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When the Czar abdicated in 1917, many of the minority regions of the Russian Empire declared their independence. But, when the Bolsheviks seized power in the October coup in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the new nations quickly found themselves at war with the Communists, who had no intention of giving autonomy to their minority populations, despite the Bolshevik rhetoric about civil rights and self-determination. Ancient regimes such as Georgia, Ukraine, and Armenia briefly enjoyed a few years of independence, with military and financial aid from Great Britain and France.
Partly to contain the Bolshevik menace, partly to keep both the Germans in conflict on the Eastern Front, and Ottoman Turkey at war on their northern front, and partly to welcome these new nations into the realm of freedom, this aid even took the form of national currencies designed and printed in the west. These notes were the last of the Civil War notes of Armenia, designed and printed in England by Waterlow and Sons, with French language alongside Armenian and Russian. Dated 1919, and issued in 1920, these notes were short-lived, indeed. The Republic of Armenia was taken by force by Bolshevik armies in late 1920, and a splinter region, the Mountain Republic of Armenia, held out until 1921. A few Turkish provinces containing majority Armenian populations had joined with the new Republic, but all were subsumed into the new Russian Armenian SSR. Immediately upon their declaration of independance, Armenia quickly became embroiled in warfare between Turkey and Bolsehvik Russian and even a short fight with the new nation of Georgia over a disputed border area. Nagorno-Karabagh, known to collectors today by the recent issues of two regional banknotes, was the scene of conflict with Azeribaijan and Bolshevik Russia. Some things never seem to change, do they?
The wars were quickly lost to the much larger powers, and so, Armenia, known as Armina to the Babylonians, once a Macedonian stronghold from the days of Alexander the Great, who sent Ambassadors to Rome and Byzantine Constantinople, a thriving Christian Kingdom from the 4th to the 14th Century, torn apart and subjugated by the Persians, Kurds, Ottomans and the Russians for centuries, once again disappeared from the maps of the world, not to return until 1992 and the Soviet Union collapse and breakup.
The last notes of Armenia were issued in 50, 100, and 250 Ruble denominations. Printed in England by Waterlow and Sons security printing house. French, Armenian, and Russian language was used on the currency, which is pleasantly large in size, and well-designed. Even though some of the provinces of the new Armenia were break-away regions from Ottoman Turkey, there is no Turkish font, Arabic or otherwise, on the notes. You will never see that on an Armenian banknote after the genocide of 1915. The 50 Ruble note contains two mythical dragons on the face, and a geometric design on the back, with a pleasing mix of brown with red underprinting.
The 100 Ruble note is very pleasant appearing, sporting two allegorical Peacocks, and a scenic view of Mt. Ararat, where Noah's Ark lies to this day, awaiting discovery. The color scheme is green with a yellow and brown underprint, and the reverse is a rendition in blue, grey, and brown, with additional Peacocks and a mountain Eagle wielding a sword. A severed snake, meant to be the oppression of the Ottomans, the Czars, and the new Bolsheviks, lies at the Eagle's feet.
The last note, the largest in size of the three, is the 250 Ruble note. Again, brown coloration with green and yellow underprinting make for a pleasing design, which shows allegorical angels, and the dragons of the 50 Ruble note are now at the feet of the Angel. Above are two Griffins in all their horrible glory. The reverse is a violet color, with the usual yellow and green underprinting, of an Armenian girl spinning thread from flax or woo, signifying peace and industry. The Dragons are featured holding up the denomination roundel, with a winged lion above. All in all, a very nice design, with good mythical beasts of importance to the Armenian culture.
By the time the first shipment of these notes reached Armenia, it was too late for much general circulation, and they were very quickly replaced by the new Russian banknotes of 1919. The symbolic peace and industry of the girl spinning thread was replaced by Bolshevik subjugation and forced collectivization of a police state. The banknotes are readily found today in very nice AU, or Almost Uncirculated, condition, and are quite popular with collectors.
Most of us are familiar with the 1934 Maori series from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. Ranging from Ten Shillings to Fifty Pounds in denomination, this Depression Era issue is both deservedly popular and scarce. Worth acquiring by any collector in almost all the available grades, it's an iconic issue. The striking design features a lovely Kiwi and King Tawhiao of the Maori on the face, with a scenic view of Milford Sound and Mitre Peak on the reverse. The notes are well known for their beauty, and coveted by collectors of all means. The two photos below show the face and reverse of the lovely Five Pound note, issued in a deep blue, it's perhaps the most striking of the series, both in design, engraving, and chosen color of issue.
But, long before there was a Reserve Bank of New Zealand, there was the private Bank of New Zealand. The world-wide depression required fiscal 'liberality' by the government, and so the private bank became the federal Reserve Bank of the nation, and issued currency according to the needs of the nation, not the bank's owners and stockholders, who were a bit more conservative in times of fiscal tribulation than Keynesian economics called for. Today, we would call this policy 'monetary easing', the euphemism for turning on the presses at the Treasury to ensure that 'happy days are here again', as the popular song of the Depression called for. So, let's take a look at the Bank of New Zealand and it's issue of 1924, issued in denominations of Ten Shillings to One Hundred Pounds.
As you can see, both the Reserve Bank and the Bank of New Zealand were clearly frontrunners in the concept and design of banknotes in New Zealand. Both the 1924 and 1934 designs are works of beauty and art. The familiar Kiwi of 1934, is gone from the 1924 series. The wonderful engraved portrait of King Tawhiao, however, is used to good purpose, providing a striking image on all denominations of this not-so-well known series. The reverse of the notes feature the usual filigree and geometry of the period, as well as two little vignettes of New Zealand. The left shows two Maoris in a volcanic landscape, and the right shows two little lost Kiwis foraging for food, a Maori war canoe on the water, and a volcanic background.
Like the American Bank Note Company did throughout Latin America, some designs just deserve to be repeated, don't they? Bradbury, Wilkinson, and Company was the designer and producer of notes for the Bank of New Zealand for nearly 75 years, and used their experience and expertise to good advantage.
Now let's go back just a few more years, to the 1917-1924 Series. Our two Maoris are making their appearance, but still not the first. Our two Kiwis are also scratching around for food, but it's not the first time for them, either. King Tawhiao is absent, and will not appear until the next series in early 1925.
Go back just a few more years, to the early 20th Century, and our hungry Kiwis and Maori idlers are still kicking around. Here are a couple of examples from the Bank of New Zealand and their Sixth Series of 1903. The Fifty Pound note is a lovely example, while the One Pound note is indicative of the condition in which these are generally found.
But, our Maoris and the Kiwis are long-lived, their hunger notwithstanding, for here they again, in their first appearance, on the face of the Third Issue of the Bank of New Zealand. This issue was the longest-running series, from 1870 to 1890.
And so, the Bank, the Kiwi, and the Maori came to be, in mid-Victorian days. These were the first designs of the Colony to depict not only local scenes and wildlife, but to acknowledge the Maori heritage of the islands. They were also the first evidence of the new Identity of the New Zealander, the English colonist, who, only 30 years after the Treaty of Waitangi, were beginning to see themselves not as Englishmen, but as New Zealanders. Kiwis to a man, if you will, and not unlike the American colonists of the 18th Century, destined to make their own way in the world.
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Top 25 banknote issuing countries by number of paper money views.
01. Vietnam p67
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03. South Korea p8a
04. France p116a
05. Brazil p232a
06. French Indo-China p18
07. Germany p169
08. Brazil p176d
09. Malaysia p49
10. Turkey p156a
11. Argentina p323b
12. Hong Kong p335d
13. Japan p104c
14. Oceania p2a
15. Greece pM17a
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17. Bahamas p13d
18. United Arab Emirates p4a
19. Swaziland p39a
20. German Federal Republic p8s3
21. Bermuda p50b
22. Brazil p191Ab
23. East Caribbean States p16n