Alternative Banknotes Of The World

Ever considered what countries’ banknotes would look like if the person depicted on them was chosen by their popularity, rather than their historical significance or role as the head of state? 

We at Sambla looked at who was the most searched-for people on Wikipedia per country in 2023 so far and have created alternative banknotes featuring the nations’ desired figures.

The US Dollar

The US dollar is often considered as one of the most powerful currencies in the world. Recognisable all over the world for its distinctive green colour and their famous presidents including George Washington ($1), Abraham Lincoln ($5) and Andrew Jackson ($20), the US dollar is used as currency in the United States of America, Ecuador, Republic of El Salvador and the Republic of Zimbabwe.

However, if we were to replace one of these presidents, with the most searched-for person, the dollar would look something like the following:

United States of America – Neal Mohan, Business Executive & CEO of Youtube

Republic of Zimbabwe – Regé-Jean Page, Actor

  • Republic of El Salvador – Nayib Bukele, President of El Salvador

Kenyan Shilling

Despite not being selected for the United States, it was revealed that the Kenyan Shilling would feature an image of Barack Obama:

Kenya – Barack Obama, Politician and Ex-President of the United States

Great Britain & the Commonwealth

Following the coronation of King Charles III, new notes are set to enter circulation in mid-2024 replacing the late Queen Elizabeth II with the new monarch.

The late Queen’s image could be found on the currency of more than 15 countries, the most populated being the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. This list also includes Bermuda, St. Lucia and Montserrat, along with other Caribbean nations that use the Eastern Caribbean dollar. Currency in many Oceania countries also bears the Queen’s portrait.

However, it has been announced that Australia confirmed they will not feature King Charles on their new notes. Its central bank announced in February that the country was opting for an Indigenous design instead. It is expected that the King will still make an appearance on Australian coins that currently bear the image of Queen Elizabeth.

According to our study, the larger countries of the commonwealth would look a little like the following:

United Kingdom – Tom Holland, Actor

  • Wales – Roald Dahl, Author
  • Scotland – Ewan McGregor, Actor
  • Northern Ireland – Martin O’Neill


Australia – Margot Robbie, Actor


Canada – Elon Musk, Business Magnate and Investor


New Zealand – Jacinda Arden, Ex-President


Jamaica – Harry Belafonte, Singer, Actor, Activist

Scandinavian countries

From the Swedish Krona to the Icelandic Krona, royals, opera singers, codfish and scholars have been featured across the Scandinavian currencies. Footballers, Hollywood actors, and activists are the alternative selection when looking at the most searched individuals for these countries.

Norway – Erling Haaland, Footballer


Finland – Peter Sunde, Entrepreneur and Politician


Sweden – Greta Thunberg, Activist


Denmark – Scarlett Johansson, Actor

  • Iceland – Bobby Fischer, Chess Grandmaster


The football world is one of pride, competition and status. Last year we saw the entire world tune in for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar which saw Argentina hold the winning cup and Lionel Messi crowned the GOAT (greatest of all time). The tournament also saw Cristiano Ronaldo become the first men’s player to score in five separate World Cup tournaments, with his World Cup record standing at eight goals in 22 appearances.

Therefore it may come as no surprise that their home countries would choose these players as their alternative currency figureheads.

Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo, Footballer


Argentina – Lionel Messi, Footballer

  • Italy – Lionel Messi, Footballer
  • Brazil – Pele, Footballer
  • Egypt – Mohamed Salah, Footballer

Money experts at Sambla comments: “The faces featured on currencies all over the world are a symbol of a nation’s identity. Often chosen for their historical and societal impact, it’s interesting to see who the public would pick for their alternative banknotes. However, if you do end up receiving a banknote featuring Lionel Messi or Greta Thunberg, you may be a victim of a counterfeit money scam.”

How to spot counterfeit banknotes

Counterfeit notes are created illegally and are worthless. In the UK, a very small fraction of banknotes, 1 in 24,000, are counterfeit. However, if you do find yourself in possession of a banknote that seems inaccurate, there are a few simple steps you can take to see if the note you have is the real deal.


Notes are often printed on polymer, which is a thin and flexible plastic material, it shouldn’t feel like normal paper.

If you run your finger across it, you will feel that the ink is thicker with raised print in some parts, which is a simple identifier of the real deal.

Hologram image change

If a genuine note bears a hologram the colours/images will change depending on the angle the note is held.

Check the words change between the value of the note, ‘Five’, ‘Ten’, ‘Twenty’, or ‘Fifty’ and ‘Pounds’ to guarantee its credibility.

See-through window

Look at the metallic image £5 £10 £20 £50 over the window. Check the foil is gold on the front of the £5 and £10, gold and blue on the front of the £20 and gold and green on the front of the £50. The foil is silver on the back of all notes.


Lines and print should be sharp and well-defined with no blurred edges. Colours should be clear and distinct, if it appears to be hazy then the note could be a counterfeit.

Possession of a counterfeit banknote

Unfortunately, the Bank of England cannot reimburse you for counterfeit banknotes. If you suspect that you have a counterfeit banknote, they advise you to take it to your nearest police station. The suspect notes will be sent to the National Crime Agency and if counterfeit to the Bank of England for further examination.