The 5th Series of Swiss Banknotes have some of the most interesting designs and themes. This series, issued between 1956 and 1957 and were used through 1980. Most of the notes had large portraits of people on the front and a pleasant theme on the back. The 1000 Franc seems to be an exception to the idea of a ‘pleasant theme’. 

Swiss 20 Francs | 1954 | P-46a.2 |
Source: Banknote World Educational

Let’s start with the nicer banknote themes. The reverse side of the 20 CHF shows a large thistle flower. This image is common on Swiss tourist designs. It is beautiful and fits Switzerland culture. The 50 (my personal favorite) has a young girl with a garland headdress on the front and an image of apples being harvested on the back. The 100 and 500 seem to mark a design concept change. While the front design have nice portraits and complex security line structures, the themes on the back seem a little darker. The 100 has an impressive scene of St. Martin, but he is standing with a broadsword over an emaciated man. And St. Martin’s horse looks a bit angry. On the Swiss 500, the scene on the back is called ‘The Fountain of Youth’ but it looks more like four young women bathing in a well with two older women watching over them.

Swiss 1,000 Francs | 1972 | P-52k.1 |
Source: Banknote World Educational

The Swiss 1,000 Franc Design

The Swiss 1000 franc definitely has the strangest but most well thought out design theme on its back. There are three separate images of death. One has a winged angel over a dying man. A second and the scariest is the grim reaper, scythe in hand, taking away what appears to be a dead child. The third could be another grim reaper holding a swooning woman who is holding lilies- a flower associated with funerals. The most impressive aspect of the design is the small hourglass on the ground. People believe the hourglass is there to show that our days on earth are a numbered and time is running out. You can also argue that the Grim Reaper is peering over his shoulder and the holder of the banknote.

That is a scary concept. What were they thinking? Anyone holding this Swiss banknote is soon to die?

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