my time.   A tradition for me, when visiting Stockholm, is to visit The Royal Coin Cabinet a museum dedicated to currency and of course coins. I go there either to visit the museum or to get my hands dirty among the random coins that are for sale. I often leave the museum with a couple of new coins that I’ve found.   Here are some photos from The Royal Coin Cabinet.

The entrance to The Royal Coin Cabinet. Its Swedish name is Kungliga Myntkabinettet.

The entrance to The Royal Coin Cabinet. Its Swedish name is Kungliga Myntkabinettet.

The museum is located next to the Royal Palace. This is the resident of the Swedish King and Queen.

The museum is located next to the Royal Palace. This is the resident of the Swedish King and Queen.

It’s in this chest that I get my hands dirty when looking for coins that I want for my collection.

It’s in this chest that I get my hands dirty when looking for coins that I want for my collection.

Coins from the classical antiquity – ancient Greece and Rome.

Coins from the classical antiquity – ancient Greece and Rome.

A piece of Swedish plate money from the 17th century. Sweden had the largest copper production in Europe at the time. In order to have coins that matched the value of silver they were made into these huge pieces of metals with stamps showing their value. This is a 1 daler “coin”.

A piece of Swedish plate money from the 17th century. Sweden had the largest copper production in Europe at the time. In order to have coins that matched the value of silver they were made into these huge pieces of metals with stamps showing their value. This is a 1 daler “coin”.

And this piece of plate money is considered the largest coin the world (that’s actually been used to pay with). This one is also from the 17th century and it’s extremely heavy. I tried to lift one and I barely managed it.

And this piece of plate money is considered the largest coin the world (that has actually been used to pay with). This one is also from the 17th century and it’s extremely heavy. I tried to lift one and I barely managed it.

Coins and banknotes from all over the world.

Coins and banknotes from all over the world.

This little boy is found in a small courtyard near the coin cabinet and he’s often referred to as “Iron boy” or “Boy that looks at the moon”. It’s common for tourists and visitors to stroke him over the head and leave a coin by him (the coins are later collected for charity). This day there were a lot of rubles and euros. Someone had also put a hat on his head so he wouldn’t freeze.

This little boy is found in a small courtyard near the coin cabinet and he’s often referred to as “Iron boy” or “Boy that looks at the moon”. It’s common for tourists and visitors to stroke him over the head and leave a coin by him (the coins are later collected for charity). This day there were a lot of rubles and euros. Someone had also put a hat on his head so he wouldn’t freeze.

If you want to know more about The Royal Coin Cabinet you can follow this link!

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The Netherlands: 1 gulden 1980

Now it’s time for some royal drama here on the blog.

This Dutch coin features Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and it was minted on the year of her abdication. She abdicated on her 71st birthday passing on the crown to her daughter Beatrix (the current queen) after 62 years as the country’s monarch. Juliana would live for several more years – dying in 2004 at the age of 92. She was then the longest-lived monarch in the world.

In 1940 the German troops initiated their invasion of the Netherlands during World War Two. This was a vital area that Germany needed to control in order to realize the ambitions of controlling the entire Europe. Parts of the royal family (including Juliana) decided to leave the country and represent it from abroad. They were one month in the U.K. before setting of to Canada. Juliana spoke well of her Canadian hosts while Canadian troops fought the Germans in her homeland. A special bond, lasting to our days, was formed between Dutch people and Canadians. In 1946 Juliana sent a gift of 20,500 tulip bulbs to Canada with a promise to continue sending more each year as long as she lived. The Netherlands is the number one country of tulips.

The name of the Dutch gulden simply comes from the word gold reminding us that the coins were originally made in this precious metal. The gulden was replaced by the euro in 2002.

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Switzerland: 2 franc 1981

Switzerland is probably one of the countries that have kept the same coin design the longest. The ½, 1 and 2 franc coins have had the same design since 1875. In 1968 they switched from being in silver to copper-nickel. I like it when coin series is changed once in a while (I’m for instance totally bored with the current Swedish coins), but I can understand why they have kept the current design for all these years. It’s a traditional design with enough of things going on to keep you interested. The text HELVETIA might be cryptic, but it’s just the Latin name of Switzerland. The woman, who looks like a goddess, is Helvetia herself, the personification of the county – similar to Britannica, Marianne or Mother Svea. You can also spot the Swizz cross on her shield. This cross is featured on the country’s flag and it’s also the base of the Red Cross which was founded in Switzerland.

Switzerland is generally considered to be a country of peace. “I’m neutral! I’m Switzerland!” is quite a common saying and rightly so. The Swizz managed to keep their neutrality even though they were completely surrounded by war during WWI and WWII. Switzerland hasn’t been in an armed conflict with another country since 1815 and that’s wonderful.

But there is actually one country that surpasses that. The last time Sweden was at war with another country was in 1814 when the country tried to force Norway into a union (with a successful outcome). Since then Sweden has kept its neutrality, but this can of course be discussed. Many people clam the neutrality during WWII to just be a charade. And in these days Sweden has peace preserving troops in overseas territories (such as in Afghanistan). Can one really claim that Sweden hasn’t been to war since 1814?

Whatever the case might be, Switzerland and Sweden is two countries that has a long history of peace and I think that this is something that has had a huge positive influence on the countries.

Now if only people stopped getting the two countries mixed up…

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(West) Germany: 50 pfenning 1971

This is a pfenning coin – the subunit of the Deutsche Mark (often referred to as the D-mark). Germany was split in two after World War II. One state was created from the zones occupied by the U.S., France and Great Britain. This was Bundesrepublik Deutschland – West Germany and it was here that the D-mark was the official currency. The other state was created from the zone occupied by the USSR. This was Deutsche Demokratische Republik – East Germany.

The two parts were separated for about 40 years and developed in two different ways. West Germany developed into a stable democratic country, even though they had problems with people who’d been part of the power during the Nazi era keeping high positions after the war. The same problem wasn’t that present in the east, but there the population suffered hard from both economic problems and an undemocratic rule. The Berlin wall constructed in 1961 is the main symbol of the separation of these two countries. It stood as an example of the insanity that was the Cold war, and it wasn’t until one wonderful night in 1989 that the wall was brought down. Sadly, walls are still being built…

The coin features a woman planting an oak three. The oak is a symbol of Germany and is featured on many different coins both from the D-mark and the euro. To me the woman planting the tree represents something new. It’s a rebirth of a new country that rises from the ashes of the Second World War.

The D-mark also became the official currency in East Germany following the unification of the two countries in 1990. It was later replaced by the euro in 2002.

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Lithuania: 50 centų 2000

Following Estonia and Latvia, we now come to the third and last of the Baltic States. The centų is the subunit of the Lithuanian litas. As with many European currencies the litas was supposed to have been replaced by the euro in an earlier state, but since the economic crisis has severely damaged the union this has been moved to the future. Now the litas is set to be repaced in 2014.

Oh, and did you hear that the EU will receive the Nobel Peace Prize this year? Such a bad timing… But now I’m drawing away from the subject. Maybe I’ll write another post just concerning this prize…

The mounted horseman on the coin is from the Lithuanian coat of arms. This is the symbol used on all coins and have been used in Lithuania and the area since the 14th century. The identity of the horseman is unknown, though there seems to be a couple of theories. I would put my money on him being some sort of nobility of high importance from an early age. The cross on the knights shield is known as the Cross of Jagiellons in Lithuania and has been used by officials in Lithuania since the country was first Christianized. This also happened in the 14th century.

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Ukraine: 1 Hrivnja 2004

This is one of two common designs of the Ukrainian 1 Hrivnja coin. The text that reads YKPAÏNA (Okraina) is the name of Ukraine in Ukrainian and above the name you have a trident in the country’s coat of arms. This trident (sometimes also interpreted as a hawk) dates back to the medieval ages. The trident is also strongly connected with Volodymyr Velikij (Vladimir the great) and it is he who is featured on the other side of the coin. Volodymyr was the ruler of the Kiev Rus’ kingdom from the late 10th century until the year 1015. Kiev is today the capital of Ukraine with about 4 million inhabitants. The country itself has about 45 million inhabitants. It’s one of Europe’s largest country, but unfortunately overshadowed by its huge neighbor, Russia.

The early history of the Kiev Rus’ kingdom is very interesting. In the beginning it was actually founded, to a large extent, by Viking settlers coming from Sweden. The Swedish Vikings went eastward (the Danish and the Norwegians went westward) and this led to many places of Eastern Europe becoming colonies and settlements ruled by these Vikings. There’s a theory that the Vikings that founded Kiev Rus’ in the 9th century originated from the region of Roslagen, the coastal area of the province Uppland of Sweden (where I’m at). The name of Kiev Rus’ should by this theory come from Roslagen. Kiev Rus’ later became a vital part in the founding of the Russian empire, or Rossiya. It’s quite a funny thought that some people from Sweden in the 9th century are the cause of Russia bearing its name of today.

Let’s continue with Volodymyr. On the coin he’s holding a cathedral – symbolizing the fact that it was Volodymyr that introduced Christianity to Kiev Rus’ and other parts of Eastern Europe. The cathedral does actually exist in reality, in Kiev. Its name is Sofiyskyi sobor (Saint Sophia Cathedral) and it was Volodymyr that decided that it would be built. Saint Sophia Cathedral is a UNESCO world heritage site since 1990 and it’s as beautiful outside as it is inside (but you’re not allowed to take photos inside). I’ve got first hand experiences from this cathedral because I visited it last year, and it was amazing.

Ukraine is a country with a lot to offer – both for travelers and coin collectors!

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