Inspired by the popular 0 euro souvenir notes, the first ten 0 souvenir notes were issued by touristic attractions in Switzerland in 2017. There are (as of December 2020) a total of forty-eight different issues. Thus, Switzerland is one of the few countries whose field of souvenir banknotes is still manageable. It is currently still possible to enter this field of collection, even though some notes are already sold out and are rarely offered on the secondary market. Anyone who still wants to jump on this collector’s bandwagon should do it now. In this article I will explain some facts and present the major highlights of the popular banknotes.
Whereas in Germany and France, for instance, a flood of issues is thrown onto the market every year, things are much quieter in Switzerland and, above all, allow you to maintain an overview. Let’s first look at the differences because they are very important and make Swiss banknotes something special!
With Swiss Flag and Without EURO
The Swiss flag is at the top left of the obverse of the banknotes. Next to it the year and the motif number. At the bottom left, the word “EURO” has obviously been omitted, there is only “SOUVENIR” over two lines. The four-digit serial letters at the bottom right always start with “CH” followed by two identification letters indicating the issuer. This is followed by the six-digit number. Thus, you cannot find the “E” as the usual reference to the (euro banknote) printing plant. Seen under UV light, the zero and the euro symbol are missing. The seventeen stars on the obverse are placed more at the centre than those on 0 euro banknotes.
On the reverse, there is neither the zero nor the euro symbol at the top left. The reason for omitting the zero has not been revealed so far. On the bottom right, as on the obverse, it says “SOUVENIR” over two lines. Although the designers apparently tried to avoid the word “EURO”, “ZEROEUROSOUVENIR” was printed in microprint on both sides in the background. This also applies to the special Anniversary 2020 banknotes of 2020. The one-line reference to the French printer Oberthur (IMPRIME PAR OBERTHUR FIDUCIAIRE) can be found at the bottom right. The “ANNIVERSARY 2020” issues feature the two-line indication (PRINTED BY OBERTHUR FIDUCIAIRE MADE IN FRANCE) in English.
Different Security Threads and Holograms
All souvenir notes have a security thread. Until now, three different versions have been found. Special collectors distinguish the threads CH-SF 1 with a short distance to the logo, CH-SF 2 with a long distance to the logo and CH-SF 3, the security thread with the “0”. The hologram on the top right of the obverse features a view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and a “0”. So far, two different holograms are known. In 2020, a second, slightly altered hologram was used for the anniversary notes. Whether the previous hologram is now obsolete remains to be seen. Thus, we can already be curious to see whether it will change again in 2021.
Popular and Rare Banknotes
The city of Geneva (GENÈVE) issued 5,000 pieces of the first 0 souvenir note in 2017. It’s already quite a while that this issue has only been available on the secondary market. However, the following notes “FONDATION BARRY DU GRAND-ST-BERNARD” (CHAB-2017-1) and “GUILLAUME TELL” (CHAD-2017-1) are also sold out. The “GUILLAUME TELL” issue is also hardly ever offered on the secondary market and once you find it, you have to pay up to 40 euros for it. Many citizens of the Confederation must have bought the legendary freedom fighter William Tell, Switzerland’s national hero, as soon as the notes were issued. In 2017, a total of 10 different notes was issued. In 2018, it was 19 notes. This was followed by 12 issues in 2019, and 7 issues in 2020.
The 2018 Freddy Mercury Note
There are only 5,000 pieces of the banknote dedicated to the British musician Freddy Mercury, who died in 1991. The note is still available on the secondary market, but it is relatively expensive at 50 to 70 euros. Mercury owned a villa on the shores of Lake Geneva near Montreux. A large sculpture in the town remembers the musician. Freddy Mercury’s last recordings were mainly produced in Queen’s Studio in Montreux at Lake Geneva. Today, Studio Experience is a museum dedicated to the rock group Queen. A tip from me: there are some notes on the market with a golden overprint. You’d better leave them be and stick to the original without overprint. Such gold banknotes aren’t official but were overprinted with gold ink by private actors after they were produced by Oberthur. A pure “money machine” to make collectors pay more. But if you like these notes better, do as you wish.
The Thing about the Motif Number
Until now, there are two issues that somewhat confusingly start with the same motif number “2”. It is the issue “SWISS VAPEUR PARC (CHAF-2018-2)” and “ELEPHANTS & KNIE 100 YEARS (CHBH-2020-2)”. Why is this? When preparing souvenir banknotes, the issuer usually submits several designs. Then, they try which design works best. Until the final approval, everything can still be changed. If this is the case and in the end another design is chosen for the banknote, the issues feature a “2” indicating the motif that was eventually chosen.
A Special Anniversary Imprint
The imprint can only be seen under UV light and is intended to recall the 5 year 0 euro souvenir note anniversary. According to those responsible, the special imprint will only appear on 2020 banknotes. There are three Swiss notes with this imprint. The issues “ELEPHANTS & KNIE 100 YEARS (CHBH-2020-2)”, “ERMATT (CHAX-2020-5)” and “GORNERGRAT 3089 (CHAX-2020-6)”. Such issues can be easily identified by the slightly different design and the additional five blue stars on the right of the obverse.
So, if you want your collection to be complete, you have to get both versions because the three issues are also available in the “normal version”.
A Promising Field of Collection
Swiss 0 souvenir notes are an interesting and promising field of collection. While the flood of souvenir notes in Germany, France and other countries must already be described as “mass-produced goods”, Switzerland’s issues are a completely different story. Some facts about this: In 2020 alone, 287 new banknotes were issued in Germany, and the trend is rising! France, too, can hardly be called modest with 169 issues. In addition, Germany keeps making mistakes that are simply embarrassing. For example, there is a major typo on the current issue of the DDR Museum Berlin. I probably don’t need to say anything more about it.
So far, Swiss issuers also adhered to another important rule. I’m talking about the original concept of Richard Faille. According to him, souvenir notes should feature major touristic cities of a country’s cultural heritage and underline their popularity. Such 0 souvenir notes are usually sold at vending machines at the cultural sites. Part of the money raised in this way financially supports the cultural institution. This appears to work perfectly in Switzerland, at least much, much better than in Germany.
Most recently, he talked about Finland’s 0 euro banknotes featuring historical coins.
He also reviewed a catalogue of 0 euro banknotes (in German).
Find out more about the subject 0 euro souvenir notes in our archive category 0 euro notes.
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