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Why collect banknotes as a hobby?

Updated on September 22, 2015
This is an example of an uncirculated British pounds note with descriptions and elaborations on its origin.
This is an example of an uncirculated British pounds note with descriptions and elaborations on its origin. | Source

Introduction

Traveled quite a bit and don't know what to do with remaining foreign currency notes? Why not start a collection? You don't even have to buy a fancy collector's album for a beginner. You could make do with a photograph album or a cheap clear folder for that matter. Let me share with you 3 reasons why collecting banknotes can be a desirable hobby.

For starters, there’s actually a term for the study and collection of banknotes. It is called "Notaphily”. A notaphilist therefore collects all types of banknotes, be it paper money, plastic or polymer notes. Just like any enthusiast, a notaphilist would be willing to spend some of his money on his hobby. However, irony kicks in when the note collector spends his or her hard-earned money to buy banknotes only to be kept and not spent. Although it may not make sense to you now, I believe that after you finish reading this article you will be more inclined to start your own collection of banknotes.

In the following paragraphs, I will be sharing 3 reasons why one should consider collecting banknotes as a hobby. So here I go...

Banknotes from Cyprus which I acquired during my travels there.
Banknotes from Cyprus which I acquired during my travels there. | Source
These are some of the pre-Euro banknotes in my collection. From top to bottom: Portugal, Netherlands and Italy respectively
These are some of the pre-Euro banknotes in my collection. From top to bottom: Portugal, Netherlands and Italy respectively | Source

1. Simple memento for travellers

The first reason is fairly obvious. Often, when travelling around the world one tends to end up with spare foreign banknotes. Basically, one can then start a banknotes collection by keeping the smaller denominations of the foreign currency notes of the places one has been to. That would serve as a memento and could also be a considered simple souvenir of the places visited. The challenge would then be to get a hold of banknotes from the past which are not printed anymore or no longer in circulation. Acquiring such notes will help expand one’s banknotes collection and make it more unique and interesting.

As far as I am concerned, whenever I get the chance to travel the world, I seek street markets and antique stores in order to purchase old banknotes.Sometimes, I even barter trade and offer my own country’s banknote as a gesture of goodwill when bargaining or negotiating with sellers at street markets. Lately, I have been actively looking for pre-Euro banknotes when backpacking across countries in Europe. Those notes would be one of the main things I look out for when I traverse the various European street markets. It definitely helps that banknotes tend to be lighter than coins and are thus a lesser burden to carry back home.

Serbian Dinar displaying Nikola Tesla and his contribution to the world of science.
Serbian Dinar displaying Nikola Tesla and his contribution to the world of science. | Source
North Korean banknotes with an image of their supreme leader as well as young citizens proudly wearing uniforms with the communist emblem, the star.
North Korean banknotes with an image of their supreme leader as well as young citizens proudly wearing uniforms with the communist emblem, the star. | Source
Banknote from Iraq depicting Saddam Hussein as a military leader.
Banknote from Iraq depicting Saddam Hussein as a military leader. | Source
Iranian banknotes depicting images of their supreme leader as well as beautiful Iranian architecture and ceramic design.
Iranian banknotes depicting images of their supreme leader as well as beautiful Iranian architecture and ceramic design. | Source

2. Educational value

Banknotes can give insights regarding the people of the country in which the notes are used. All banknotes which are legal tender normally have a numerical value displayed on it. It could be printed on both sides or only on one side but it must be on the note for it to be identified correctly. Besides the numerical value, there are often many different features, motifs and designs printed on the various banknotes that were used ever since paper currency was first developed in China in the 7th century A.D. Judging by what is printed on the banknotes, one can tell a thing or two about the culture of the people who use the notes as well as the prominent people, creatures, activities or simply anything that is significant in those places. Some notes show idyllic scenes of everyday life with images depicting the innocence and youthfulness of children while others include pictures of plants, animals or even mythical creatures. The more common ones nowadays are banknotes that portray renowned politicians or famous personas. Such designs commemorate prominent leaders in a country’s history or special contributors’ to the country’s arts or sciences fields.

Personally, my favourite banknote designs are from countries with controversial histories or those that generally have a bad reputation due to past conflicts, internal or external. This is mainly because the banknotes of such countries actually remind me that the people of those countries are normal people who live ordinary lives on a day to day basis. They use that very same banknote to purchase goods and services daily assuming they can get access to the banknotes and earn enough of them on a regular basis. I do understand that sometimes due to corruption or alternative form of governance the money is only kept and used by those with power and authority over others. This is rather unfortunate and it further emphasizes the importance of fair discussions and effective negotiation on the distributions of power within societies. Hence, banknotes do have educational value as they raise awareness on the countries in which they are used.

An uncommon Ottoman Empire note which held a value of 2.5 Ghurosh in Arabic in contrast to a Turkish 1 million Lira banknote with the image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of Modern Turkey.
An uncommon Ottoman Empire note which held a value of 2.5 Ghurosh in Arabic in contrast to a Turkish 1 million Lira banknote with the image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of Modern Turkey. | Source
An old Yugoslavian Dinar dating way back before the Serbian Dinar above. This particular piece is more colourful and full of details showing how people there used to dress and where they lived..
An old Yugoslavian Dinar dating way back before the Serbian Dinar above. This particular piece is more colourful and full of details showing how people there used to dress and where they lived.. | Source

3. Monetary benefit

The last reason for collecting banknotes is that it can be financially rewarding too. The hobby encourages collectors to have a better appreciation of foreign exchange rates. The knowledge of converting currencies from one currency to another ensures that a notaphilist does not keep large denominations of a foreign currency especially if it is weakening or depreciating. The ability and willingness to keep track of exchange rates will make the notaphilist a good currency trader although there is more to it than just that.

Furthermore, some collectors are able to reap huge profits from selling their rarer specimens to richer and highly selective collectors especially if they are unique and in mint conditions. The uniqueness could be in the form of an error in the printing or the repetition of certain special numbers in the serial numbers of the notes. However, as mentioned above, it is critical that the notes are kept in really good condition and sealed if possible. The best grade for notes would be the uncirculated ones whereas the worst possible condition is called poor and there is a large range in between. With proper hindsight, it is recommended then that a banknote collector store his collection in an appropriate album and put in extra effort to protect his notes if he has intention to sell some pieces or keep the collection for the long term. This is especially important as old,uncommon and well preserved notes tend to fetch a higher price because they are truly seeker after. Therefore, collecting money can actually bring in more money to the collector if he or she has the right notes.

Rare and unique notes which I managed to obtain but are in poor condition. Russian Ruble with odd denomination of '3' and a special note from Indochine.
Rare and unique notes which I managed to obtain but are in poor condition. Russian Ruble with odd denomination of '3' and a special note from Indochine. | Source
Look at some of the different notes used in Singapore over the years from WWII in 1942 to the SG50 commemorative notes issued in 2015. From paper notes to polymer ones the security features on the notes were enhanced over time.
Look at some of the different notes used in Singapore over the years from WWII in 1942 to the SG50 commemorative notes issued in 2015. From paper notes to polymer ones the security features on the notes were enhanced over time. | Source

Conclusion

Considering all that has been shared above, it is clear that banknotes collection can be an attractive and appealing hobby. It is not very costly and can even bring in profits. One can learn about different countries and their citizens from the images on the notes and it could be something that one looks for when shopping during one’s travels. Although one can cheat by buying a whole compilation, it is safe to say that such an action defeats the purpose of a hobby as it would be complete even before it started. Before I end, I would just like to remind all you potential notaphilists to be wary when dealing with foreign currencies and do not get conned or cheated with counterfeit money. Take some time to read and research about the different banknotes that are available worldwide and be aware of the security features and check for authenticity whenever possible. Stay safe and have fun collecting money!

References

Paramount International Coin Ltd. (1975). Collecting Currency: A Guide to Numismatics and Notaphily. Paramount International Coin Limited.

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© 2015 Suhaimi Zainal Shah

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    • Suhaimizs profile image
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      Suhaimi Zainal Shah 2 years ago from Singapore

      Oh thank you @CrisSp! Glad that you liked the article. I am sure you have a neat collection of old bank notes as conversation starters in your house. That is a good way to initiate conversation :)

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 2 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      I travel a lot and just like any other travellers, I keep stuff and souvenirs from the places I've been and two of my favourites are fridge magnets and bank notes (and coins). They are easy to collect and doesn't take much space in my luggage.

      When we moved to the new house, I had all the old bank notes framed. It has since become a conversation piece in my house.

      Good hobby and this is a good hub!

    • Suhaimizs profile image
      Author

      Suhaimi Zainal Shah 2 years ago from Singapore

      Yups that's right @Happy Moment. It does depend on where you come from to some extent.

    • Happy Moment profile image

      James 2 years ago from The Eastern Bypass

      Oh! I had never thought about this before. It is a good idea.It all depends on laws and regulations which exist in different countries

    • Suhaimizs profile image
      Author

      Suhaimi Zainal Shah 2 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks Keino for the comment. I believe that the first step to initiate the collection or start any new hobby is often the hardest. Perhaps you might want to get an album ready and start keeping any notes (even your own country's current ones) and the rest will automatically follow over time.

    • Keino C profile image

      Keino Chichester 2 years ago from Brooklyn, NY

      This is pretty interesting. I was always fascinated with different currency notes. I always try to hold onto them but they eventually get lost between the cracks of life.