Whose face appears most on money?

Today, I was asked this question at Quora, a Q&A site that is popular among both experts and lay enthusiasts. It’s a great question for armchair economists. But allow me to suggest a slight rephrasing: Whose face is most recognized on a national currency?…

You might guess Abraham Lincoln, Stalin, Gandhi or Mao. After all, the countries in which these leaders reigned were either very populous (lots of people using currency) or they had massive and relatively stable economies—and so the money extended far beyond the country (e.g. the US dollar).

What about Queen Elizabeth? That’s what other experts suggested. In addition to being the queen of England, she is head of state or ceremonial figurehead to a dozen other nations.

But most recognizable? I doubt it!

Click to enlarge

The population of Zamunda is just under 260,000, and most citizens prefer to use the US dollar or packs of Marlboro cigarettes as barter. But, during Prince Akeem’s visit to Queens New York to find a wife, an image of currency with his engraved portrait appeared on thousands of movie screens across the world. As a result, the 100 pound note (value: ~US $36) became a popular collectible in most countries, according to Ebay. This statistic is still verified by Sotheby auctions and by Amazon sales ranking.

Interesting facts about Prince Akeem and the Trans-Zamundan pound…

▪ The Zamundan pound was introduced in 1956, when the kingdom declared independence from the British Kingdom.

▪ The pound has been recalled and devalued 6 times due to rampant inflation (two more than Zimbabwe, which printed 500 Trillion Dollar notes after its 4th and last devaluation).

▪ The original pound has 1 billionth the value of the newest pound. Since most notes were turned in during recalls, original notes have a collector’s value today of $4 US. In western nations, they are among the top 5 items offered on Ebay.

▪ Prince Akeem also appears on two coins, with face value 1000 £ (gold) and 250 £ (silver). These coins are never used in commerce, because the precious metal has a far higher value than the face value.

▪ The coins are the most trusted and authenticated coinage of gold, silver and–recently–platinum). By 2015, they became even more trusted, traded and used as reserve currency than the Krugerrand (South Africa), the Eagle (USA) and Englehard bullion (bars of precious metal).

▪ Prince Akeem is 58 years old (as of 2019). His birthday, April 3, 1961 is a national holiday in Zamunda and 6 island nations that fall under the Trans-Zamunda treaties.

▪ Prince Akeem’s parents are still alive and healthy: King Jaffe Joffer and Queen Aeoleon. King Joffer was born January 17, 1931. Today, he is 88 years old.

▪ In recent years, the Trans-Zamundan pound has become stable, trusted and has even increased in value. This is attributed to the reign of King Joffer. He is widely considered an astute economist and ethical leader.

▪ The prince’s best friend and sparring partner, Semi, had his own late night television show in the United States from 1989 until mid 1994.

▪ The photo at bottom-left is a 100-pound note that I brought back from Zamunda during a visit to my daughter. She is an exchange student studying the preservation and rehabilitation of giraffes in the African wild.