Though many forms of currency are visually conservativefeaturing portraits of notable figures and leadersthere is a class of cool cash from around that globe with eye-popping colors and designs. More than just legal tender, some banknotes serve as an artistic merging of technology, color schemes and cultural references. From Egypts display of ancient pharaohs to Kazakhstans exotic electric-blue design, the collection of bills below boasts some of the worlds best moola.
Above is one of seven denominations of Egyptian banknotes that were introduced into circulation by the Central Bank of Egypt in 1961. The side written in Arabic has a picture of the Sultan Qayetbay mosque and the side written in English displays a carving from one of the temples at Abu Simbel, which features four identical statues of Pharaoh Ramses II, who ruled Egypt for 67 years. Estimated Exchange Rate: 1 U.S. dollar = 5.55575 Egyptian pounds
In 1995, the current and eighth series of Swiss banknote designs were slowly released into circulation. Each denomination features a portrait of a famous Swiss artist atop a bold color schemefurther demonstrating Switzerlands ever-chic artistic reputation and forward-thinking ways. The front of this bill features composer Arthur Honegger, while the back depicts elements (including a locomotive wheel and a piano keyboard) that evoke his famous composition Pacific 231. Estimated Exchange Rate: 1 U.S.dollar = 1.08492 Swiss francs
Kazakhstans monetary unit, the tenge, was introduced in 1993replacing the Soviet ruble as the national currency. The most current design of the banknote features a geographical outline of the country on one side and overlapping national treasures on the other, which include the Astana-Baiterek Monument, the Kazakhstan flag, the signature of President Nazarbayev and lyrics from the Kazakh national anthem. Estimated Exchange Rate: 1 U.S. dollar = 148.330 Kazakhstan tenge
Hong Kong Dollar
In July 2007, Hong Kong became the 25th country to gradually introduce a $10 polymer banknoteboth more durable and secure than the standard paper banknote. Both $10 bill version are considered legal tender and bear the same designthe beautiful abstract arrangement of geometric shapes in shades of mauve, purple, blue and yellow shown above. The design makes impressionistic references to modern architecture as well as to festive and cultural activities in Hong Kong. Estimated Exchange Rate: 1 U.S. dollar = 7.74997 Hong Kong dollars
In 1986, Arubas new governing power created a unique currency called the florin to replace the Antilles guilder. Starting in 1990, the bills were redesigned by Evelino Fingal, Aruban graphic artist and director of the Archaeological Museum, who found his inspiration for the eccentric designs in Native American tribal paintings, archeological pottery shards and native wildlife. On each denomination, the images are layered to create a modernistic collage of cool geometric shapes. Estimated Exchange Rate: 1 U.S. dollar = 1.77000 Aruban florins
South African Rand
In 1961, the South African rand was introduced to replace the pound, an act that coincided with the countrys declaration as a republic. However, it wasnt until the 1990s that the current banknote designsans the face of Dutch administrator and Cape Town founder Jan van Riebeeckwas introduced to post-apartheid South Africa. The color-infused denominations each feature one of the Big Five gameAfricas most-difficult-to-hunt wildlife speciesthe lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and black rhinoceros. Estimated Exchange Rate: 1 U.S. dollar = 8.13147 South African rand
The collectors item shown above is part of the A1 collectors series and is nonlegal tender. Created by the Antarctica Overseas Exchange Office, the bill designs are based on regional geography and wildlife. The one displayed above features Peterman Island on the front and the picturesque image of penguins jumping into the nearly freezing waters off the Ross Ice Shelf on the reverse.
This former currency of The Netherlands was replaced by the euro on January 1, 2002. Among the bills, whose loss the Dutch surely mourned, was this bright yellow sunflower-clad 50-guilder banknote, which was designed by Jaap Drupsteen in the 1990s. The series, which portrayed an intricate pattern of geometric designs, including radio schema and resistors, boasted a colorful array of sunflowers, lighthouses and birds were said to encapsulate classic Dutch artistry.
Introduced in 1966 to replace the pound when Australia adopted decimal-based currency, the Australian dollar bears a portrait of two prominent Australian figures on each side and reflects the artistic and cultural values of the era in which they lived. In the 1980s, polymer notes were introduced into circulationboasting security updates which included a transparent window with an optically variable image of British explorer, navigator and cartographer Captain James Cook. Estimated Exchange Rate: 1 U.S. dollar = 1.25521 Australian dollars
The currency of French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Wallis and Futuna is the CFP Franc, which was introduced in 1945. Typically, one side of the banknote shows landscapes or historical figures of New Caledonia, while the other side features those of French Polynesia. The front of the bill pictured above depicts a coastal landscape of Huahiné and a French Polynesian Tahitian woman; the back shows coral and fish of New Caledonia, and a New Caledonian Melanesian woman wearing hibiscus flowers. Estimated Exchange Rate: 1 U.S. dollar = 84.42800 CFP francs
Cook Islands Dollar
Cook Islands, the 15 small islands that make up the self-governing parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand, has a currency that is slowly falling out of favor (though still remains legal tender). Introduced in 1987 (and revamped in 1992) the banknotes depict various aspects of South Pacific life and have an exchange rate similar to the New Zealand dollar. The 1987 currency note above shows a nude Ina (a Polynesian mythological figure) riding a shark on one side and a traditional canoe alongside the god Te-Rongo on the other. Estimated Exchange Rate: 1 U.S. dollar = 1.57208 New Zealand dollars
In 1968, Zambia introduced its kwacha banknotes. Since then, the currency has received a number of design reinventions, including the release of polymer notes in 2003making Zambia the first African country to do so. The fish eagle is the main feature on most banknotes; the birds excellent vision and swift reaction is a symbol of the countrys focus on economic growth and resiliency. Printed on the back is the Freedom Statue, which represents Zambias struggle for freedom in the precolonial days. Estimated Exchange Rate: 1 U.S. dollar = 5,060 Zambian kwacha