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Global currencies vie for money beauty pageant crown

What's your favorite currency? I'm not talking dollar value, but which one do you find more appealing aesthetically?

US Currency popular denominaitons_100-5-20-10

Here in the United States, our bills are not that attractive when compared to some of the flashier forms of legal tender worldwide.

But we try.

U.S. $$$ history: In 1929, America's dollars got a major remake, primarily to lower manufacturing costs, according to the U.S. Treasury's history of our money. Back then, all Federal Reserve notes were reduced in size and standardized designs were instituted for each denomination, decreasing the number of designs in circulation and making it easier for the public to distinguish between genuine and counterfeit notes.

Another key change came in 1969, when Uncle Sam discontinued issuance of big banknotes, primarily because so few people (legally) used $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 bills.

The $2 bill returned in 1976 to commemorate the 233rd anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth. Although it's still around, the deuce (Thomas? Jeffy?) never really caught on with consumers or retailers who had to figure out where to put this new currency in their existing cash register trays.

Facelifts to fight counterfeiting: In 1990, a security thread and microprinting were introduced in cash to deter counterfeiting by copiers and printers. The features first appear in $100 notes. By 1993, the features were part of all denominations except $1 and $2 bills, which crooks don't usually bother with faking.

In 1996 even more counterfeiting deterrent measures were incorporated into U.S. bills, marking the first significant design change since the 1920s. A new $100 was issued that year, followed by an updated $50 in 1997, $20 in 1998 and facelifts for the $10 and $5 bills in 2000.

A bit of pizzazz was added with some subtle hues worked into the stock green. But overall, U.S. currency still is pretty boring.

Soon, though, we'll get some new faces on our bills. But not, to the front of the $10, thanks to Alexander Hamilton's newfound popularly as the eponymous star of the Broadway musical "Hamilton."

Currency beauty pageant: Still, I doubt the new U.S. bucks will ever make it to the finals of the International Bank Note Society's (IBNS) annual Banknote of the Year competition.

No, this is not a fake news item. There is such an organization and annually since 2004, the group has selected winners based on the banknote's artistic merit and/or innovative security features.

This year the finalists (so far; IBNS is accepting nominations through Jan. 3, 2017) are from Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Colombia, England, Georgia, India, Maldives, New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden and Switzerland.

Here are my favorites.

Sweden 100 Kronor note_GretaGarbo_front

I'm a classic film buff, so Sweden's 100 Kronor has to be there since it showcases native daughter and Silver Screen star Greta Garbo.


Maldives 1000 Rufiyaa note_front

The collection of tropical atolls in the Indian Ocean known as the Republic of Maldives gets my vote for its showcasing of sea life.


Belarus 100 ruble note_back

Belarus' 100 Ruble note with its violin on the back of the bill caught my attention because I'm a music lover. I'd love to know the story behind this.


And the two vertically displayed notes below from Argentina and Switzerland also make my favorites list.

Argentina and Switzerland IBNS 2016 banknote of the year nominees

Long-time readers of the ol' blog known I'm a nature lover (see the Maldives above) in general and a particular fan of felines of all sizes, so the leopard on Argentina's 500 Peso bill gets my vote.

And I used to work for an international company headquartered in Vevey, Switzerland, so the colorful 50 Swiss Franc bill with a daring parachutist over the Alps also gets a nod from me.

Winner announced in April: You can check out all 12 bills in the running right now at the IBNS' special Banknote of the Year web page.

IBNS members will vote on the winner after evaluating each note's artistic merit, design, use of color, contrast, balance and security features.

The 2016 currency champion will be announced at the first IBNS Board meeting of the year, which is planned for next April.   

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