BANKNOTES OF THE WORLD
Jonathan Callaway’s world travels continue with the banknotes of Denmark
Banknotes expert Jonathan Callaway continues his travels around the globe stopping off in Denmark to examine the Nordic country’s paper currency and how it has developed over the years
Paper money in Denmark made its first appearance in 1713 following a decree issued on 8 April of that year. Under this decree simply designed notes were issued by the Royal Treasury of Frederik IV in both Rigsdaler (roughly a crown-sized silver coin) and Marks. The notes never gained the full trust of the public, however, and by 1728 they had fallen in value against the metal coin equivalent and were withdrawn.
A Rigsdaler was worth 6 Marks or 96 Skillings and in 1713 there were about 4.44 Rigsdaler to £1 Sterling. In 1874 the Krone, equivalent to 8 Marks and divided into 100 Øre, replaced the Rigsdaler and remains Denmark’s currency to this day. The introduction of the Krone came as a result of Scandinavian Monetary Union which fixed at par the three identically-named currencies of Denmark, Norway and Sweden until the agreement ended in 1914.
From 1819 Nationalbanken i Kjøbenhavn, reorganised as Denmarks Nationalbanken in 1936, was the government’s monopoly paper money issuer, with notes first in Rigsdaler and then Kroner. In the latter part of this period, despite the monopoly, eleven regional credit banks also issued low denomination notes that circulated locally from 1894 to the early 1920s.
In early 1920 small denomination emergency notes were issued by various towns in German-controlled Schleswig-Holstein, parts of which had once been Danish territory. A longstanding border dispute between Denmark and Germany was finally resolved by a plebiscite which returned most areas with
a majority Danish population to Denmark. Surviving notes, mostly denominated in German Marks rather than Kroner, are quite easy to find and are similar to the widely collected German Notgeld issues from the same period. They can form an attractive addition to a collection of Danish notes.
Perhaps the first note designs that collectors will see with any regularity are those designed in 1911 by the Danish artist Gerhard Heilmann. These popular if rather staid notes mostly featured scenes of traditional life and lasted right through until the 1950s. After the Second World War the notes were re-introduced in new colours to ensure that the huge quantities the authorities had been forced to hand over to the German occupiers in 1940 could no longer be used. Anyone holding old notes had to account for what they brought in to exchange for the new ones and anyone with more than 500Kr had their funds held in escrow until the inland revenue had investigated the source of the money. This was intended to root out and penalise wartime black market profiteers.
During the Second World War unofficial propaganda notes appeared alongside the German notes and coins that had been forcibly introduced. These were issued by Danish Nazi sympathisers and are of historic interest. They remain widely available to collectors seeking to add colour and variety to their collection.
In July 1945 a short-lived ‘Substitution series’ came out, comprising simply designed 5Kr and 10Kr notes. These had been printed in complete secrecy by Danmarks Nationalbank before the end of German occupation and were widely used until notes of the pre-war design became available in their new colours.
In the 1950s it was finally decided to bring in the first new designs for forty years. These had improved security features and the first to be issued were the 5Kr and 10Kr in October 1952. It took another twelve years before the rest of the old series was replaced, by which time the 5Kr note had been dropped in favour of a coin. The new notes were of a uniform design with large denomination numerals in the centre and two small vignettes to either side, a portrait of a historical figure to the left and a related scene to the right. The reverse of each note featured a delightful full-sized view of a classic Danish landscape.
This series was itself replaced when a new 100Kr note, the first of a new set of very attractive designs, was released in 1974. The portraits on the front of each denomination were based on paintings by the Danish artist Jens Juel, including his self-portrait on the 100Kr note. A 1000Kr note was added in 1975 and a 20Kr note in 1980. The back of each of these distinctive designs featured a finely engraved image of a native bird, fish or other creature. The 20Kr note did not last long and had been withdrawn by 1990. The 10Kr note was also discontinued.
Although this was a well-designed series the decision was taken to replace it with notes incorporating more advanced security features using computer-aided design techniques. This process started in 1997 with a new series of notes whose dimensions varied by length but not by height. During the life of this series further security features were added, such as the use of ultra-violet ink, windowed metal threads and hologram patches. Boldly executed portraits were the main feature of the 1997 series, this time of Danish personalities from the arts and sciences. On the backs of the notes were highly distinctive images of decorative stone carvings in Danish churches. A 200Kr note was added for the first time. The smallest denomination is now the 50Kr note with a portrait of Karen Blixen, the author best known for her book ‘Out of Africa’. Unlike earlier issues the portraits are named on this series. The 1000Kr breaks new ground by incorporating the twin portraits of Anna and Michael Ancher.
In 2009 the current series started to appear. The notes were designed by the artist Karen Birgitte Lund following a design competition and
were in a somewhat minimalist style in muted colours. The common theme is the major bridges of Denmark. Denominations ranged from 50Kr to 1000Kr. While they remain in circulation demand for paper money has been falling in recent years and the National Bank decided that manufacturing the notes themselves was no longer economically viable and production would be outsourced. In February 2018 a new contract was awarded to the French company Oberthur Fiduciaire. The first notes printed by them were due to be issued in late 2020. This was the first time any Danish notes had been printed outside the country (the contract to mint their coins had been awarded to the Finnish mint in 2017).
A curiosity of Danish notes is the bewildering variety of signature combinations. For some years the left hand signature was the manager of the state printing works paired with one of twelve senior bank officials. From 1952 it was the Chief Cashier on the right paired with one of three board directors. A total of 39 signatures in a huge number of combinations have been recorded since 1935 so collecting by signature is definitely something for only the most dedicated specialist! The numbering system introduced in 1951 was also somewhat idiosyncratic with a seven-digit sequential number coupled with a six-digit alphanumeric reference, of which the first two digits act as a prefix linked to the sequential number, the second two digits indicated the year of issue and the third two referred to the sheet position.
Collecting Danish notes provides a most rewarding insight into Danish life, culture and history. Many of the designs are beautiful and would enhance any collection. Most post-war notes can be found easily enough though some higher values are becoming quite pricey.