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History of Iranian banknotes :

It is not completely obvious that who and when first introduced paper money in Iran but the history of modern banknotes goes back to the era of Naser-eddin shah Qajar. In January 1889, the Qajar king signed the preliminary concession in favor of Baron de Reuter for the Imperial Bank of Iran. A year later, the first Persian banknotes were printed in England in dominations of 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100, 500 & 1000 Toomaans. Only the 1000 Toomaans banknotes were not circulated and were kept in treasury as a reserve note. The first issue banknotes were only valuable in 22 cities and each limited to that city.

Nasser-aldin Shah Qajar in Golestan Palace

Pic. 1:
 Naser al-din Shah Qajar beside his globe of jewels in Golestaan Palace, Tehran. The globe which is kept in the museum of crown jewels of Iran now, is made of gold and covered with invaluable gems.

Click on the photo to visit some of the Qajar banknotes.

On the obverse side of the banknotes the portrait of Naser-eddin Shah Qajar was printed on the right and the national emblem of the Lion & sun as watermark on the left side. The Farsi script of imperial bank of Iran was printed at the top side and the value of the banknote in the middle. At the reverse, the Lion & sun were placed in the middle of the note surrounded with the English translation of the front side script. The color pattern of two sides varied in all denominations.

The second issues of the Imperial Bank of Iran's banknotes were printed in the following decade with bits of changes in the pattern and size of the notes. On the other hand, this issue was printed only in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 & 100 Toomaans. Again in this issue the bust of the Qajar king was printed on the obverse but the emblem of Lion & sun was omitted except for the 20, 50 & 100 Toomaans banknotes. The banknotes of the second issue were in circulation until 1931 when the National Bank of Iran was founded during the reign of Shah Reza Pahlavi and the monopoly of the coinage and paper money printing went under possession of this newly established Iranian bank.

The first issues of banknotes in Pahlavi era were printed in 1932 in 6 denominations: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 & 500 Rials. Unlike the previous issues, the color of both sides were the same in this issue and for the first time three historical scenes were mentioned on  the front side of three banknotes near the king's bust : 'Chehelsotoon Palace' in Isfahan , 'Persepolis' in shiraz and the mount Daamaavand on the 50, 100 & 500 Rials banknotes consequently.

The first banknotes issues of Reza Shah Pahlavi era


Pic. 2: 
A 5 Rls. banknote from the first issue of Reza Shah Pahlavi's series. In this issue, the king's bust is smaller than other issues.

Click on the image to view a web gallery of Reza Shahi banknotes.

Three years later, the second issues of Pahlavi banknotes were printed. This time only the portrait of Reza Shah Pahlavi was changed to the one with a larger cap and the 1000 Rials banknotes were released. Up to this time the date of the banknotes were hand-stamped at the reverse.

It was in 1936 that the forth issues were printed in a new design: the portrait of Reza Shah was without his famous Pahlavi cap and his profile was used as watermark for the first time. Following the mintage of gold coins with the new unit of 'Pahlavi', the equality of the banknote's value with the gold coin unit were mentioned on the front side of the banknote (e.g. one Pahlavi on the 100 Rials banknote).  Denominations were 10, 20, 50, 100 & 1000 Rials and the date of the publication were printed on the front side in month and year (Farvardin 1315 / March 1936).This pattern was used again in the next issues till 1941 and during these years the values of 5 and 500 Rls. were issued too.

By the World War II and resignation of Shah Reza Pahlavi, his crown prince, Mohammad Reza came to throne in September 1941. Until 1944 the old Reza Shahi banknotes were in circulation. Then, the first notes of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi were printed only in minor denominations. Their pattern were exactly the same as the Reza Shahi notes but the portrait of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi were printed instead of his crowned father. In 1945,  second issues were printed with a new design. By the third issue in 1948, banknotes were redesigned and reduced in size.

In 1960, according to a legislation by the National assembly of Iran, the central bank of Iran was founded and it possessed the monopoly of issuing money from the National Bank of Iran. So after the 7th issue of the National Bank, the banknotes of the Central bank were published. In 1964, the date of publication was omitted from the banknotes except for the commemorative banknotes of the 2500th anniversary of foundation of the Persian Empire (1971). The Central Bank of Iran  printed 15 issues of banknotes in the reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

A variety of 100 Rls. banknotes

Pic. 3:
    Reigning  for about 37 years, a great variety of banknotes were released in the era of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

   Click on the image  to visit the banknotes of this era in full detail.

By the revolution of 1979 and fall of the Shah, his bust and watermark were overprinted on the banknotes. Three issues of such banknotes were published with various overprint stamps until 1980, when the first banknote series of the Islamic Republic were released. These banknotes were again similar to the series of 1975 but the king's portrait was replaced with a scene of the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza in Mash'had. Also, reverse image of some banknotes were changed completely.

Pahlavi banknotes were hand-stapmed after the revolution of 1979


Pic. 4: 
A few days after the establishment of the Islamic republic of Iran, all of the banknotes of the Shah's era were overprinted.

 Click on the photo to visit the banknotes of the Islamic republic.

In early1980s, definite series of the Islamic republic banknotes were printed with a great change in appearance and even the material of papers (Click here for details). In 1991,  the portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini was printed on the banknotes for the first time. Due to high rate of inflation, 20000 and 50000 Rls. banknotes were released in March 2004 and  March 2007 respectively. The government is planning to publish 100000 Rls. banknotes in near future.

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