Funny Money – Money in Caricature. The Catalogue

The Austrian National Bank (ed.): Funny Money. Money in caricature. Exhibition catalogue for the special exhibition at the Austrian National Bank’s Money Museum. Independently published, Vienna 2020. 92 p. Paperback, 19.5 x 24.5 cm with colour illustrations. The printed catalogue is only available in the museum – free of charge.
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Money in caricature is a great topic – there’s a reason we publish a new cartoon by our wonderful Claire every week! The Austrian National Bank has opened an exhibition devoted to the subject in its Money Museum: ‘Funny Money – Money in caricature’ has been running since 11 August and will remain open until 2 July 2021 – at least, it will when the museum is open, which it currently isn’t due to the pandemic. (We expect the exhibition to be extended for this reason.) It’s therefore all the more exciting that an accompanying exhibition catalogue has been published.

It contains images of all the cartoons from the exhibition, totalling over 50. Following an introduction and some texts on the history and types of cartoons, all of which are very brief, the catalogue focuses on the essentials without any unnecessary theorising, leaving most of the space in the book for the cartoons themselves. These images are accompanied by short explanatory texts providing information about the cartoons’ historical background and context or, when required, explaining the cartoon itself. The catalogue seems to have the same structure and organisation, as well as all the same texts, as the exhibition.

It therefore isn’t structured chronologically but, like the exhibition, is arranged by theme, with each theme preceded by a short introductory text.

The earliest cartoon featured in the exhibition is from 1721 and focuses on the South Sea Bubble in Great Britain, one of the worst economic bubbles in the early modern period, which supposedly prompted this quote from Isaac Newton, who himself lost assets at that time: ‘I can calculate the movement of stars, but not the madness of men.’

Most of the cartoons, however, are considerably more recent and generally focus on events and developments that have concerned us within the last 25 years, such as the introduction of the euro, the financial crisis, the price of gold and cashless payments. There is a slight focus on Austria among the cartoons, but most of them are universal enough for non-Austrians to understand and enjoy. Some brilliant international cartoons complete the range.

This catalogue is one of those books you can dip in and out of, perfect for taking off the shelf now and then and leafing through with a smile on your face. The entertainment value is provided by the cartoons themselves – there’s not much more to it and it doesn’t need much more, either. The only reason you might not enjoy this catalogue is if you’re looking specifically for some in-depth theory or even academic texts on the subject.


We also have plenty of our own cartoons about money and coins!

Here is the website for the Money Museum.

And some good news: the catalogue is currently being prepared for digital publication. So be sure to check the Money Museum’s website again soon to download it as a PDF, free of charge!

Read more about the exhibition on our website.

There’s also an article on Bookophile discussing a satirical copper engraving about the South Sea Bubble. Have a read and find out what it was all about.