Citigroup Funds British Museum’s Money Gallery, Lends a Warhol

500 million mark banknote
A 500 million mark banknote from pre-Nazi Germany in 1923, when hyperinflation was rampant. The note is on display in the British Museum's newly revamped Citi Money Gallery, sponsored by Citigroup Inc. Source: Trustees of the British Museum via Bloomberg.

The British Museum’s Money Gallery reopens on June 25 after a redisplay funded by Citigroup Inc., which is lending a dollar-sign Warhol silkscreen print to it.

Starting in 2000 B.C. and leading to the present, the gallery features 1,200 items. They range from some of the earliest coins (from 7th-century B.C. Lydia, in what is now Turkey) to a contemporary wave-and-pay watch for swiping in cashless transactions.

“In the last few years,” said Catherine Eagleton, curator of the Citi Money Gallery, “people have got a lot more interested in money: thinking about why it’s worth what it is, and where it came from. What we’re hoping this display will do is give a longer timeframe to start understanding current events.”

With Citi’s sponsorship lasting five years, “it won’t be a permanent gallery that just sits there gathering dust,” she said in an interview. Displays will stay current, and education sessions will be linked to financial literacy and number skills.

The gallery features many other highlights. Gold coins from the days of Nero -- who died at age 30 in 68 A.D. -- show the debauched Roman emperor looking older and pudgier with time.

A 500 million Reichsmark note from 1923 speaks to the horrors of hyperinflation in pre-Nazi Germany. And a case in the middle is filled with counterfeit British one-pound coins, many of which could easily be mistaken for the real thing.

Also on show: a prototype of a cotton-and-lycra girdle with secret pockets where Haitian women hid cash when the banks were wiped out in the 2010 killer earthquake.

Michael Corbat, Citi’s chief executive for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said in an e-mailed news release that the gallery would “allow visitors to get a better understanding of the history of money, and see one of the largest collections of coins in the world.”


Muse highlights include Scott Reyburn’s reports on the art market, Martin Gayford’s art reviews, Jason Harper on cars and Rich Jaroslovsky on technology.

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