* It is not known for sure if this note was issued in Dutch Guiana or
The Playing Card Money of Dutch Guiana began as a substitute for coins of
the realm in 1761 not unlike those issued in New France (Canada).
Playing Card Article by Neal Shafer:
The relatively tiny formerly Dutch enclave of Surinam (I learned
of this place as "Dutch Guiana") on South America's north central coast
has a number of numismatically important aspects to its long history. To
me its main claim to fame is that it has an extensive issue of playing
card money of the kind we occasionally see from France or Canada, pieces
created from actual playing cards or plain cardboard. This strange medium
of exchange was not used in many places, so in the areas where these kinds
of "notes" did play an important role, they garner much attention to
details surrounding their emission, use and eventual withdrawal.
Certain steps had to be taken before a playing card, or a portion of one,
was ready to enter circulation. It had to be given a denomination, a seal
containing official information including an approximate date, a serial
number to maintain a record of what had been made, and appropriate
signatures as designated. According to a superb book on this country's
paper money issues by T.F.A. van Elmpt (published 1997), a great many
names of those officials who signed playing card money are known and
recorded, which I think is a fine tribute to those in charge of creating
and maintaining such a record, especially since so often this kind of data
is lost for one reason or another.
The first two issues of playing card money in Surinam backed by Bills of
Exchange drawn on the Netherlands took place as an experiment before 1761,
and they proved to be successful. On May 19, 1761 the use of card money
was officially adopted as a means of alleviating the chronic change
shortage. It also became easy to issue such money even without backing,
thus providing a source of capital that served to boost the local economy.
Overissue of this currency began to take place, thus causing a devaluation
of the notes, but in the long run they still served their purpose.
The first card money was round in the similitude of coins, but to make
such pieces was too labor-intensive. This situation was especially true
when the issues became larger, so rectangular cards or sections of them
were resorted to and found to work successfully. There was not always
uniformity in card shapes; there were reversions to round, and even a
hexagonal piece was introduced.
Van Elmpt provides details on the issuance of 94 emissions, mostly card
money but including a number of bond currency issues in higher
denominations, from 1761 to 1826. A new bank was then set up in the
Netherlands to issue currency there and also to replace all existing card
money in Surinam. This task was accomplished by June 1, 1828, when all
remaining card money was declared valueless. Van Elmpt indicates that very
little card or bond currency has been preserved for posterity.
The Algemeene Nederlandsche Maatschappij te Brussel/General Netherlands
Society, 1822-1829 The General Society was the banking institution
established by King Willem I in 1822. Its seat was in Brussels, and it was
granted the right to issue bank notes for circulation. In 1827 it was
decided to replace all the existing card money in Surinam with bank notes
of the General Society, and notes of various lower denominations issued by
this bank were sent there to take over the circulation of money in
Notes of the General Society sent to Surinam were all exactly like those
of this bank in use in the Netherlands, except that all had the one-word
overprint SURINAME in orange-brown on the face, and all were dated Oct. 1,
1826. Printer was Johan Enschede & Zonen; notes were printed on one side
only. Their intricate borders were composed of musical notation components
invented by J.M. Fleischman in a strong move to help prevent
These notes were acceptable in the Netherlands even with the overprint, so
a considerable amount of them left Surinam and headed home, thus leaving
the colony short of money once again. Denominations: ½. 1, 2, 3, 5, 10,
25, 50 and 100 gulden. Except for pictures, the only one I have ever
actually viewed is the illustrated one-half gulden note shown with this
A special envoy made the trip to the area to examine and correct the
financial difficulties of the entire Netherlands West Indies region. One
of the obvious solutions he came up with was an indigenous bank in
Surinam. Such an institution was established on March 9, 1829.
The Privat West-Indische Bank (Private West Indies Bank),
Approved by King Willem I, this bank was anything but private, as the
officers were the colonial governor, attorney general and accountant
general. It was in fact a government bank, and it was quickly granted
permission to issue a sizable quantity of bank notes in its name. These
bank notes could be paid off only by bills of exchange payable in the
Netherlands, and had no metallic backing. Attempts were made to get
bankers interested in guaranteeing the bank issues, but when none could be
found, the Dutch government itself had to become the guarantor. The
Private West Indies Bank lasted a total of only 18 years, leaving behind a
The notes were of a simple design based on the initial emission for the
Javasche Bank in 1828 for issue on Java. They were printed by Enschede,
and as with notes of the General Society before them, they made use of the
Fleischman musical border components.
Denominations: 1829 design: ½, 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 150, 200, 250,
500 and 1,000 gulden. 1837-44 issues: 10 cent square, 15 cent rectangle,
25 cent hexagon, 50 cent rectangle and 1 gulden octagon. Except for
pictures, I have never personally seen any of these except the 10-cent
note illustrated in this article.
De Surinaamsche Bank, 1865-1957
Emergency Treasury Notes and Dutch coins provided the circulating medium
for Surinam from the late 1840s through Jan. 19, 1865 when De Surinaamsche
Bank finally became a legal reality. It opened for business on July 18,
1865 in a private home of one of the founders, because the building
materials had not yet all arrived.
The first bank notes consisted of a small print run of 10, 25, 50, 100,
200, 300 and 1,000 gulden, all dated July 1, 1865. The basic design was
that used generally by the homeland and most or all Dutch colonies, that
being an allegorical border with fancy scrollwork and what I would call a
typical 19th-century European look to it. Hardly any examples of this
emission are known to exist today. A lower value, the five gulden, was
prepared and issued in 1869.
Sporadic reissues of these notes took place as needed, with various more
or less minor changes, through the rest of the 19th century and into the
earlier years of the 20th, to about 1919. At that time the first issues of
notes printed on both sides appeared. Other design changes in 1920
centered on the addition of four oval vignettes, one in each corner,
showing important aspects of the local economy. This basic design was
employed with some modifications as needed until 1940 for notes of 10
gulden and higher. The five gulden note was also reissued with its own
modifications of a minor nature until the mid-1930s.
If you are wondering what the government did to supply small change for
circulation, coins were imported for a while, but finally in 1918 upon the
end of World War I and the high price of silver, notes in lower values
called zilverbonnen (silver notes) began to appear. These were in values
of ½, 1 and 2 ½ gulden, made in three separate issues. First was in 1918,
with the second and third taking place in 1920. Any examples from these
three issues are extremely scarce, especially in grade.
A brand new five gulden made its appearance in 1935. The central motif was
a girl from Surinam with an artistically draped head scarf called an
angisa. In the days of slavery women used these head scarves to send
messages about life; the one on the girl portrayed on the five gulden
conveys the meaning that.I am the life and soul of the party. This design
appeared from 1935 to 1940. Some of these five gulden pieces were used in
1940 at the outbreak of World War II to provide 2½ gulden notes by being
first sliced in half. Then each piece was overprinted in red on both sides
as a 2½ gulden note and immediately issued to circulation. This emergency
issue was needed for only a very short time, and examples are few and far
ABN became the supplier of notes for Surinam after the total disruption of
communication between the homeland and the colony. By then the
Surinaamsche Bank was allowed to issue 2½ gulden notes as well as higher
values and an order for such notes was placed as soon as possible. They
arrived late in 1940 and quickly served to alleviate the critical shortage
of that denomination.
From then through the war years and beyond, ABN also printed five, 10, 25
and 100 gulden notes for Surinam. The five is very scarce, while all
higher values are virtually never offered on the market.
Zilverbonnen were also resumed upon the advent of World War II in Europe.
This time around they were made by the American Bank Note Co. in two
values of one half and one gulden, except that both were of the same
design, one that was often used by ABN for quickly-needed jobs.
Zilverbonnen continued to be made using different designs with later dates
after war's end, and a number of them are somewhat available. On the other
hand, certain dates and issues made by ABNC are quite difficult to locate,
especially in higher grade.
In 1961 the silver backing was apparently removed from the Zilverbonnen as
the main word on low value notes was changed to muntbiljet (money note).
This word is in use today. The last issue for the Surinaamsche Bank was a
three-piece emission of 10, 25 and 100 gulden printed by the Amsterdam
firm of De Bussy in 1951. Though the bank no longer issued circulating
notes after 1951, it still functions as a main banking institution in
Beginning in 1957, the newly established Centrale Bank van Suriname
started to issue an entirely new series of notes heralding the modern era
of paper money for Surinam. All older notes were systematically called in,
counted and destroyed, thus leaving very little choice for the future
The main reason for this article was to discuss some of the aspects of
understanding and attempting to collect an extremely difficult series of
paper money. I felt that by taking a closer look at these often overlooked
notes, it would give them more of the attention they so well deserve.