Most people know only a few facts about Belgium. It is famous for steamed mussels, overcast skies, strong fruity beer, and the best sports car track in the world Spa Francorchamps. Belgium is also known as a land that has been caught in the middle of two world wars and experienced massive death and destruction on its land both times. Officially, the Kingdom of Belgium seceded from the Netherlands in 1830. Its relationship with the Netherlands and the influence of Napoleonic expansion led to the unique melding of 2 people, 2 languages and even 2 cultures. As a result, the northern part is Flemish and people there speak primarily Dutch. The southern and western parts are French speaking. The designs of their banknotes show the influence of both French style banknotes and Dutch banknotes.
Belgium banknotes in the 1800’s and early 1900’s had similar design concepts and paper as French banknotes. They were printed on thin paper and had detailed images printed in muted colors. For example, the 1910 20 Franc (P-67a) is a good representative example. It is oversized. A light pink color is used liberally with a goldish yellow highlighting the front images. Goddesses and classic are used as is a national lion crest.
Evolution of Belgium Banknotes
After World War II, the banknotes progressively got smaller but still had a ‘French’ design feel. The 1945 50 Franc (P-106a.26) shows large images and scenes that look more like pictures than banknotes. The background is a single color and there are squared off areas like a title slide of a powerpoint slide deck. In the late 40’s you can see a transition from a French style to a Dutch style where the banknote design is split into 3 sections- the portrait, the offset area and the watermark area. The 50 Franc from 1948 maintained the French style while the 20 Franc has the Dutch style.
The 1950 series seemed to have a front that was dominated by a portrait on one side, but the reverse still had the muted colors and feel of a French banknote. The 1961 series seemed to complete the transition to modern style banknotes. The 1962 100 Franc (P134a.1) and the entire series show portraits of famous people on the front and complex, multi-colored security designs printed on both sides.
While Belgium adopted the Euro in 2001, its last series issued in 1994 was a well-designed, secure set of banknotes. All of them are worthy of being in anyone’s collection. For example, The 1995 200 Franc (P-148) is my favorite. It has yellow orange coloring and shows musicians and musical instruments. It is a clean design and also connects to the local culture.