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The Vondel I f 5 model (1966)

Published: 19 April 2023

Achterkant van biljet Vondel I f 5 (1966)

“FEAR OF FIVE-GUILDER NOTES” ran a newspaper headline in December 1966. In Maastricht, shopkeepers refused to accept DNB’s new five-guilder notes. The “crisp and unfolded” notes aroused suspicion and the coloured word FIVE was surely a misprint. This note had to be “an advertising gimmick or a joke”! But nothing could be further from the truth. The five-guilder note was indeed an official DNB issue. But it was the lowest denomination ever and the public clearly had to get used to that.

Vondel I f 5 (1966)

The reverse, with a view of the theatre stage

Why did DNB suddenly issue a f 5 note anyway? World War II had caused silver shortages in the Netherlands. This led to shortages of the (then) silver guilders and rijksdaalders. The ministry of Finance had countered this deficit by issuing currency notes worth f 1 and2.50. That way, lower values were still available for payment transactions. Around the 1960s, deficits fell, making it possible to issue silver coins again. The Ministry of Finance decided to reduce and eventually stop the issuance of its currency notes as well. In consultation between DNB and the ministry, it was decided to issue a f 5 DNB banknote. The f 5 note was supposed to compensate the withdrawal of the currency notes, but opinion polls also showed that over half of the Dutch populace was in favour of its introduction.

DNB seized this opportunity to immediately start a new series of notes: Erflaters II, a series with a national theme depicting historical figures. But it also had to appeal to the audience in a contemporary way. On the front, the 5 note shows Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679), the Dutch ‘prince of poets’, after whom Amsterdam’s famous Vondelpark is named. The watermark displays an ink pot with a quill and a scroll of paper, a reference to this ‘greatest writer and poet’ in the Dutch language.

But this note is linked to Vondel and Amsterdam in more ways than one. Indeed, on the reverse we see a design inspired by Amsterdam’s very first city theatre: Van Campen’s Schouwburg, built on Keizersgracht in 1637. This theatre opened with a play especially written for the occasion by Vondel. Today, very little of the complex remains, as the building burned down in 1772. However, the theatre gate can still be seen today (see image). I can hear you thinking: How could Oxenaar have known what this theatre looked like when it burned down 200 years earlier? Well, the singular designer had delved into the historical archives and took his inspiration from an engraving made in 1658 by Salomon Savery (pictured), who must have seen the building himself.


Left: The theatre gate c. 1770. This was the entrance to the theatre. Right: Today, the theatre gate is the entrance to The Dylan hotel.


The engraving on which Oxenaar based his reverse.

You may have noticed that this Erflaters note is slightly different in design from the other Erflaters notes. That is because technology had not stood still. New developments in money sorting followed in rapid succession, and this particular note was found to be unsuitable for mechanical sorting after only a few years. So in 1973 a new f 5 Vondel II banknote was designed. By now, the public had recovered from their initial fear of the new note. Indeed, they felt it was an very convenient means of payment!

The f 5 note circulated from 19 December 1966 to 1 May 1995. Until 1 January 2025, this note can still be redeemed at our Cash Desk 

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