The roses in Jackson’s cheeks

So they’ve come out with a new version of the US $20 bill, where there are some rose/peach tints, in addition to the usual green/black on all US$ bills. I’ve long wondered (1) Why do $US bills only come in green and black? Why don’t they include more colours? (2) Why don’t US coins have Arabic numbers indicating the value of the coin, i.e 1, 5, 10, 25? Many visitors may not be able to read the microscopic print that says “FIVE CENTS”, etc.

And finally, (3) how can the US Mint screw up two consecutive attempts for widespread adoption of a $1 coin? The Susan B. Anthony was too similar in size and color to the quarter. The Sacajewa has been susceptible to hoarding. People are silly enough to think they’re worth more just because they’re gold coloured? And is it coincidence that both coins feature women? Was this a set-up for failure?

I’ve seen a lot of different currencies in my travels. In general, you can tell a lot about the culture and what the leaders consider important by what’s shown on the banknotes. Natural scenery? Historic figures? Architecture? With long-reigning monarchs, like Queen Elizabeth II and King Bhumpiol, you can even see how their official portraits age, as the currency design evolves.

The 5000 zloty note in Poland features Chopin, as well as the music (notes) to one of his polonaises. The 1000 Italian lira note was one of my favourites, because it uses the pinks to show the Doge’s Palace in Venice as it is.

In general I don’t like currencies that use a lot of zeroes, i.e. the Indonesian rupiah, the Vietnamese dong, the Laotian kip, the som in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, because it’s too easy get confused. 10,000 units vs. 100,000 units makes a big difference between a bargain and a rip-off. Incidentally, the US dollar is widely used in a lot of countries where the local currency is weak and unstable. In Uzbekistan, you buy a flat with US dollars, not least because you would need a truck to transport the bricks of cash, if you were to pay in local som.

In Hong Kong, three different banks issue banknotes. It was the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC) and Standard Chartered, joined by the Bank of China more recently. They use the same color scheme, but have different designs. All HK$100 bills are red, all HK$500 bills are brown. But each bank features its headquarters building on the notes, which made the architectural rivalry between I.M. Pei and Norman Foster more significant.

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One thought on “The roses in Jackson’s cheeks

  1. my vote for the answer to all the above is:

    tradition.

    Treasury has finally begun to put out harder to duplicate bills after a decade or more of existance of copying technology good enough to match color and details on bills. I think their only saving grace was that the paper was incredibly difficult to come by, and it was much more lucrative (and legal!) to commit fraud, embezzlement, and just plain looting of public companies. Yea! šŸ˜‰

    I think the currency boys owe the SEC a drink or two. wadda’you think?

    j.

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