A 100 franc note is pictured. The note was one of several printed by the American Bank Note company that can be seen at the MNHA
Photo: LaLa La Photo
In recent years Luxembourg’s euro bank notes were printed in France and Germany. But around 90 years ago they were made as far away as the US and UK.
Little Luxembourg was not big enough to have the know-how and infrastructure for printing bank notes. So, as with many things, it outsourced the job.
The American Bank Note Company (today ABCorp) started printing 100 franc notes for Luxembourg in 1934, according to museum money conservator François Reinert.
A major worldwide engraver of national currency and postage stamps, the private business was founded in 1795 as Murray, Draper, Fairman & Company and printed in Boston, Massachussetts and Colombia, Tennessee. It grew as the US population expanded, printing paper currency for the new nation and postage stamps, as well as currency for other countries, such as Iran.
MNHA money conservator François Reinert is pictured in the museum in Luxembourg City. Photo: LaLa La Photo
In total 5 million Luxembourg bank notes were printed, featuring the image of the Spuerkeess headquarters. But they remained in circulation for less than a decade. Eight months after the Wehrmacht invaded Luxembourg in 1940, they were withdrawn by the occupiers and residents were forced to use the German mark.
As the end of WWII neared, the American Bank Note Company printing presses were at work again. “The interesting thing was that the American soldiers and the Luxembourg administration, when they came back from exile, had these bank notes with them,” Reinert explained. Locals were able to exchange their now worthless marks for these new notes at a “very good exchange rate” because “the people would have been entirely ruined had they gotten the real exchange rate,” the expert said.
Photo shows a note bearing the denomination written in Luxembourgish. Photo taken at the MNHA. Photo: LaLa La Photo
The new notes can be distinguished from their earlier counterparts from the writing--earlier notes bore the denomination in German. Reinert said: “After the war no-one could imagine writing in German on a bank note,” and so it was written in Luxembourgish.
In addition to the US printing operations, towards the end of WWII Luxembourg outsourced printing of its 50 and 20-franc notes to Bradbury Wilkinson and Company, an English engraver and printer of banknotes based in Surrey, which was purchased by the American Bank Note Company. This firm printed bank notes for the Seychelles and was responsible for the first series of bank notes of the Imperial Bank of Persia.