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“You owe me a cod!” For the first time ever, the Bank of Norway is issuing a series of banknotes without human faces depicted.

They are being called the world’s most beautiful notes, and not only by biased Norwegians. 30 May 2017, we can finally start paying with them, and the cod on the 200-krone note made it entirely natural to schedule the launch party in Lofoten.

The 100- and 200-krone notes will be the first put into circulation, whereas the three other denominations, 50, 500 and 1,000 will appear in 2018 and 2019. The notes’ maritime design, which breaks with the tradition of using portraits of famous men and women, are based on the results of a design competition.

Cash is no longer king

Early in 2013, the Bank of Norway decided that it was time for a new series of notes. This even though Norwegians nowadays mostly pay with bank cards or their mobile phone. Cash is no longer king.

While you risk being denied the option of paying with cash in Swedish shops, Norwegian law prohibits such a practice. There must be an alternative payment option for people without bank cards.

50 kroner (forside / obverse side)

50 kroner (forside / obverse side).
Photo: Norges Bank
50 kroner (bakside / reverse side)

50 kroner (bakside / reverse side).
Photo: Norges Bank

In other words, cash will not disappear completely anytime soon. And because technological developments provide counterfeiters with enhanced work methods, the central bank is adding even more advanced security features to the new notes.

“Although there are few counterfeit notes being confiscated in Norway, it is important to be one step ahead in order to ensure that our notes will continually maintain a high level of security,” says the head of the central bank, Øystein Olsen, in an informational video.

A sea of money

When the Bank of Norway held a design competition in 2014 regarding the appearance of the new notes, the “sea” was selected as the theme.

For Norway is a little country, but a vast coastal nation: Not only do we have Europe’s longest coast, we manage ocean regions that are seven times larger than Norway’s land mass,” as was written by the central bank.

Norway's new banknote series

This is the 8th banknote series by the Bank of Norway

The banknotes are printed on cotton paper, which permits the inclusion of more security features

The 7 previous banknote series were issued in: 1877, 1901, 1945, 1948, 1962, 1979 and 1994.

The new 100- and 200-krone notes will be issued on 30 May 2017

The 50- and 500-krone notes will follow in the 4th quarter of 2018

And the 1000-krone note in the 4th quarter of 2019

The Bank of Norway’s banknote designers, Arild Yttri and Morten Johansen, have designed the new notes

The design is based on proposals from Metric Design and Terje Tønnessen (obverse side) and Snøhetta Design (reverse side)

The artist Sverre Morken has designed the primary motifs

The puffin motif in the watermark is based on a photograph taken by Tom Schandy

More about the new banknote series

100 kroner (forside / obverse side)

100 kroner (forside / obverse side).
Photo: Norges Bank
100 kroner (bakside / reverse side)

100 kroner (bakside / reverse side).
Photo: Norges Bank

The intricate coastline, which runs in and out of fjords and bays, is more than 25,000 kilometres long. It has given and continues to give Norway and Norwegians their identity, as well as shipping routes and access to ocean resources.

“It is no coincidence that our country got its name from the coastal route: Norvegr - Norwegen - Norway, or “the way north”, writes the Bank of Norway.

Faceless banknotes

In 1695, Norway was the third country in Europe to introduce banknotes, and only Sweden and Great Britain beat us to it. The concept did not catch on at any of these places. Scepticism to the idea that notes could actually be used as a payment method resulted in it taking many years and attempts before banknotes were fully accepted among Norwegians.

200 kroner (forside /obverse side)

200 kroner (forside /obverse side).
Photo: Norges Bank
200 kroner (bakside / reverse side)

200 kroner (bakside / reverse side).
Photo: Norges Bank
Some old Norwegian banknotes

100 kroner (1987)

50 kroner (1966)

5 kroner (1918)

Since so-called “speciedaler” and “skilling” were replaced by kroner and “øre” (i.e. cents) in 1975, the Bank of Norway has produced seven series of banknotes. The eighth series is now ready for dissemination.

Famous faces have decorated the notes in the previous series, including King Oscar II, polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen, playwright Henrik Ibsen and composer Edvard Grieg. This time around, the faces are being replaced by icons we associate with the sea: A lighthouse, a Viking ship, a Cod, a rescue boat and foaming wave crests.

Nordic expression

70 people applied to enter the Bank of Norway's design competition, and eight finalists were selected.

The jury announced Swiss designer Enzo Finger’s contribution as the winner, however, the central bank had its own preference: The banknotes’ obverse sides are therefore based on a design proposal by Metric Design and illustrator Terje Tønnesen, whereas the reverse sides are based on Snøhetta Design’s proposal.

500 kroner (forside / obverse side)

500 kroner (forside / obverse side).
Photo: Norges Bank
500 kroner (bakside / reverse side)

500 kroner (bakside / reverse side).
Photo: Norges Bank

They base their decision on the fact that the proposal by Metric Design lent itself well to the security features, which the notes must have. Furthermore, the visual expression is “open, bright and typically Nordic”.

“In combination with Nordic design, the motifs have been given a figurative expression, in keeping with Norwegian art and handicraft traditions, which were often fertile and abundant in their expression, characterised by our unique nature, climate and seasons” writes the design firm about the artwork.

The banknotes' primary motifs and themes

The 50-krone note is based on Utvær Lighthouse in Solund municipality. This lighthouse station was built in 1900, and is located at the westernmost point in Norway. Theme: The sea that binds us together

The 100-krone note depicts the Gokstad Viking Ship. This is Norway’s best preserved Viking Ship. The ship was built around AD 900 and was found in a burial mound in 1880. Theme: The sea that takes us out into the world

The 200-krone note depicts a cod. The background features herring and fishing net. Fishing has for centuries been a fundamental part of earning a living and cultural heritage along the Norwegian coast. Theme: The sea that feeds us

The 500-krone note depicts the rescue boat, RS 14 “Stavanger”, designed by Norway’s best known boatbuilder and designer, Colin Archer. Theme: The sea that gives us prosperity

The 1,000-krone note depicts a wave on the open ocean. The wave is meant to convey “the sea as a counterforce that hones us, and a driving force that carries us forward”. Theme: The sea that carries us forward

Norway's calling card

The question of what would adorn the back sides of the notes was discussed at length internally, until Snøhetta Design’s proposal for a front side design was looked at more closely. According to the Bank of Norway, this combination gives the notes “both a traditional and modern appearance”.

Snøhetta’s pixel motifs follow Beaufort’s wind scale. On the 50 kroner note, the wind is gentle, which is illustrated by short cubic shapes and long, gentle waves. On the 1,000 kroner note, the wind is strong as depicted by long cubes and short waves.

1000 kroner (forside / obverse side)

1000 kroner (forside / obverse side).
Photo: Norges Bank
1000 kroner (bakside / reverse side)

1000 kroner (bakside / reverse side).
Photo: Norges Bank

“Our cubic pattern represents pixels, which can be viewed as our era’s visual form of communication, and mosaics – small elements which join together to form an image,” writes Snøhetta.

Head of the Central Bank, Olsen, is pleased to have put his signature on the final result.

“The new banknotes are beautiful. And I would even be so bold as to say that they work well as calling cards for Norway”.

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