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Cool Coins & Notes: World Banknotes, Famous Dictators & Leaders

Welcome to our review of some of the most intriguing and, at times, controversial figures represented in the world of currency. Let’s dive into a collection that’s not only fascinating but also quite wacky and occasionally beautiful.


Iconic World Figures on Banknotes


First up is Kim Il-sung, the father of the nation and eternal leader of North Korea. His regime is estimated to have caused the deaths of around 1,500,000 people through various means, including famine and labor camps.


Next, we have Chairman Mao Zedong of China. While the murders attributed to his regime exceed a million, the disastrous agricultural and land reform policies he implemented led to the deaths of over 30,000,000 people.


Vladimir Lenin, featured on several Soviet banknotes, is another notable figure. The Bolshevik Revolution he led resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, with the overall death toll of Marxist-Leninist policies in the Soviet Union exceeding ten million, much of it under his successor, Joseph Stalin.


Moving closer to modern times, we encounter Saddam Hussein of Iraq. His regime is estimated to have murdered at least 200,000 people, with some estimates reaching up to 600,000.


Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya is another infamous figure, known for his flamboyant image and ruthless regime, which killed thousands of civilians and rebel fighters.


Bashar al-Assad of Syria continues to preside over a regime that has caused the deaths of over 100,000 people, with numerous war crimes documented during the ongoing civil war.


Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran led a theocratic revolution that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and established a fundamentalist regime that continues to oppress millions.


Ernesto "Che" Guevara, a key figure in the Cuban Revolution, is both a revolutionary icon and a brutal leader known for executing captured enemies.


### Lesser-Known Yet Notorious Leaders


Jean Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic was a revolutionary leader turned dictator responsible for thousands of deaths, including the execution of 100 schoolchildren.


Paul Biya of Cameroon, in power since 1982, eliminated his opponents and established a one-party system, later resorting to election rigging.


Francisco Macias Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, a colonial independence fighter, became a dictator responsible for around 60,000 deaths.


Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea, who secured the country's independence, embraced Marxism and brutally suppressed opposition, with an estimated death toll of 50,000.


Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier of Haiti, an anti-communist leader, murdered around 40,000 people and was succeeded by his son, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, who continued his father's authoritarian legacy.


Suharto of Indonesia, known for his anti-communist stance and modernization efforts, is also believed to be one of the most corrupt politicians in modern history, with regime spoils estimated at over $15 billion.


Samuel K. Doe of Liberia was a military ruler known for massacring civilians and was later tortured and executed by opponents.


Hastings Banda of Malawi, an anti-communist supported by the West, is remembered for both economic accomplishments and the murder of over 10,000 people.


Modibo Keita of Mali, the country's first president, was a Marxist leader who imprisoned dissidents and was eventually deposed and died in captivity.


Murtala Ramat Muhammed of Nigeria was a military commander with a controversial record, assassinated less than a year into his leadership role.


Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda, an anti-communist strongman, was assassinated, leading to the Rwandan genocide, which resulted in the deaths of up to 800,000 people.


Siaka Stevens of Sierra Leone, a communist-aligned kleptocrat, outlawed political opposition and retired without incident.


Syngman Rhee of South Korea, the country's first elected leader, was known for cracking down on opposition and the summary executions of around 100,000 communist militia members and sympathizers.


Hafez al-Assad of Syria, Bashar's father, established a family-run dictatorship after initially embracing Marxism-Leninism.


Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan was a communist father of the nation known for his authoritarian rule and questionable policies, leaving the country relatively poor and isolated.


Idi Amin of Uganda, a prolific mass murderer responsible for around 300,000 deaths, was eventually deposed and exiled. A satirical song “Amazing Man” by John Bird pairs well while enjoying your banknote collection.


Milton Obote, Amin's predecessor, was responsible for around 300,000 civilian deaths during the Ugandan Bush War.


Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, a revolutionary leader, established an enduring authoritarian state, known for wartime atrocities and an oppressive regime.


Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia is sometimes seen as a relatively benevolent dictator, though his regime had its share of purges and authoritarian practices.


Lastly, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire is remembered for his economically devastating nationalism and orchestrated purges, eventually deposed and exiled.


### Additional Notorious Figures on Banknotes & Coins


Augusto Pinochet of Chile is a dictator whose rule was marked by severe human rights abuses. He overthrew the democratically elected government in a military coup and established a regime responsible for the deaths and disappearances of thousands of Chileans.


Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic was a dictator whose reign of terror lasted over three decades. His regime was characterized by severe repression, and he was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands, including the infamous Parsley Massacre.


Fidel Castro of Cuba, a prominent revolutionary figure, established a communist state that endured for decades. While his regime is noted for improving literacy and healthcare, it was also marked by human rights abuses and the suppression of political dissent.


Benito Mussolini of Italy, the founder of Fascism, led a regime responsible for numerous atrocities during World War II. His totalitarian rule resulted in the deaths of many, both domestically and across Europe during the conflict. Mussolini was featured on coinage.


Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany, one of the most infamous dictators in history, was responsible for the genocide of six million Jews during the Holocaust and millions of others during World War II. Hitler was not on banknotes or coins, he was on Medals of the time.


A Striking Observation


The collection reveals a striking aspect of history: the African frontier of the Cold War, marked by Soviet ambitions to build a Marxist-aligned world and American efforts to counter that trend, often with severe consequences. This collection serves as a reminder of the complex and often tragic legacies left by these leaders, captured forever on the currencies of their nations.

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