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The first banknotes of the Netherlands Antilles were introduced at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Before then, silver and golden coins, of which numerous were counterfeited, were used. One of the coins circulating was the Golden Joe. This was a very high value coin at the time, and was therefore regularly targeted by counterfeiters and other rogues who cut off small pieces, or even hollowed them out and filled them with solder. By 1818 the situation had become so problematic that the citizens no longer wanted to accept the Johannis as payment, whether unadulterated or not.
Stringent measures were needed to restore trust in gold coins and all Johannises were confiscated and replaced by a paper receipt stating the number of coins they had handed in.

 

 

 

These receipts were numbered, carried the King’s seal and were signed by members of the Council.

In order not to disrupt the money circulation, it was decreed that these paper receipts were to be accepted by everyone as if they were gold coins, without discount of whatever nature. The first banknotes of the Netherlands Antilles were born.

In 1827 King William I, in his efforts to harmonize the currency, ordered the establishment of a circulation bank, the present Centrale Bank van Curacao en Sint Maarten (Central Bank for Curacao and Sint Maarten). The bank officially opened its doors on February 6th, 1828. It is by far the oldest –still operating- circulation bank of the Americas and the Caribbean.

 

 

 

The Banks’ first director was Johannes van den Bosch. When he arrived in Curacao in December 1827, he also brought with him five crates of new banknotes, printed by Johan Enschede en Zonen in the Netherlands. Pre-printed on the notes was the date, 1827. That turned out to be rather optimistic. When the Bank opened its doors in 1828 it therefore had to make do with notes that were wrongly printed.

However simple the notes look nowadays, at the time they were more or less state-of-the-art and were enhanced with an ingenious mechanism to make counterfeiting extremely difficult. This was the use of the so-called Fleishman Pearl Music border which was constructed of very small elements originally developed for printing music.


 

 

 

 

In 1879 the new bank president Johan Cornelis Mensing started preparations for a new issue of banknotes. This issue would be radically different from the banknotes in use. It was the first issue to be printed entirely in color and was also the first to incorporate a watermark with the name of the Bank.

Mensing was also responsible for the introduction of the name “Curacaosche Bank”. Until 1879, the Bank was always referred to as ‘the Bank’, ‘the Government Bank’ or ‘the bank on Curacao’. The introduction of the name ‘Curacaosche Bank’ was not so much a conscious decision but more the result of misunderstandings between the Bank and the printers.


 

 

 



With the 1879 printing, the name ‘Curacaosche Bank’ was incorporated in both the text and watermark and would subsequently be printed on all banknotes produced from 1879 onwards.

The 1901 issue

The shortage of small change was a real problem. The Bank tried to solve this problem in 1883 by printing f 1, f 0.50 and f 0.25 notes on colored cardboard. They immediately got the nickname ‘kaartjes’ (cards). These cards are now extremely rare and only one or two examples are still known to exist. Nine years later the Bank decided to print new banknotes and destroy the 1883 cards. The notes were printed in New York. The quality of these new banknotes was very disappointing and they were replaced by a new issue in 1901.

 

The 1901 issue was basically a reprint of the 1879 design using the music border as its main design element. These new banknotes were once again printed at Johan Enschede en Zonen. These notes were later re-printed in 1909, 1913 and 1914.

Double-sized printing

In 1918 the Bank ordered new banknotes of a design that was similar to the 1879 design but the size of the notes was larger and the Fleishman Music Border was slightly different. More importantly, the notes would be printed on both sides, making counterfeiting much harder. The issue consisted of notes of f 5, f 10, f 25, f 50, f 100 and for the first time, f 250 denomination. The notes would be signed using rubber signature stamps.

A totally new design

By 1925 the available stock of banknotes was exhausted, so more had to be ordered.
The new notes were given a totally new design, moving away from the old, more reserved designs of the late 19th century.

This time the centre of the notes contained a vignette showing an aerial view overlooking Curacao’s St. Anna Bay as seen from the highest point in Otrabanda, looking towards Fort Amsterdam and the pontoon bridge.

All notes were given the same main color – purple – and were reprinted in 1927, 1928 en 1929.

At the end of 1929 the purple notes were rather suddenly replaced by green notes of the same design.

Next to the order of green notes, the Bank also ordered two million banknotes of a totally-new design. In contrast to the 1925 design, now each denomination had a different main color on the back as well as a different central motif on the front consisting of a representation that was typical for one of each of the six islands.
 

 

 

 

During the first few years of the Second World War the supplies of silver coins started to become scare again and Treasury notes or ‘Muntbiljetten’ (coin notes) of f 1 and f 2.50 were issued to take their place.

The Netherlands Antilles were not directly involved in the world but it was impossible to order notes from Johan Enschede en Zonen because of the German occupation of the Netherlands. The Bank therefore ordered the Treasury notes from the American Bank Note Company (ABNC) in New York.

Because the ABNC had no experience of printing notes in the Dutch language, a curious error had crept into the ‘anti-counterfeiting’ text from the Penal Code, on the back of the note. This text includes the diacritic dots on the capital letters I and J, which in Dutch are only used on the lower case ‘i’ and ‘j’.
 


 

 When new banknotes were needed in 1943, the Bank again contacted the ABNC. It ordered a reprint of the 1930/1939 banknotes since designing a new banknote would take too long. The ABNC had to engrave the emblematic Dutch Maiden anew and, in the process, the Maiden clearly lost some of her robustness and was also dressed in somewhat more tropical attire.
The ABNC notes lacked the CUR-BANK watermark, the most important anti-counterfeiting feature on the notes.

The Bank was very satisfied with the quality of the ABNC notes so when new notes were needed in 1947, these were again ordered in New York and not in the Netherlands. The only changes made on these notes were the year of issue and to make the 1947 recognizable from the front, the serial numbering was preceded by the prefix letter ‘B’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1947 the Bank asked the Dutch printer Johan Enschedé to produce a new banknote design. After approval of the design the new notes were printed in 1948 and put into circulation one year later. At the same time the 1930, 1939 and 1943 were withdrawn and destroyed.

The watermark in the 1948 note paper is a so-called ‘shadow’ watermark, consisting of areas of varying density. This was much harder to copy. The initial watermark covered the whole note. But since most of the note was covered by print, the watermark was quite hard to distinguish. For later issues the watermark would therefore be placed on only a small area of the notes.

 

 

 

The 1948 issue was the first issue for which the Bank ordered dedicated specimen notes, used to demonstrate to other banks around the world what the notes look like.


 



 

 


 

 

 

 

In 1948, discussions had started about the constitutional relationship between the Netherlands and its colonies. After six years, in 1954, these discussions resulted in an autonomous status for the six islands. The six islands, Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius became known as the Netherlands Antilles.

Although the 1954 banknotes look very similar to those of 1948, a significant number of small changes were incorporated:

  • the text ‘Willemstad – Curacao’ was added, as was the name ‘Nederlandse Antillen’;
  • the year of issue was replaced by the complete date
  • the two numbers denoting the value were now different, both in size and font
     

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

The Treasury notes used on the islands were once again reprinted in 1955 and again in New York. ABNC only had to change the name from Curacao to Nederlandse Antillen on both the front and the back of the notes.
ABNC was also asked to remove the diacritic dots on the capital ‘I’ and ‘J’.

The country’s new autonomy would result in considerable changes for the Bank, which now became an independent central bank.
When new notes were needed in 1958, the number was kept to a minimum to avoid having them to be destroyed once the new bank started its operations.
These would be the last banknotes using the name “Curacaosche Bank”. On January 1, 1962 the Bank would continue as the “Bank van de Nederlandse Antillen (voorheen de Curacaosche Bank)”.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

January 2, 1962 marked a new era for the Bank. The Bank’s 1907 Charter had been under revision ever since 1941 but is was only in 1961 that a new draft Charter was finally agreed upon.
The most obvious differences was the change in name. Less obvious was the change in legal status. The Bank was now an independent corporate entity under public law with its own Board of Management and an appointed President.

There was only limited time in which to design entirely-new notes and there were, of course, many other issues to deal with. So a pragmatic choice was made to use the existing designs as a basis for the new ones and only change the relevant elements. A totally-new design was postponed until a future date.
 

 

 

 

 

 


 

With its new independent status in place the Bank wanted the new notes to have a clearly-Antillean flavor, no longer characterized by the image of the Dutch Maiden that has adorned every note since 1930.
The Bank therefore asked a local Curacao artist, Oscar Ravelo, to take on the task of creating a design. Ravelo never designed a banknote and therefore had to lean heavily on Enschede’s expertise. This finally led to a design that turned out to be very similar to the old one. The most prominent change was the replacement of the Dutch Maiden by the Autonomy Monument.

1972 – 1974 – 1975

In 1972 the new Bank president V. Servage ordered more banknotes. To keep costs to a minimum, the 1967 model was reused with only the date of issue and the signature changed.

Two years later another order was placed at Johan Enschede. For this series a numbering system was introduced, using different fonts for the two serial numbers on same note.
This reprint was followed by two more reprints, both in 1975.
 

 

 

 

 

 


 

The same design was used for the 1979 series. There were some changes made in this series. The new notes were given brighter colors. The printer also used the ‘iris print’ that makes colors flow into each other, similar to a rainbow.
Also the method of numbering the notes was changed.
At the end of 1980 the Bank ordered more banknotes of f 5, f 10, f 25 and f 50. The 10 and 25 guilder notes were ordered unchanged and were printed with the July 14, 1979 issue date on it. The 5 and 50 guilder banknotes were printed with the adjusted issue date, being December 23, 1980.

The f 100 notes was ordered in 1981 with the issue date December 9, 1981.
Three years later, the f 5 and f 10 banknotes were re-ordered with the issue date of June 1, 1984.

Introducing the birds

In 1986 Aruba left the Antillean constellation and became an separate entity within the Kingdom. The Bank charter needed to be amended. This led to a new name for the Bank van de Nederlandse Antillen (voorheen de Curacaosche Bank).
 

 

 

 

 

 


 

As of January 1, 1986 the Bank would just be called Bank van de Nederlandse Antillen (BNA) without the italic addition that reflected its past history.

The new status of the Bank called for a new banknote series which was prepared and printed by Enschede. They were once again designed by Ravelo and the resulting series, which by now has been in circulation for over twenty years, is extremely attractive and colorful, modern and functional.

For its design, Ravelo used local birds, like the Oriole (5 guilder), the hummingbird (10 guilder), the flamingo (25 guilder), refous-collared sparrow (50 guilder), the bananaquit (100 guilder) and the Caribbean mockingbird (250 guilder).

The 1986 series was reprinted in 1990 and 1994

In 1998 the Bank decided to increase the security features on its banknotes. One of the most obvious features was the use of gold foil print. This gold foil turn out black when photocopied or scanned.


 

 

 

 

 

 


 

The 1998 series was reprinted in 2001, 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2011, incorporating the respective dates.