A Red Stamp of Approval: 1000 Drachma Banknote of Greece

This 1,000 drachma note (P-100b) was commissioned by the National Bank of Greece in 1926. However, it never saw the light of day until two years later as the bank was losing its sole right to issue notes. The uncirculated banknotes were instead inherited by the newly founded Bank of Greece, which stamped the notes in red with their namesake (ΤΡΑΠΕΖΑ ΤΗΣ ΕΛΛΑΔΟΣ) before issuing them to the public. These were among the first notes issued by the bank before they began having their own notes printed in 1932.

Through World War I and further conflict with Turkey in Asia Minor, the National Bank struggled to maintain economic stability. Before the Bank of Greece took over, the national bank was kept afloat with an idea proposed by finance minister Petros Protopapadakis, who famously suggested splitting the countries banknotes in two. In 1922, all drachma banknotes were cut, one half remaining with the bearer at half the value, and the other half being exchanged for a 20-year bond note. This method delivered enough funds to Greece to continue their war effort, but despite the success of this move economically, the Greek were still defeated in Asia Minor. By the end of the same year, Protopapadakis had been executed for treason.

The abolition of the monarchy in 1924 did not bode well for the National Bank of Greece. The formation of the Second Hellenic Republic brought sweeping change which included the revocation of the banks complete control over printing notes. In an effort to maintain their value, the bank again split many of their notes in two in 1926. This time, however, their efforts were in vain, as the Bank of Greece quickly supplanted them as the central bank of the state. Despite this shift, the National Bank of Greece was still able to expand their reach globally and found success as a publicly traded financial company.

Both these notes and the new notes of the Bank of Greece were printed by the American Banknote Company in New York, featuring extremely detailed design. The first director and founder of the National Bank of Greece, Georgios Stavros, is depicted on the obverse, where his portrait is ironically adorned by the stamp of a new bank founded more than a half-century after his death. The Bank of Greece served as the central bank for the remainder of the 20th century, this note declaring the succession of its power.

The split and stamped drachma from this time tell a story you can hold in your hands. A countries history can often be read in the printed details of its currency, but never has the evidence of financial turmoil been more tangible than with these Greek notes. These were not the only interesting methods the banks implemented either. Just a decade and a half later, these same notes would have six holes punched in them when they were traded for bonds. While the Greek economy has had a history of struggle, one can never say they are not innovative in their solutions. (M.T.)