A Winning Note

Author:Niccole Braynen-Kimani

Kazakhstan’s tenge has won several awards for best currency design


A Winning Note Finance & Development, September 2016, Vol. 53, No. 3

Niccole Braynen-Kimani

Kazakhstan’s tenge has won several awards for best currency design

Many countries claim that their currency is appealing, but Kazakhstan has awards to back it up. In the two decades since the country introduced its own currency, the Kazakhstani tenge has won four first places and one runner-up in contests for the world’s prettiest banknotes.

Kazakhstan declared its independence in December 1991, the last of the former Soviet republics to do so. But it did not create its own currency until two years later. It was still using the ruble in July 1993 when Russia abruptly issued a new national currency and old Soviet banknotes flooded Kazakhstan, driving up prices and creating shortages of products. To regain control of its economy, Kazakhstan issued its own currency in November 1993, at a rate of 500 rubles to the tenge.

Vertical appealThe look of the national currency changed several times after 1993, and in 2006 the National Bank of Kazakhstan launched a new series that also became recognized as one of the most secure in the world. Designed by Mendybay Alin, the central bank’s senior designer, the series was intended to reflect the young country’s growing self-confidence, a link between its past and future. The vertical orientation of the notes was dictated by the inclusion of the Bayterek tower in the new capital city of Astana. “Bayterek” comes from a Kazakhstani legend and means “tree of life.” The notes in the Bayterek series also include an open palm to show the country’s openness to the world, Alin says.

The T 10,000 note from the 2006 series started the winning streak when it was named best new banknote by the International Association of Currency Affairs (IACA) in 2007. Four years later the International Bank Note Society (IBNS) named the T 10,000 commemorative note—issued to celebrate 20 years of Kazakhstani—banknote of the year. In 2012, the new T 5,000 note won best in show, and again in 2013 the tenge took the top IBNS award, for a commemorative T 1,000 note.

The commemorative T 1,000 banknote stands out for its rich, warm-color hues and an elegant image of General Kul Tigin of the Second Turkic Kaganate, or empire, on the vertical front. On the horizontal back, a drawing of Turkic warriors on horseback is set against a monument with Turkic writing at Kul Tigin’s...

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