Living Bulldozers, The Asian Elephant: 1,000 Dong (South Vietnam, 1972)-Article

This South Vietnamese banknote represents the 5th denomination of the final “Southern Dồng” Series (1972). The 1972 Series Dồng served as the final currency of the Republic of (South) Vietnam. The reverse art of this banknote series, features detailed illustrations of South Vietnam's wildlife. The note's were produced by world renown British printer, De La Rue London.

The “Southern Dồng” was replaced by the Việt Cộng issued "Southern Liberation" Dồng, in 1975. These transitional notes were issued during the phase of the Vietnam War (1973-1975). The “Southern Liberation" was the de-facto currency of South Vietnam. Until the merging of both North and South Vietnamese currencies, in 1978. (This note will be reviewed reverse first)


The reverse features a beautiful illustration (main art) of 3 Asian Elephants with their quản tượng (keepers). To the right the elephants, is the note's watermark area. Small vertical lines can seen extending from the watermark area toward the background of the main art. These lines seamlessly transition from light green to a "rose" color shade. Further right is the negative, for multicolor registration element.

It appears the peanut-shaped main art area is part of the note blank. This hypothesis is supported by the fact all denomination of the 1972 Series are color coded. In addition to being color coded, all denomination feature a unique underprint. This particular denomination features elephant outlines, refencing the main art. Color coding and stylized underprints were a hallmark of De La Rue notes of the period.

There is Vietnamese text above and to the lower right, of the main art. The header translates to the "State Bank of Vietnam". The lower right text translates to "One Thousand Dồng". As supported by the "1000" located on the lower and upper right. While the subtext below the header threatens counterfeiters with "penal servitude", for copying and distributing counterfeit banknotes.

The upper right "1000" is overprinted the before mentioned multicolor registration element. This registration element curves downward ending in illustrations of hao dao (peach blossoms). There is an additional number "1000" at the upper left. Overprinted above this number is a row of 13 lines, ending in a half moon guilloché pattern.

Full Translation

State Bank of Vietnam
Penal servitude for people who counterfeit banknotes, from the distributions of the State Bank of Vietnam.
One Thousand Dồng


The observe depicts the Palace of Independence, the residence of the President of South Vietnam. The site serves as a landmark for the end of the Vietnam War (1955-1975). After a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) tank crash though the main gate, on the 30 April 1975. The text resembles that of the reverse, featuring "State Bank of Vietnam" and "One Thousand Dồng". To the left of the "Palace of Independence" is the watermark area.

The observe features a mixed framing throughout much of the main art/watermark area. The far right is framed by a double half moon guilloché pattern. It's upper and lower right corners each feature a number "1000", joined by a loop of 13 lines. While the lower left feature a number "1000" overprinted on an ornate frame, featuring chrysanthemums. Along the inner curve of this frame is a multicolor registration element. That runs along the observe bottom and ends at the lower right "half moon".

Typical of De La Rue notes, the observe features dual serial numbers. These serial numbers are located above and to the lower left of the "Palace of Independence". Both serial numbers read "695244", although the upper number features the batch number (S5).

The Asian Elephant

The endangered Asian Elephant is the largest animal native to South and Southeast Asian. Although once widespread from the East Asian coast to portions of West Asian. Current populations are mostly distributed in isolated pockets. These pockets include populations of the Indian, Sri Lankan, and Sumatran subspecies. \

Asian Elephants are smaller than their cousins the African Elephant. Asian elephants are descended from ancient African populations and thus have a number of subtle differences. Asian elephants have smaller ears, less loose skin, and an arched back. Their trunks have only one tip, instead of two.

Asian elephant heads have 2 domes and are the highest part of their body. As opposed to African elephants that have 1 dome, that is slightly lower than their shoulders. The number of toes differ between the 2 species. Both have 5 front toes, although Asian elephants have 4 back toes. While African elephants have only 3 back toes.

Asian elephant males slightly larger, than females of the same species. Although less so than their African cousins. A male elephants are 2.75 m (9.0 ft) tall and weigh 4,000 kg (8,800 pounds). While male elephants are 2.75 m (9.0 ft) tall and weigh 4,000 kg (8,800 pounds).

Asian Elephants being trained for traditional logging, in Southeast Asia.
Asian Elephants being trained for traditional logging, in Southeast Asia.

Unlike African Elephants, the Asian Elephant have longer history of domestication. With the earliest depictions dating to 3,000 BCE, by the Indus Valley Civilization (3300 BCE to 1300 BCE). This tradition continues into modern times in South and Southeast Asia. Particularly rural areas where elephants are used in traditional logging.

From a young age elephants are trained by a howdah or keeper. Who creates a close bond with their mount. Generally most tamed elephants are used for carrying people or cargo. Although logging remains in demand as a specialized type of labor.

The advantage of using elephants is their mobility and ease of maintenance. As elephants can feed from the natural environment. Unlike modern machinery, elephants can walk between trees and cross waterways. They also reduced environmental damage in comparison to tracked skids, which drag logs causing more damage.

Although it should be noted this form of traditional logging has been declining. Leading to elephant keepers to seek other forms of employment. Such as working as tour guides, providing tourist rides along nature trails. Some have sought employment as forest rangers, using their skills to stop poachers and illegal logging operations.

One particular area of interest are temple elephants. Which are used in religious Buddhist and Hindu religious processions and festivals. These elephants are occasionally ornately dressed and painted for parades. Although are more often used to receive donations at major temples.

A mahout washing his elephant, at Kanchipuram Temple.
A mahout washing his elephant, at Kanchipuram Temple.

“Southern Dồng” (1972) Gallery

(Gallery will be updated, as new banknotes are databased)


Additional Notes

  • The note's dimensions are 152 mm x 76 mm or 5.98 in x 2.99 in, larger than a US Dollar.

  • This banknote is wider and shorter, than a standard US Dollar (6.14 x 2.61 in).

  • It's highly recommended to use large protective sleeves, when preserving this note.

  • Standard size (top-opening) protective sleeves will leave a small area uncovered.

  • In November 1975, the "Palace of Independence" was renamed "Reunification Hall".

  • West Asian Elephants are believed to have been an extinct subspecies.

  • The term Syrian Elephant is used for ancient West Asian Elephants.

  • Female Asian Elephants unlike African Elephants often lack tusk.

Photo Credits

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