Currency Around The World

It may be true that money makes the world go around, but there is more to it than that. Different places in the world use different types of money. U.S. currency, the dollar, is useless in Europe or Asia unless you find a place to exchange it for their type of money. Why is this? Each of the types of money has a different value. One dollar in the United States might be worth only sixty-three pounds in the United Kingdom. While the information below won’t teach you the value of a dollar, you will learn a lot about the different types of money and where they are used in the world.

The U.S. Dollar
Represented by the symbol $, the U.S. Dollar was instituted by the Coinage Act of 1792. It was originally based on the Mexican peso and was equal in value. Dollars existed in coin form, and the next value higher was a quarter-eagle, which was equivalent to two-and-a-half dollars. A half eagle coin was five dollars and an eagle was ten. U.S. money stayed as coins exclusively until 1862 when the government began issuing paper money to finance the Civil War. The bills were supposed to be temporary representations of money, while “real” money was being used elsewhere. By the 1880s, the U.S. began printing these representations as money. While other values exist, the major items of U.S. currency today are as follows.

Name of Coin/Bill

Value (if not obvious)

Person Depicted


One cent or 1/100 of a dollar

Abraham Lincoln


Five cents or 1/20 of a dollar

Thomas Jefferson


Ten cents or 1/10 of a dollar

Franklin Delano Roosevelt


Twenty-five cents or ¼ dollar

George Washington

One Dollar Bill

George Washington

Five Dollar Bill

Abraham Lincoln

Ten Dollar Bill

Alexander Hamilton

Twenty Dollar Bill

Andrew Jackson

Fifty Dollar Bill

Ulysses S. Grant

One-hundred Dollar Bill

Benjamin Franklin

Japanese Yen
The Japanese were making money since around 221 BC. Their coins, the half tael and later the Wu Zhu which was brought to Japan by the Chinese, were made of bronze and had a square shape cut out of the center. However it wasn’t until around 621 AD that the Japanese government officially minted money. Their Wado Kaichin was modeled after earlier designs. In the Fifteenth Century, Japan instated a money system featuring shu, bu and ryo among others. The values would change much over the next four hundred years with the rise and fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, but the terminology would stay the same. After the Meiji Restoration, Japan enacted the New Currency Act and adopted a decimal accounting system with yen (symbolized ¥) sen and rin. Eventually sen and rin were phased out and they were left with the yen coins and currency used today.

Name of Coin/Bill

Object/Place/Person Depicted

1¥ Coin

Young tree

5¥ Coin

Tree sprout

10¥ Coin


50¥ Coin


100¥ Coin


500¥ Coin

Paulownia plant

1000¥ Bill

Hideyo Noguchi

2000¥ Bill


5000¥ Bill

Ichiyo Higuchi

10,000¥ Bill

Yukichi Fukuzawa

The British Pound

Most of the rest of Europe uses a currency known as the Euro, but Britain has resisted the transition because their money system has a rich background. In fact, it is the oldest in the world. The pound sterling is used by the United Kingdom and eight of its territories including the Isle of Man, Gibraltar, Jersey and the Falkland Islands. Symbolized by £, there are both coins (sterlings) and bills. All of the money depicts Queen Elizabeth II.

Name of Coin/Bill

Value (if not obvious)


1/100 of a pound

Two-pence sterling

1/50 of a pound

Five-pence sterling

1/20 of a pound

Ten-pence sterling

1/10 of a pound

Twenty-pence sterling

1/5 of a pound

Fifty-pence sterling

½ of a pound

One pound sterling

Two pounds sterling

Five pounds bill

Ten pounds bill

Twenty pounds bill

Fifty pounds bill

The Euro

The Euro is the official currency of the countries in the European Union. Seventeen of the twenty-seven union member states have adopted it. These nations include Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Slovenia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Cyprus, Estonia, Malta, and Spain. Many African peoples also use the Euro, though unofficially. Despite the massive utilization of the Euro, it actually has only been in circulation since 1999. € is the official symbol for the Euro and there are a multitude of coins and bills in circulation today.

Name of Coin/Bill

Value (if not obvious)

Object Depicted

One cent coin

1/100 of a Euro


Two cent coin

1/50 of a Euro


Five cent coin

1/20 of a Euro


Ten cent coin

1/10 of a Euro


Twenty cent coin

1/5 of a Euro


Fifty cent coin

½ of a Euro


One Euro coin


Two Euro coin


Five Euro bill

Arch in Classical architecture

Ten Euro bill

Arch in Romanesque architecture

Twenty Euro bill

Window in Gothic architecture

Fifty Euro bill

Window in Renaissance architecture

One hundred Euro bill

Window in Baroque and Rococo style

Two hundred Euro bill

Window in Art Nouveau style

Five hundred Euro bill

Window in Modern architecture

The Russian Ruble
Rubles were part of the world’s first decimal money system. Originally designed in 1704, rubles are now used by Russia, Belarus, and some of the partially recognized states in Eastern Europe. The symbol for the ruble is ??? but the Central Bank of Russia is currently looking for an alternative. Though their appearance has changed much over the course of the last three-hundred years, today’s coins and bills are as follows.

Name of Coin/Bill

Value (if not obvious)

Person/Object Depicted

1 kopeck coin

1/100 of a ruble

Saint George

2 kopecks coin

1/50 of a ruble

Saint George

10 kopecks coin

1/10 of a ruble

Saint George

50 kopecks coin

½ of a ruble

Saint George

1 ruble coin

Two-headed eagle

2 ruble coin

Two-headed eagle

5 ruble coin

Two-headed eagle

50 rubles bill

A Rostral Column printed over Petropavlovsk Fortress

100 rubles bill


500 rubles bill

A monument to Peter the Great and the Sedov sailing ship

1000 rubles bill

Monument to Yaroslav I the Wise and the statue of the Lady of Kazan Chapel

5000 rubles bill

Monument to Nikolay Muravyov-Amursky

Chinese Yuan
Up until the Ninth or Eighth Century BC, China used shells as its primary form of currency. Metal coinage was first standardized during the Qin Dynasty and it featured round coins with square holes. This appearance would later influence Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Paper money came into circulation around 1023, but in 1436 was replaced with silver. Today, the People’s Republic of China uses a currency known as Renminbi. The main unit of this system is the Yuan, which uses the same symbol as Japanese Yen (¥) but it should never be confused.

Name of Coin/Bill

Value (if not obvious)

Person/Object Depicted

One Jiao

1/10 Yuan


Five Jiao

½ Yuan


One Yuan coin


One Yuan bill

Mao Zedong

Two Yuan

Mao Zedong

Five Yuan

Mao Zedong

Ten Yuan

Mao Zedong

Twenty Yuan

Mao Zedong

Fifty Yuan

Mao Zedong

One hundred Yuan

Mao Zedong