The Banknotes of the Imperial Bank of Persia: An Analysis of a Complex System with Catalogue


(Numismatic Studies 30, 2016)

by Michael E. Bonine
edited by Jere L. Bacharach
List price: US$100
ANS Members Price $70.00

ISSN 0517-404-x
ISBN 978-0-89722-337-9
Hardcover, 148 pp., color images throughout, color plates

The Imperial Bank of Persia, established in 1889, was the first bank to issue banknotes and attempt to establish a modern banking system in Iran. Since it was established as the first State Bank of Iran but was also a British bank, many tensions developed between the bank and the Iranian government. Constant rivalry between the British and the Russians for influence and control of Iran influenced how and where the branch banks were established and operated.

The banknotes of the Imperial Bank of Persia are some of the most beautiful and largest notes ever issued for any nation, yet the story of these notes is complex. There are very few remaining specimens, especially of the earliest notes and those of higher denominations. An elaborate system of branch banks evolved, and the banknotes were printed or stamped as payable only for the issuing branch.

With the emergence of Reza Shah and the Pahlavi dynasty in the mid-1920s, the desire of Iranians to control their own national bank and curtail the influence of the British led to establishment of the Bank Melli Iran (National Bank of Iran). By 1932 the right of the Imperial Bank of Persia to issue banknotes had been withdrawn.

Few researchers have examined the subject in detail, and general references often have inaccurate information. The following study by Michael Bonine attempts to fill in some of the gaps and includes an analysis of several hundred lower-denomination banknotes.


Preface by the Editor
The Banknotes of the Imperial Bank of Persia
The Origins of the Imperial Bank of Persia
The Designs and Denominations
The Lion-and-Sun Motif
The Portrait of Naser al-Din Shah
The System of Branch Banks
The Issuing of Imperial Bank Notes
The Date Stamps
The “Payable at” Stamps
The Official Seal of the Government of Persia
The Signatures
Number of Issued Notes, Prefix Letters, and Serial Numbers
The Enigmatic 2nd Series 20 Toman Banknote
Placement of the Serial Numbers
Canceling and Destroying Notes
Robberies and Lost Notes
Survival of Imperial Bank of Persia Banknotes
Afterword by the Editor
Appendix A: Series and Denominations
Appendix B: Branch Banks

Michael E. Bonine (1942–2011) was an active member of the University of Arizona’s Departments of Near Eastern Studies and Geography, and founding director of Arizona’s School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies. He published extensively on the human and physical geography of the Middle East. He also turned his hobby of collecting into a scholarly activity as he systematically acquired banknotes of the Imperial Bank of Persia. Extensive research, particularly in London, and painstaking studies of the eighteen denominations printed for the twenty-eight bank branches resulted in this monograph on the Imperial Bank of Persia banknotes.

The Feel of Steel: The Art and History of Bank-Note Engraving in the United States (Out of Print)

tomaskocoverThe Feel of Steel: The Art and History of Bank-Note Engraving in the United States

by Mark D. Tomasko (2012)

Hardcover, 180 pp.
ISBN-13: 978 089722 321 8


The Feel of Steel provides an unusual look into the two-hundred-year history and the process of bank-note engraving in the United States, a beautiful art brought to its peak in America in the nineteenth century. Part I traces the history, with particular attention to the American Bank Note Company, the small bank-note firms founded after the Civil War, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The decline of the industry in the late twentieth century closes the history.

Part II lays out the process of designing, engraving, and printing bank-note-engraved documents. Part II also contains an extended discussion of the artwork origins of the picture engraving, information found in few other places. Part III introduces the members of American Bank Note’s picture-engraving department at thirty-year intervals in the twentieth century, shown in group photographs and with an illustration of each man’s work.

This revised edition has 50% more illustrations than the original Bird and Bull fine press limited edition published in 2009. Besides the numerous illustrations (many in color), there are copious notes, a bibliography, and an extensive index, all adding to the volume’s research value. As no book on bank-note engraving would be complete without at least one sample of actual engraving, the frontispiece of the ANS edition of The Feel of Steel is the reprinted title and vignette from a nineteenth-century stock certificate. The reader can therefore actually experience the “feel of steel,” the tactile quality of intaglio printing.

Mark D. Tomasko is a collector, writer, and researcher on bank-note engraving, who has written more than thirty articles on the subject, in addition to giving many talks and mounting several museum exhibits.


Part I: A Brief History of the Bank-Note-Engraving Industry in the United States
Origin of American Security Engraving: The State Bank Notes
Consolidation of the Bank Note Firms
Another Consolidation
New Companies Arise
American Bank Note’s Acquisitions Result in More New Companies
The Bureau Comes of Age
American Bank Note Company’s International Expansion
Other Small Firms and Continued Consolidation
The Beginning of the End
Part II: The Process: Engraving, Printing, Vignettes, Design, Training
Basic Printing Concepts
Cutting vs. Etching
Printing the Document
Letter Engraving
Vignettes and Portraits: The Heart of the Security Document
Signing Vignettes
Vignette Sources and Styles
Nonfigurative Vignettes
Document Design
Types of Documents
Training Engravers
Late Twentieth-Century Changes
Part III: American Bank Note’s Picture-Engraving Department in the Twentieth Century
The American Bank Note Picture-Engraving Department, ca. 1910
The American Bank Note Picture-Engraving Department, 1941
The American Bank Note Picture-Engraving Department, 1970

America’s Currency, 1789–1866


(Coinage of the Americas Conference Proceedings 2, 1986)

Hardcover, 142 pp.
ISBN-13: 978-0-89722-214-3
ISBN-10: 0-89722-214-8

Price: US$9.98 (no Member discount)

A record of the Coinage of the Americas Conference (COAC) held in 1985.


The Confederate Currency Reform of 1862 (Douglas B. Ball)

The CSA Banking Convention of 1861 and its Delegates (Carl W. A. Carlson)

An Historian’s View of the State Bank Notes (Elvira Clain-Stefanelli)

Collecting Trends in Obsolete American Currency (Grover C. Criswell)

An Introduction to Obsolete American Currency (Roger H. Durand)

The Financial Concerns of a Government Employee in the 1840s (Cory Gillilland)

The History of Development of ‘America’ as Symbolized by an American Indian Female (Gene Hessler)

The Smillie Family: Banknote Artists (Glenn E. Jackson)

New York City Small Change Bills of 1814–1816 (Eric P. Newman)

Currency in Crisis: America’s Money 1840–1845 (Robert Vlack)

Lynchburg (VA) City Paper Money of 1862 (Raymond H. Williamson)

The Coinage of the Americas Conference is an annual meeting that provides a forum for exchange of knowledge on a selected theme in the numismatics of the western hemisphere.