Discover all the banknotes issued from 1997 to 2015!

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The land of the Gods

Eritrea (Arabic: Iritrīyā, إرتريا) is a country in the Horn of Africa. This territory has been known in history for a very long time. The Eritrean coasts are considered, along with those of Somalia and Sudan, as the country named Punt or Ta Netjeru (Land of the Gods) by the inhabitants of ancient Egypt. Eritrea then came under Muslim influence for several centuries ... In more recent history, it was colonization by Italy that established the borders of present-day modern Eritrea. Following the purchase by the Italians of Assab Bay from the local sultan in 1869, then their occupation of Massaoua in 1885, Eritrea was established in 1890 as a special territory. After the Italian defeat during the Second World War, the UN decided in 1952 to federate Eritrea with Ethiopia, which annexed it in 1962. It was the start of the war of independence which ended in May 1991 by the victory of the independence movement, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Eritrea (FPLE) led by Isaias Afwerki, and therefore by the defeat of the Ethiopian government. Eritrea gained independence in 1993 (1).

The nakfa

The Eritrean nakfa has been the official currency of Eritrea since November 8, 1997. The name of the national currency is the symbol of Eritrea's bitter struggle for independence, inspired by the town of Nacfa located in the mountains of Sahel and which served as the headquarters of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) during the armed struggle against the Ethiopian occupation. The first issue of the Bank of Eritrea dates from 1997 and consists of 6 notes of 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 nakfa. These were designed by a black American, Clarence Holbert and are printed by the German printing house Giesecke & Devrient. The fronts of the banknotes depict different ethnic groups from Eritrea, while the backs feature scenes typical of various parts of the country.


Above: front of the 20 nakfa Type 1997. Dimensions: 140 x 70 mm.

This series of banknotes will be issued several times between 2004 and 2015. The last issue of 2015, introduced on January 1, 2016, consisted in making obsolete the large sums of old banknotes which circulated outside the formal economy (money laundering, money counterfeiting and contraband, etc.). The new banknotes are identified on the issue date of 24.05.2015 with the exception of the 100 nakfa, bearing the issue date of 24.5.2011.

The 17 Eritrean banknotes (not counting signature variants and specimens) are accessible to the collection for a modest investment. Prefer copies in perfect quality.


Above: a giant sycamore tree (2) which served as a model for the back of the 5 nakfa Type 1997 and 5 nafka Type 2015 banknotes.


(1) "Eritrea", Wikipedia.
(2) Photo by Noah Hafra.

Our sources

  • "Eritrea": Bank Note Museum.
  • "The Banknote Book: Eritrea" by Owen W. Linzmeyer.
  • "Eritrea" Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, 1961-present, 17th Edition (pages 350 to 351).
  • Photos from the archives of, ebay, and Numista.

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