The Bank of Sudan’s Second Series

Peter Symes

The Bank of Sudan commenced business on 22 February 1960, establishing the infrastructure of a central bank and succeeding the Sudan Currency Board as Sudan’s note-issuing authority. Sudan was not the most stable of nations and as the 1960s drew to a close, the Bank of Sudan was caught in the political turmoil of the time. The turmoil, which continued into the early 1970s, had an interesting effect on the second series of banknotes issued by the Bank of Sudan, resulting in one of the most challenging series for collectors of Sudanese banknotes. However, the varieties are not well documented and there is a degree of misinformation recorded for this series.

            In October 1964 the government of General Ibrahim Abboud, who had claimed power in a coup in 1958, was overthrown in a revolution that saw the restoration of a civilian government. Elections held in 1965 resulted in a government under Muhammad Ahmad Mahjoub but, due to factional intrigue, in 1966 the government was replaced with a coalition led by Sadiq al Mahdi. However, by 1967 Muhammad Ahmad Mahjoub had regained power. Elections held in 1968 saw Mahjoub retain power but, on 25 May 1969, there was a revolution led by General Jaafar al Nimieri, which consolidated power under the authority of the Revolutionary Command Council, which assumed authority following the revolution. Although Babiker Awadallah became Prime Minister, it was Nimieri who became head of the Revolutionary Command Council and the man who held executive power. As the tumultuous 1960s came to a close, there was no guarantee of political stability in Sudan, but the wheels of administration continued to operate amidst the turmoil.

            The Bank of Sudan’s first banknotes were based on designs originally prepared for the Sudan Currency Board and the Bank’s first notes circulated for about ten years. Toward the end of the 1960s the central bank prepared a new series of banknotes and, according to the Bank of Sudan, the new notes were introduced

‘... to protect the citizens against counterfeit money, to indicate by the new designs the extent of progress and development that have taken place in the country since the older issues were provided and to make use of the latest developments in the field of designing and printing banknotes.’ (Eleventh Annual Report)

The notes were probably prepared during 1968 and 1969, as the final issue of the previous series was dated 7 February 1968, and the new notes were introduced in early 1970.

            The most significant difference between the notes of the first and second series is the reduction in size of the notes of the later series. The same five denominations are used in each series and, while the notes of the second series have been modernized, they retain colours similar to their counterparts in the first series. All banknotes carry Arabic text on the front of the note and English text on the back. ‘Bank of Sudan’ is at the top on the front of the notes, below which is written ‘I promise to pay on request to whomever carries this note a sum,’ after which appears the value of the note as ‘Sudanese Pounds’ in words at the bottom right of the note. ‘Bank of Sudan’ appears at the top on the back of the note and the value of the note is written at the bottom of the note. Each denomination carries the same illustration of the headquarters of the Bank of Sudan on the front of the notes, and this illustration and the text are the only common features for all denominations.

            Four of the five notes in the second series use plants in their design (the exception being the 25-piastre note), although the manner in which the plants are depicted varies from note to note. Details of each denomination follow.

25 Piastres

Size – 120 x 60 mm

Colours – Red and orange, with a red intaglio print.

Back – The manufacture of cotton thread is depicted on the back of this note, with a man standing next to rows of spooling cotton. Cotton has been one of Sudan’s principal exports for many years and this illustration celebrates the manufacture of a commercial product from a primary crop.

50 Piastres

Size – 130 x 65 mm

Colours: – Green, purple and brown, with a green intaglio print.

Plant – On the front of the note, to the left, is believed be a Water Primrose; a plant of the Ludwigia species.

Back – An illustration of buildings that constitute the University of Khartoum dominates the back of the note. The building on the banknote was originally the Gordon Memorial College, which was opened in 1902. The college was established through public subscription in Great Britain, in memory of Charles Gordon. In 1951 the building became the centre of the University College of Khartoum and later it became part of Khartoum University.

One Pound

Size – 140 x 70 mm

Colours – Green and yellow, with a blue intaglio print.

Plant – Orchids are incorporated in the design on the front of the notes, once at the right in full colour and once at the left in outline. The flowers are again depicted in colour at the left on the back of the note.

Back – The Kiosk at Naqab (or Naga), found at the Wadi Awateib, is depicted on the back of the one-pound note. Probably built between 1 and 300 CE during the Meroitic period of the Nubian kingdoms, the small temple shows a distinctive mix of local architecture and adornments, with an equal amount of features clearly derived from Roman architecture and design. At the right is a statue of King Taharqa, a Nubian king who ruled Egypt from 690 to 664 BC, during the 25th Dynasty. The illustration depicts the kneeling king in an Egyptian kilt, crowned with two cobras (representing the two kingdoms of Egypt and Nubia), and offering two round receptacles containing wine. The illustration is drawn from a statuette in the Louvre, which is part of a group that includes the god Hemen, depicted as a falcon, to whom the king is making the offering.

Five Pounds

Size – 150 x 75 mm

Colours – Orange, green and brown, with brown and pink intaglio prints.

Plant – Cotton plants are depicted at the left and right on the front of the note. The illustration at the right is in colour, while that at the left is in outline. Two small sprigs of cotton are illustrated in colour at the lower left on the back.

Back – The back of the five-pound note depicts various fauna of the African continent, all of which can be found in Sudan. At the far left are a pair of ibex, while in the centre are cattle and a pair of camels, and at the right are an elephant, a rhinoceros, and a lion.

Ten Pounds

Size – 160 x 80 mm

Colours – Purple, yellow, and pink, with purple and green intaglio prints.

Plant – Branches of an acacia plant are depicted at the left and right on the front of the note. The illustration at the right is in colour, while at the left the illustration is only an outline. An example of the acacia is again depicted in subdued colours on the back of the note at the left. The two principal acacia plants grown in the Sudan are Acacia senegal and Acacia seyal, both of which produce gum arabic. It is the branches of Acacia seyal that are depicted on the ten-pound banknote.

Back – The back of the note depicts the quay at Port Sudan, with trains and trucks ready to take away goods that are being unloaded from ships. The intention appears to be to depict different modes of transport, as an aeroplane has been added to an otherwise typical scene at the quay.

            The notes of the second series were issued from 1970 until 1980 and during that period the principal design of these notes remained unchanged. However, the series utilises two watermarks, nine dates, three signatures and two titles for the signatories, providing a fascinating range of varieties.

            The signatory of the first notes issued in 1970 was Abdel Rahim Mirghani, who had been governor of the Bank of Sudan since 7 October 1967. He remained in office until 16 May 1970 when he retired. However, it appears his retirement was linked to the nationalization of the commercial banks in Sudan, which occurred within ten days of his resignation. On 25 May 1970 Sudan nationalized the British banks ‘Barclays DCO’ and ‘National and Grindlays’ Endnote , as well as the ‘Commercial Bank’ of Ethiopia, the Egyptian ‘Bank Misr’, and the Jordanian ‘Arab Bank’. With the nationalization of the banks, the government changed the structure of the Bank of Sudan to take into account its responsibility for running the nationalized commercial banks.

            The retirement of Abdel Rahim Mirghani is closely linked to the shakeup in the structure of the Bank of Sudan, as it appears the nationalization of the banks and other sectors of the economy demanded managers and employees with left-leaning tendencies. Following the retirement of Abdel Rahim Mirghani, the remaining members of the Bank’s Board of Directors continued in their positions for just a few more days, until 25 May 1970, when they were replaced by a new Board of Directors, which took control of all banks in Sudan from 26 May 1970.

            The new Board of the Bank of Sudan was headed by a ‘Chairman’ who was also a cabinet minister, such was the responsibility of supervising Sudan’s central bank and all commercial banking activities in the country. The chairman was Mohamed Ali El Mahasi and Abdel Lateef Hassan became Governor of the Bank of Sudan.

            The term of Abdel Lateef Hassan’s governorship was very short and his signature does not appear on any banknotes. On 19 July 1971 the government of Sudan was briefly toppled in a coup led by Major Hashem al Atta, but the Nimeiri government was restored several days later on 22 July. Many supporters of the coup were communists and, in the aftermath of the coup, leaders of the Communist Party and other individuals who were associated with the coup were gaoled or executed. When the banks were nationalized in May 1970, the Communist Party of Sudan was an ally of the president and the Minister of Economic Affairs and Foreign Trade, Mr. Ahmed Suliman, had knowingly appointed communists to positions in the banks and other nationalized businesses. The communists had fallen from favour and, although President al Nimeiri had attempted to remove communists from the public service in the months prior to the coup, public servants who were regarded as possessing communist sympathies or who were unsympathetic to the government lost their positions following the coup. It is probable that Abdel Lateef Hassan and Mohamed Ali El Mahasi were suspected of being associated with communists, if not communists themselves, and they were relieved of their respective posts of Governor and Chairman of the Board.

            Following a reorganization of the cabinet on 3 August 1971, Awad Abdel Magid Aburiesh was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Bank of Sudan on 21 August 1971, but the position of Governor was not filled. Awad Abdel Magid consequently signed the banknotes dated 30 November 1971 as ‘Chairman of the Board of Directors’ and he is the only signatory to use this title, as his predecessor and successor signed as ‘Governor’.

             Awad Abdel Magid did not remain in authority for much longer than his predecessor. In August 1972 President al Nimieri announced that elections would be held for a Sudanese People’s Council, which would then take the next six months to draft a new constitution. The election was held between 22 September and 4 October 1972, after which, on 5 October, al Nimieri asked his cabinet to resign so that he could select a new cabinet in consultation with the People’s Council. He accepted the resignation of the entire cabinet plus the Secretaries of State, the Secretary-General of the Presidential Palace, and the Governor of the Bank of Sudan. Although this was the date on which the resignations were accepted, the Bank of Sudan’s Annual Report for the year ending 1972 states that Awad Abdel Magid left office on 19 September 1972, which was just prior to the elections and it can be conjectured that the President’s plan had been made clear to the governor of the Bank by this time.

            Although a new cabinet was announced on 9 October 1972, the position of governor of the Bank of Sudan was not immediately filled. After several months Ibrahim Mohammed Ali Nimir was appointed to head the Bank of Sudan from 11 February 1973. Carrying the title of ‘Governor and Chairman of Board of Directors’, he remained the governor of the Bank of Sudan until 13 February 1980. This achievement was significant, given the previous instability of the office, the number of foiled coups during his tenure, and cabinet reshuffles that took place during the years he was in office. Nimir’s signature is the third and final signature to appear on the second series of banknotes, with his signature being used until the concluding issue of this series in 1980, just prior to him leaving office.

            The first two issues in this series have several elements that create distinct varieties. Not only do they carry different signatures and different titles for the signatories, but they carry different watermarks, dates, and different formats for expressing the date. Notes of the initial issue carry the signature of Abdel Rahim Mirghani, signing as ‘Governor’ of the Bank of Sudan, the date is expressed as ‘Khartoum on first of January 1970’, and the head of a rhinoceros is used as the watermark on the 1-, 5- and 10-pound notes (with the 25- and 50-piastre notes carrying no watermark). In comparison, the notes of the second issue carry the signature of Awad Abdel Magid, signing as ‘Chairman of Board of Directors’, the date is expressed as ‘30 November 1971’ (without mentioning the place of issue as ‘Khartoum’), and the 1-, 5- and 10-pound notes carry Sudan’s coat of arms as the watermark. The coat of arms consists of a secretary bird with a native shield on its breast. Above the bird is a scroll that carries the Arabic text Al Nasr Nila, which translates as ‘Victory is Ours’, while below the bird is a second scroll that carries the text Jamhuryat al Sudan, which translates as ‘Republic of Sudan’. (The text is not apparent in the watermark.)

            There is very little difference between the notes of the second issue and the remaining seven date varieties of this series—although there is one aberration with the expression of the date. All banknotes carrying the remaining seven dates are signed by Ibrahim Mohammed Ali Nimir as ‘Governor’ of the Bank of Sudan and six of these dates are expressed in the format of a simple date; e.g. ‘1 April 1973’. Only one date reverts to the format used in the first issue that includes the use of the word ‘Khartoum’. Why, having dropped this format for the date after the first issue, it was re-introduced for one issue in 1978 is a conundrum. It may be suspected that the change in date format is linked with the use of a different printer, but all notes in this series are printed by De La Rue and the ‘De La Rue’ imprint appears on the back of each note in this series. The remaining seven dates are:

In considering the dates used on the notes, it is worth observing that dates from the Gregorian calendar are used and not hejira dates. Sudan is predominantly an Islamic country, although southern Sudan is largely Christian. It is therefore a little unusual to find that hejira dates are not included on the banknotes. It is likely that the dates of the Gregorian calendar were used due to the strong British administrative heritage in Sudan, and it was not until the issue of 1985 that hejira dates were used on Sudanese banknotes in tandem with dates of the Gregorian calendar.

            The intriguing and tantalizing aspects of collecting the notes in this series is that assembling the full range of denominations carrying the various dates is quite difficult. With five denominations and nine date varieties, there forty five notes for the collector to acquire. Many of these notes are difficult to find, especially in high grade. After collecting this series for over fifteen years, the author’s collection is still missing three varieties. Endnote

            The collector’s task has not been aided by the description of this series in the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money (SCWPM). In the SCWPM this series is described with varieties of ‘a’, ‘b’, and ‘c’, but it is not apparent how these varieties are determined, especially for the 25- and 50-piastre notes. Certainly, the ‘a’ and ‘b’ varieties for the 1-, 5- and 10-pound notes can be recognized by the watermarks, but there is only one date for the variety with rhinoceros watermark (not two as indicated for the 1-pound note Endnote ). The SCWPM lists a date variety of ‘Jan. 1972’ for some denominations but reports of this date are in error, with the error probably due to the similarity of the Arabic numerals for ‘2’ and ‘3’. The date of ‘Jan. 1971’, reported in the SCWPM, also does not exist and there is no reason to create a separate variety for the 1980-dated notes.

            The best way for collectors to identify the simple varieties in this series is to use the following criteria. For the two lower denominations—25 and 50 piastres—there are two basic varieties:

For the three higher denominations—1, 5, and 10 pounds—there are three basic varieties:

For those who collect signature varieties, there are three varieties for each denomination, and for those who collect date varieties, there are nine varieties for each denomination.

            Hopefully this information and other facets of this study will clarify the range of varieties available to collectors and remove the misinformation on this series.


This article was completed in October 2007
© Peter Symes