The Numismatic Bibliomania Society


The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 16, April 17, 2022, Article 30


"Who's in Your Wallet?" is a great new interactive visual essay about the famous figures represented on today's currencies around the world. They looked at a number of aspects of each figure including occupation as well as gender and whehter the figure was know as the first to do or be something. Interestingly, there are slightly more writers at the head of the list then heads of government. President who? -Editor

  Who's in Your Wallet

If you open your wallet right now, who do you see there? You're probably looking at people who made history in your country. Without even noticing, you're always carrying around reminders of prominent people in your wallet, but have you ever wondered, who gets to be on banknotes?

In many places, paper money still fails to represent a portion of the population it serves, with many countries preferring to showcase people (usually men) in positions of power or of national acclaim on their banknotes. However, money can also be a platform to uplift the unsung leaders who deserve our gratitude for making our countries what they are. We decided to investigate this imbalance. We gathered data about the people who appear on banknotes around the world, to see what we could learn about them and their countries.

We wanted this analysis to be as international as possible so we inquired into 38 countries from all 22 sub and sub-subregions of the world, based on the United Nations' Statistics Department geoscheme.

19% of people featured on banknotes are Writers (45 people from 23 countries).

  Who's in Your Wallet occupations

Writing was the most common profession among women and the second most common for men.

Some notable figures in this category include Colombia's first Nobel Prize of Literature winner Gabriel García Márquez, the pioneer of Japanese modern literature Ichiyo Higuchi and Turkish writer Fatma Aliye Topuz, who is known as the first female author in the Islamic world.

Writers can give voice to a place, time, and culture in a way that can resonate and instill a sense of shared identity among citizens, perhaps making them such a popular choice to feature on banknotes.

While writers seem like a safe choice to be on banknotes, they can also cause controversy. For instance, Israel exclusively features Hebrew poets whose life stories, works, and activities are intertwined with the story of the rebirth of the Nation of Israel in its land, according to the Bank of Israel website.

Yet, many decry that the current Israeli series only represent Ashkenazi Jews and don't include anyone of Sephardi or Mizrahi heritage, an exclusion that some hope will be solved in following editions.

The second most common profession in the dataset is Head of Government, which only features one woman: Corazon C. Aquino.

She was president of the Philippines from 1986 to 1992 and is known for restoring democracy after the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

We classified monarchs as separate from heads of government because oftentimes they don't play that role.

There are just 12 monarchs featured on banknotes and only two of them are women: Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Tamar of Georgia.

On average, 29% of people in a country's currency were known for being the first ones to do something, whether it was being the first of their demographic to be a member of Congress, the first president of a nation, or the first Indigenous person to graduate from a national university. These are just some of the firsts that are featured on banknotes in this dataset.

More interactive visual articles like this would be a great way to educate the public and promote numismatics. Take notice, organizations and publishers! -Editor

To read the complete article, see:
Who's in Your Wallet? (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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