The five islands of Malta, Gozo, Comino, Kemmunett, and Filfla make up the Republic of Malta. Malta is located in the Mediterranean Sea, 93 km south of Sicily, 290 km north of Libya, and 290 km east of Tunisia. It is one of the smallest countries by area and most densely populated countries in the world. Malta is located in between strong ancient African and European civilizations, and its history is greatly influenced by them. Malta became a British colony in 1813 and was the headquarters of the British Mediterranean Fleet. Because of its strategic location, it became an Allied base during the Second World War. Malta gained its independence from Britain in 1964 and joined the Commonwealth. Ten years later, it is an official republic.
Malta is a part of the European Union and currently uses the euro. However, it used two different currencies before the euro—the pound from 1917 to 1972, and the lira from 1973 to 2007. The first Maltese banknotes were issued by the government in 1914 to address panic hoarding done by the public as World War I broke out. These notes were used as temporary paper currency with the following denominations: 5 shillings, 10 shillings, 1 pound, 5 pounds, and 10 pounds. These notes were demonetized two years later, and Malta used notes from Bank of England.
The outbreak of the Second World War made it difficult for the Bank of England to issue notes to Malta, so the Maltese government took over issuing responsibilities. The notes issued in 1939 are known as the King George VI issues. They all had similar designs but different color schemes, and featured the profile of King George VI. These notes were issued by the Government of Malta and printed by Bradbury, Wilkinson, and Company.
A sample of the King George issues is the blue, violet, and green 10 shillings note. It does not have anything printed on the backside, but its front side features the profile of King George VI, the denomination, the signatures of the Malta Government Treasurer, and the serial number. It did not have a security thread nor a watermark, but its dimensions are 143 mm by 83 mm.
Evolution Of Design
The first Maltese banknotes to have designs on both sides were issued due to Ordinance 1949. The Ordinance 1949 notes have only two denominations: 10 shillings and one pound. There are two versions of the Ordinance 1949 notes. The first version had the portrait of King George VI while the second version had the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, who visited Malta in 1954. Aside from the monarch’s portrait, the obverse side of these notes also bore George Cross, the highest award bestowed by the British government for “acts of greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in times of extreme danger”.
Malta was awarded the George Cross after the Second World War, and it is also incorporated into their flag. The reverse side of the notes had the same design: a blank shield in the middle of vibrant fronds. Though there were still no security threads, these notes had the same watermark: a knight in armor.
The Government of Malta updated the note designs in 1961. The security features remained the same. However, they used Pietro Annigoni’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and an updated design of the George Cross in front, and a landscape view of the major harbors in Malta at the back.
The Government of Malta also introduced the 5 pound note in the same year. The blue 5 pound note featured the Lacaris Wharf and Barriera Warehouses on the Grand Harbor at the back. It measured 145 mm long and 82 mm wide, the largest Maltese note of that time.
The Central Bank Act of 1967 was approved and the Central Bank of Malta assumed operations in 1968. The Central Bank of Malta also assumed the assets and liabilities of the Note Security Fund from the Currency Board and responsibility for the issuance of banknotes on June 1968. Its first series of banknotes looked like its predecessor. The only difference was the changes in color scheme.
New Banknotes In Malta
In 1972, Malta decimalized its currency and adopted the lira. The lira was equivalent to one pound, with both currencies being printed on notes until 1973. In line with the shift in currency, the Central Bank of Malta issued the second series of banknotes. The 50 cent coin then replaces the 10 shilling note. The second series were also the first to use Maltese text and security threads. The watermark on the second series of notes is a female head with a fortress around it, a symbol for the dauntless spirit of the Maltese.
The brown 10 lira note begins to circulate in 1973 as part of the second series of banknotes. For example its obverse side featured the statue of Neptune found at the Presidential Palace in Valleta, the map of Malta, Comino, and Gozo, the central bank arms, and the War Memorial cenotaph in Floriana. Its reverse side featured Fort St. Michael, a grand harbor on the tip of the Senglea peninsula. The security features also included a solid security thread. Its dimensions were 152 mm by 85 mm.
The third and fifth series of banknotes by the Central Bank of Malta were issued at historical milestones. The third series was issued on May 30, 1979, Freedom Day, to mark the date when NATO and British forces left the island. The fifth series was issued on September 18, 1989, the 25th anniversary of Malta’s independence from Britain. Meanwhile, the fourth series of banknotes was the only series issued by the Central Bank of Malta to feature a portrait of the head of state. The person featured on the note was Agatha Barbara, the third president of Malta. She is the third person to appear on Maltese banknotes.