I get asked a lot of times about how to tell the difference between notes from West African States, especially as they all look to be the same.
The West African States (WAS as I will abreviate) was a former federation of eight French colonial territories on the northwestern coast of Africa. The original colonies consisted of: Mauritania, Senegal, Dahomy, French Sudan, Ivory Coast, Upper Volta, Niger, and French Guinea. In 1958 all colonies, except French Guinea, approved a resolution to become autonomous members of the French Community. French Guinea voted instead at that time to become a fully independent state of the Republic of Guinea. The other seven later gained complete independence in 1960.
The French West African territiories were provided with a common currency, which continued as the monetary union of WAS. The union provided currency for the autonomous republics of Dahomy (now Benin), Mali, Senegal, Upper Volta (now Burkino Faso), Ivory Coast, Togo, Niger and Guinea Bissau (who have issued their own currency – see below).
Since 1959 each state has its own letter and pick number designation:
- Ivory Coast (A)– Pick numbers start at P-101A
- Benin (B) – Pick numbers start at P-201B
- Burkina Faso (C) – PIck numbers start at P-301C
- Mali (D) – PIck numbers start at P-401D
- Mauritania (E) – PIck numbers start at P-501E to P-504E (Mauritania issued its own currency in 1973 when it ceded from the WAS union.)
- Niger (H) – PIck numbers start at P-601H
- Senegal (K) – PIck numbers start at P-701K
- Guinea-Bissau (S) – *See note below
- Togo (T) – PIck numbers start at P-901T
*Note: Guinea Bissau, situated between Senegal and Guinea, was actually part of a Portuguse colonial nation and since gaining independence in 1974 has gone through much political turmoil. It issued its own currency until 1993, but in 1997 they had notes issued from the WAS currency board, starting at P-910S to P-919S.
From a collectors stand point, I do get asked: “should I collect one of each state, as each note looks the same, except for the letter at the end of the serial number?” That is a question that is up to each collector. I personally like to have a note in the sleeve from each country, but I have seen others collector who have one note and file it under WAS and then list out the countries for WAS). Finally, just as an FYI, the full name of the issuing bank is Banque Centrale Des Etates De L’Quest.
As time allows I will follow up this blog with blogs on Central African States notes (CAS) and East Caribbean States (ECS). If you have questions about this blog, please let me know I will do my best to help.