When dictators fall, so do their banknotes

The following now defunct or possibly soon-to-be defunct banknotes are imbued with the symbols and iconography of their leaders, past and present.

6. Iranian rial

Pictured: 2,000-rial note, acquired in Tehran in 1999

This Iranian note is steeped in the symbolism of Tehran’s eight-year long war with Iraq. It shows a band of victorious soldiers, including one on the far right hoisting a Soviet Kalashnikov in the air and one in the center clutching a portrait of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. On the far left is watermark visage of a youthful shaheed or martyr (only visible to the naked eye).

After Saddam Hussein was toppled in early 2003 and a Shiite-led government came to power there, Iran’s Central Bank issued a new 2,000-rial note. The new note replaced the jubilant Iranian fighters with yet another portrait of a glowering Ayatollah Khomeini, reflecting the new political reality of a pro-Shiite, post-Arab nationalist Baghdad amenable to deep Iranian influence. 

*All notes courtesy of the author’s private collection.

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