Propaganda means the spreading of ideas, information, or rumour for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause or a person. It is an intentional try by countries, individuals or groups to form, control, or alters the attitudes of others through communication with the intent that in any given situation the reaction of those so influenced will be manipulated as the propagandist desired. The purpose of such propaganda can be a compelling argument, rumour or on factual base. It also can be the half-truth or an outright bluff. The intention of the propaganda doesn’t matter; they are done to influence the opinion of the general population. Duplicity and propaganda had been around since ancient times. One can use many things for the propaganda, but the most brilliant way to convey one’s message is to use a medium that is used by people on daily bases, a medium that can be easy without any kind of problem. Such a medium can only be paper money, the most favoured way to communication and a vehicle of propaganda also called Propaganda Banknotes. It’s a less obvious mode to propagate thoughts using direct, sarcastic and funny ways to communicate.

The banknotes are the convenient tools in the hands of the sly, crafty and sneaky propagandist; just imagine what can be a better instrument to propagate a message to common folks than a banknote. It is a genius notion to utilise the paper currency that is used on a daily bases. Propaganda banknotes are the way to drum the message in the people’s mind day in and out which will eventually become the part of the national idea, perception and intellect these propaganda ideas and thoughts can come in various forms, it can be subtle and can be direct.


Early propaganda banknotes of America and the French revolution


After the Chinese and Swedes who created paper currency in their respective country, we can give American colonist the celebrated third position to facilitated commerce through paper currency. This action happened in American colonies due to the shortage of spices, which was the term applied to circulated cash in the New World. In December 1690, Massachusetts General Assembly voted to issue banknotes in English pound as they were wary of the economy being hampered by barter system, few pence, Spanish doubloons and home minted pine tree shilling. As time went on the cash shortage problem of the American colonies was solved by printing more paper currency. This practice ran counter to the British policy of tight money. It was meant to keep the colonies dependent upon Mother country England. British attempts to regulate and enforce colonial trade eventually became one of the principal factors to spark the fire of revolution in American colonies .


Image 1: a -In the above-shown image banknote created in 1775 issue of the United Colonies, is design illustrated a bloody hand impaled upon a thorn bush on the 5 dollar bill. The hand represented Britain and the bush the American colonies and Latin motto, reads, “Put up with me or leave me alone”. It was designed by Benjamin Franklin.



Soon the revolutionaries of these colonies learned the way of propaganda against the mother country. When, in 1775 the Second Continental Congress convened, its first agenda was to pass a law authorizing the printing of paper money. When the fever of revolution was in full swing and the standing army was created to oppose the governing mother country. The propaganda became more vocal and obvious. First, it started with Latin motto but now on 50 dollar Continental Currency note features a thirteen tier pyramid such as found on the US one dollar bill today. The thirteen steps stand for the thirteen colonies in image b. The motto “PERENNIS” means EVERLASTING. This was powerful propaganda designed to bolster a fledgeling nation.



The last note in this image is of Massachusetts Bay Colony colonial note of 1775. It was designed by Paul Revere. This note was issued after the battles of Lexington and Concord, Revere chose to portray the Minuteman as a patriotic symbol of American freedom. This choice had a profound propaganda impact upon the loyalties of colonists still doubtful about breaking with King George III. One can say the propaganda banknote played a vital role in it.


Bogus confederate state of America note


Confetti and propagandas in term of banknotes have two different parts and uses, but when a concept of war comes in the picture both of this instrument are used together to weakening the enemy. During the Civil Wa,r the south had no hard currency to the meet the demand of daily commerce many printing contractors were hired to print note by the Confederate government. These printers issued notes with different designs according to their convenience, so as a result many different designs of the similar denomination were in circulation. One of the best examples is 5 dollar note. To take advantage of this situation and undermine the southern economy, the North issued a bogus note of five dollars with no serious counterpart.


Image 2: a – The most famous bogus creations during the Civil War was the Confederate 20 dollar issued on 25 July 1861. This 20 dollar bill was entirely fictitious and did not have a genuine counterpart. Therefore, after being smuggled into the Confederacy, it gained acceptance as the real thing and was widely circulated throughout the South. Today this specimen is known among collectors as the “Female Riding Deer” note.


Post World War I propaganda note the part I


Next are the propaganda banknotes circulated between World War I and II, the notion of the propaganda banknotes of this era was running on the different level itself. All sorts of revolutionary causes and old hatred expressions were printed on these notes. Passions were raised and old fears rekindled as these messages made their rounds.


It all started when Bolsheviks overthrew the Russian Imperial government in 1917, they wanted their ideology do spread worldwide. So in 1921, the Soviet banknotes carried a message inviting open rebellion against all anti-communists. The message was simple propaganda to read “Workers of the World Unite!” It was printed in at least six main languages of the Asian Continent.


Image 2: b – After the 1914 revolution they consolidate their hold on Russia and as in 1921 the Soviets felt sufficiently strong to advocate world communism. The propaganda message on the reverse of this Soviet 10,000 rouble note exhorts workers, in six languages, to unite in overthrowing the capitalists of the world.


Post World War I propaganda note part II


As the end of the World War I came, all the Allies exacted a heavy penalty upon a defeated Germany in the form of war reparations. It included unbearable financial payments for the cost of the war and the outright ceding of German territory to France. German citizens were outraged over such excesses and were powerless to do anything about it. This mishandling of German affairs after World War I was a principal factor leading to the rise of Adolph Hitler and to World War II. Much of this anti-French sentiment found its way onto bank notes.


Image 3-a: To show the undercurrent of French hatred, the German town of Kahala depicts an obsessed French man ‘France’ in the form of an archer pointing an arrow at a helpless ‘Germany’ on 75 pfennige, which is bound to the stump of a tree. Emaciated Germany, shown as little more than skin and bone, is riddled with arrows and is about to receive another in the form of further war reparations.


Perhaps the best-known example of anti-French sentiment is the famous German “ghoul” note. It the best example of the propaganda banknote Post World War I in a subtle way. In 1922 the post World War I inflation was just getting started at Germany and prices were skyrocketing. So, 10,000 marks Reichsbank note was issued.


Image 3-b: The 10,000 mark Reichsbank note of the time bore a reproduction of Albrecht Durer’s “Portrait of a German Worker” as its vignette. A propaganda message was hidden in the portrait in the form of a “ghoul”, or vampire, which is seen to be drinking blood from the worker’s throat. The ghoul represents France, sucking Germany dry as a result of excessive war reparations.


Till now we saw the German sentiments against the French now we will study the French notion of Germany during World War II when Germany forces occupied many of the French territories.  The area that remained free under Nazi Germany was Vichy France. As the war dragged on the anti-Germen sentiments increased and even the commoner were participating. They could find ways to raise their morale and lower Germany’s prestige through propaganda. It involved “do-it-yourself” propaganda kit. The method was simple and the materials readily at hand. At that time the banknote for Germany occupied France and Vichy France were issued by Bank of France. The 20 franc was the most common denomination. The brilliant ides of Propaganda on this banknote.


Image 3-c: In this note, the creativity of the ordinary citizens defied their occupiers by pasting the bust of Hitler, cut from German postage stamps, onto circulating 20 franc notes. The stamps were pasted onto the note to make it appear that the Breton fisherman was strangling him, much to the delight of loyal Frenchmen.



A British Parody of a French Fifty Franc Note


The year of 1941, it was a year after the fall of France. An interesting imitation of the 50 franc bank.


Note that was in circulating were dropped over the occupied territory of Germany. This note was the brainchild of the Political Intelligence Department of the British Foreign Office. The propaganda on the note is directed at Germany’s deteriorating financial condition and the cost to France of the German occupation. The bogus currency, known as ‘Code 90’, was dropped over France on the nights of 10 to 13 June 1941. The 50 franc notes were delivered by the Royal Air Force and a British Army Balloon Unit. Few of the notes had punch hole, it was evident that they ever send through balloon via the English Channel. The one without the holes were dropped from the air.


Image 4-a: The Germans and their lackeys look like robbers in the eyes of the public and to decry the cost to France of the occupation. Pierre Laval ‘the French puppet’ and Adolph Hitler adorn the columns at left and right. On the signature lines the title Le traitre Laval ‘the traitor Laval’ is substituted for the customary Le Caissier General and L’espion Abetz (the spy Abetz) in lieu of Le Secretaire General. The dejected scribe has written on the scroll before him “Cost of occupation = 400,000,000 francs per day”. An empty treasure chest lays open on his desk. In place of a serial number, the parody carries the date 23.6.1940, which was the day that General de Gaulle announced the formation of a ‘Free France’ to carry on the fight against Germany throughout the remaining French territories. At the bottom of the note is a cartouche bearing the words Aux Boches pillant riens impossible meaning ‘To the plundering Germans, nothing is impossible’.


There are many other examples of propaganda banknotes of this era which were issued from both sides to convey the message or change the opinion of the masses. The finest examples are:

  • The Bank Restriction Note of 1818
  • The Ghetto Notes of Theresienstadt
  • The German propaganda notes air dropped over North Africa
  • Propaganda banknotes of European theatres
  • Polish army overprints of 1944 Warsaw uprising.


These banknotes are the medium to convey the thought or manipulate the notion of the general public for a cause. It can also be issued to hide the actual intentions and portray an illusion of prosperity and wealth, one would analysis these notes as per the situation of that time. There many more such note present to further analysis and discuss, to know how the turning point of the event came to be. So keep visiting our website to know more about Propaganda banknotes in our next instalment. Till then take care and keep collecting.











Image and Data courtesy THE USE OF BANK NOTES AS AN INSTRUMENT OF PROPAGANDA by John E. Sandrock.


Counterpart: The term counterpart here referred to the actual currency circulating, the north took advantage of economic instability of south and released a propaganda banknote in the south of five dollars note as this denomination has the different design.


Vichy France: The remainder, which was not under direct control of the Nazis, was called Vichy France after the capital of the same name. Vichy, in the south of France, was governed by a German puppet, the elderly and doddering Marshall Petain, a onetime French hero of World War I. Vichy territory was not subject to actual occupation by German troops. Petain’s government gave the appearance of independence, but in all ways was subject to the orders of Hitler and other Nazi officials.

The Mintage World Team comprises of experts, researchers and writers from the field of Philately, Notaphily and Numismatics who try to shed light on some of the most interesting aspects of coins, banknotes and stamps from not just India but across the globe as well.

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