Art And Culture

Collector’s Guide to Pahlavi Currency Notes

Collector’s Guide to Pahlavi Currency NotesCollector’s Guide to Pahlavi Currency Notes

Bank notes during Reza Shah’s rule came in two sizes; the small ones: 7cm x3.5cm and the larger ones: 10cmx17cm. The bigger the size of the notes, the more value they had. Thus the 50 toman (500 rial) and 100 toman (1000) notes were issued in large sizes.

According to the Forsate-Emrooz newspaper, the big-size bank notes were only used among the upper and aristocratic social classes. But the problem was that these notes were not small enough and had to be folded several times before being stashed into the rich man’s pocket. To make matters easier, the notes gradually shrank in size.

During this era, coins were in broader circulation among the common populace and notes were the privilege of a few; if a person possessed a five-rial note, he was considered rather wealthy since every five rials were equivalent to five thousand dinars - with dinars being issued only in the form of coins.

So much could be done with notes at the time: with a 100-toman bill (1000 rials) having the power to purchase a 500-square meters to 1000 sq m house, which can cost between $800,000 and $1500,000 today.

The 100-toman, 50-toman and 20-toman bills were used only by the rich. The 500 toman note did not see the light of the day until Mohammad-Reza Shah’s era -the next in the line of succession- and even then it was so rare that many people never even got a glimpse of it.


Paper money collectors in Iran are notorious for their fetish for collecting notes in the consecutive order of their serial numbers; if a collector can lay their hands on a ‘pair note’ as it is called, they will see their notes double or triple in value. But with Reza Shah era notes it is extremely hard to achieve this: no 50 toman note has ever been found as a ‘pair’.

The era’s notes are of two kinds: notes depicting Reza Shah with caps and notes showing him without a cap. ‘Hat notes’ are rarer but ‘no hat notes’ issued in 1937 and 1938 are equally hard to find as a pair. It’s very hard to fulfill the ‘pair collection fantasy’ for these notes and those interested need to settle for a ‘single collection’. Even then, one should spend up to $150,000 to acquire a decent collection. The notes are also not valued very much if they are old and crumpled.

Unwashed and unpressed notes are more in demand but if you can find a rare note that has gone through some repair you can hold on to it for it is still valuable. If you are an up-and-coming collector wanting to make a foray into notes of this era, you had better begin with ‘no hat’ notes for they are lower in price. But all this can vary in proportion to your personal wealth and level of interest.