Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cool Cash

Yesterday the National Bank of Poland (Narodowy Bank Polski) issued a 50 zloty note depicting the last Patriarch of the West. (Pope Benedict XVI dropped the title “Patriarch of the West”). Karol Wojtyla (1920- 2005), born in Wadowice, Poland, was elected to the papacy on October 16, 1978 and took the name John Paul II. Yesterday was the 28th anniversary of this blessed event for the Church, Poland and the world.

Here is a nice description of this new legal tender:

The note was designed by Andrzej Heidrich. The obverse of the note symbolically depicts a role of the Holy See and the Pope’s mission in the universal perspective and the reverse features the pontificate of John Paul II from the Polish perspective by placing it in Poland’s most recent history.

The face of the note contains a portrait of John Paul II holding his pastoral cross against the background of a stylised globe, which is a symbol of the pontificate’s universal nature. The Pope is wearing his pontifical vestments and is performing a greeting gesture. In his hand, he is holding a crosier — a symbol of papal authority. The right-hand bottom side of the note contains the following inscription: “John Paul II” and the pontificate’s term: “16 X 1978 – 2 IV 2005.”

The reverse of the note shows an episode which occurred during the Holy Mass for the inauguration of the pontificate of John Paul II and depicts a special relationship between the Pope and Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski. As the Cardinal paid homage, John Paul II rose and performed a memorable gesture to express his respect to the Primate of Poland. On the right-hand side of the scene there is a quotation from Letter to Poles read out by John Paul II to his countrymen who congregated in Vatican Paul VI Hall on the day immediately following the event: “There would be no Polish Pope on this Chair of St. Peter [...] had it not been for your faith undiminished by prison and suffering, your heroic hope [...]”. ("Nie byloby na Stolicy Piotrowej tego papieza Polaka [...], gdyby nie bylo Twojej wiary, nie cofajacej sie przed wiezieniem i cierpieniem, Twojej heroicznej nadziei [...]".) The space under the quotation bears the Pope’s facsimile signature and the date he uttered those words on, namely 23 October 1978. It is worth noting that in 2006 we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski’s death and the 50th anniversary of his release from prison.

An outline of the Jasna Góra Monastery and church under the text is to emphasise the role of the shrine of Jasna Góra in the history of Poland and life of the Holy Father and the Primate of the Millennium. The bands beneath their feet bear their Episcopal mottos, namely Totus Tuus — the motto of John Paul II and Soli Deo — the motto of Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski.

The graphic design of the note is modern yet full of symbolic. A watermark depicts a papal coat of arms of John Paul II. In the background behind the pastoral cross guilloche lines were placed with repeating images of fish, cross and the letters RP.

On the note, microlettering was used five times, so it is possible to see the names of the states visited by John Paul II during his papal pilgrimages through a magnifying glass. They fill out the outlines of the continents seen on the globe.

Both sides of the note feature a theme of Peter’s keys. On the face, white Peter’s keys framed into a square and bound by a string can be seen. On the reverse they are presented in olive colour. It is the so-called see-through register (recto-verso) – where the elements on both sides on the note complement each other and create a unity seen at the light. The inscription JP II is seen on the note depending on the angle of viewing – it is the so-called angle effect.

Some graphic elements of the note can be seen only in ultra-violet light. For example, on the face of the note UV light reveals red and celadon green papal coat of arms of John Paul II on the right side of the Pope. On the reverse of the note, in the UV light, Peter’s keys are seen, framed into a square and in the colour of orange.

All the notes bear the letter series of JP related to the Pope’s initials.

Euros are not yet legal tender in Poland. Each 50 PLN note will cost 90 PLN. The difference is to offset the cost of this special "collectors' note". A portion of the profits will go towards a foundation for “gifted young people for low-income families.”

The last revaluation of the zloty was on January 1, 1995: 1: 10,000. The current exchange rate to the US dollar is about 3.1 zloty per US dollar.

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Citation: “Poland’s first collector note” (Narodowy Bank Polski)


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