Banknote Museum

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Heroes Square and the Ionian Bank
The building

The Banknote Museum of Alpha Bank is a museum located in Corfu, Greece.[1][2][3] It showcases an almost complete collection of the Greek currency from 1822 to present, about 2000 items.[1][2][4] It includes the first treasury bonds issued by the newly liberated Greek State in 1822 until the replacement of the drachma by the euro in 2002.[1][3] It also includes sketches essays and printing plates of Greek banknotes.[2] One of its rarest holdings is the 1860 "colonata".[1] The museum was established in 1981 by the Ionian Bank and it is housed at the former Ionian Bank building designed by Corfiote architect Ioannis Chronis in about 1840.[1][2][4][5] In 2000 Ionian Bank merged with Alpha Bank and subsequently the Banknote Museum was renovated and was reopened in 2005.[1][2] An additional exhibit hall was added showcasing "Ionian Bank Limited" which was a British venture and the first bank to operate in Greek territory.[1] The museum collection is considered one of the most complete of its kind in the world.[4]

History and exhibits[edit]

In 2003 Aris Rapidis, the curator of the museum and a historian, undertook the renovation and coordination of the exhibits to conform to world standards.[1][2][6] In 2005 and with the participation of John Keyworth, curator of the Bank of England, the renovated exhibits were opened to the public.[1][2] It is the first time that such a banknote collection, owned by a Greek bank, has been made available to the general public on a regular schedule basis.[1][2][5] Between 2005 and 2007 about 10,000 people have visited the museum.[2] In July 2007, an exhibition hall was constructed on the second floor of the museum.[2] The exhibition Greek Costumes – Printed sources of the 16th-20th centuries, jointly organised with the Benaki Museum, became the first event to be showcased at the hall.[2][3]

The museum contains historical material pertaining to the history of the Ionian Bank and a complete series of the last issues of the national banknotes of the Euro zone member states prior to their replacement by the euro.[2][3] The manufacturing process of banknotes is included among the exhibits as well as the method of adding a watermark.[5] A workshop also exists which details the metal plate engraving process.[5]

Among the museum exhibits are some rare specimens of Greek currency.[1] Exhibits include the first banknotes issued by first Governor of Greece Ioannis Kapodistrias.[1][5] The Kapodistrias notes are simple and feature a rose coloured Phoenix on white background.[1] The museum collection also contains the pre-Kapodistrian treasury bonds issued by the provisional Greek government in "pisters" or "grossia".[1][3][6]

The National Bank of Greece was established in 1841 and the ancient drachma became once more the official currency of Greece.[1][5] The museum exhibits the first banknotes printed by the British printing houses Perkins Bacon or Bradbury Wilkins.[1] The collection also includes the notes printed by the American Banknote Company which succeeded the British at the turn of the century.[1] The American company printed Greek banknotes until about 1928. Subsequent to that the Bank of Greece undertook the printing of the currency on its own.[1]

One of the rarest banknotes on exhibit is the one depicting the Byzantine church of Hagia Sofia in Constantinople.[1] Designed in 1920, the banknote depicts Hagia Sophia without the Ottoman minarets and was part of the Megali Idea.[1] A few years later the Asia Minor disaster occurred and the currency was never circulated.[1]

Rare art deco style banknotes, printed in France, some featuring Hermes, allegorically depict the continuity of Greek currency and commerce from ancient times to the 1930s.[1]

The exhibition also includes banknotes that were issued during WWII by the occupying Axis forces.[1]

Banknotes issued by the provisional "mountain government" are also exhibited.[1] This currency was valued against the equivalent value of kilograms of wheat.[1] The 100 billion drachma banknote during the hyperinflation years of 1944 is also featured.[1] It remains historically the highest banknote denomination in Greece and after the hyperinflation ended its value fell to just 2 drachmas.[1]

The museum is located on Aghios Spyridon Square in Corfu city and the admission is free.[1][6]

The museum also hosted a conference held between June 9–10, 2006, under the title of "The Economic Development of South-eastern Europe in the 19th century".[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab A history of Greece’s banknotes Archived February 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Alexandra Koroxenidis - Kathimerini English Edition 18 January 2006
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Alpha Bank Website Information on Banknote Museum of Corfu
  3. ^ a b c d e Rizospastis newspaper (In Greek)
  4. ^ a b c To Vima (Translation by Google)
  5. ^ a b c d e f Corfu Cityhall Archived January 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Museum info
  6. ^ a b c Rotary Club of Corfu (Translation by Google)
  7. ^ Conference program Archived May 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.

Coordinates: 39°37′29″N 19°55′21″E / 39.62472°N 19.92250°E / 39.62472; 19.92250