The Heads and Tales of Global Banknotes


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‘Money makes the world go round’, is a lyric from the musical ‘Cabaret’, made famous on Broadway and by Lisa Minelli in the film version. It does ring true however; money kind of does make the world go round (well actually it’s because of inertia and collapsed hydrogen’s angular momentum, but you get the gist). Money is exchanged around the world constantly for goods, services, debt repayments or gifts, holding a prominent role in any nation, who therefore want to imprint their identity and ideals on to their banknotes.

We decided to look at the individuals who make up these banknotes from countries around the world to compare and contrast the differences between them, the stories they tell us about that particular place. Do artists and writers hold a prominence or is it their military and revolutionary figures who they revere above all else? Is it a broad mix of categories or is it focused on one area? We looked at banknotes from all around the world for the overall data, but for the charts we only included countries which had 6 or more individuals so we could analyse a wider variety of results.

Strikingly in our research into the male to female ratio per country, we found that the overall split was 89% male to 11% female, which is an incredible statistic, with the only countries to have a female majority were Australia and Canada. America interestingly had no women on any of their banknotes, though this is something which is in discussion to change.

In terms of the categories, we found that politicians were the most popular (take what you will from that), making up 26% of the overall categories around the world, with literary figures coming in next at a surprisingly high 16% overall.

Money is a huge part of everyday existence, and that may be hard to change, but by making cents of the individuals on banknotes, we were able to get a broad overview of nations around the world and what seems to be important to them, or at least those in charge. Who knows maybe one day you too could be on your country’s banknote?

Heads and Tales

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