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Notes of Marshall Mobutu, Tamer of the Unconquerable River: 500 Zaire (Zaire, 1989)-Article

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

This colorful Zairian banknote represents the 3rd denomination of the Zaire (Series 1988-92). The Zaire was the currency of the nation of the same name. Now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Zaire was ruled from 1971-1997, by it's eccentric leader Mobutu Sese Seko (1930-1997). Who was overthrown in the First Congo War (1996-1997).

The Zaire Series 1988-92 represented the beginning of hyperinflation in Zaire. Which ended the relatively period, during the circulation of the Series 1982-85. The situation devolved to the point, previous notes were reprinted with additional zeros and re-color coded. Making them somewhat similar to later Yugoslavian banknotes.

In 1993, the Zaire was replaced by the New Zaire. The exchange rate was an impressive 1 New Zaire to 3,000,000 "Old" Zaires.


The observe depicts Marshall Mobutu (1930-1997), to his left is a leaping Leopard. This is both a reference to the nation symbol and Mobutu's nickname, the "Leopard of Zaire". Due to his fierceness as a leader and his iconic Leopard skin hat. Which often wore with an abacost, during state visits and formal events. He promoted the style during his 1960s-70s authenticité (authentic) program.

The French language header reads, (trans.) "Bank of Zaire". While the subtext list the note's "Five Hundred Zaire" value. At the center is a large stylized number "500" and the note's 24 June 1989 print date. The note's value is repeated on upper-right corner, as "500". Opposite is one of the note's dual-serial numbers (E 2680434 G), the second is on the lower-right.

At the note's left is the watermark area. The upper section features a decorative design, with the beforementioned serial number overprinted on it. At the center is the signature of the Bank Governor (Le Gouverneur). While the lower features a registration element, partially based on the Bank of Zaire logo. Backlighting the note with bright light completes the light puzzle effect.

The upper-left design features micro text, repeating "Banque Du Zaire", in sequence.


The reverse depicts the Matadi Suspension Bridge, across the Congo River. Built from 1979-1983, by a Japanese consortium, led by Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries. The 520 m (1,710 ft) long bridge spans across the narrowest point of the Congo River. It provides the only direct route over the river and was (until 2018) the longest bridge in Africa.

Below the bridge reads, (trans.) "Bank of Zaire". To its right is an elaborate "hourglass" shaped guilloche design. It's ends feature number "500"s, notably lower number is stylized similar to the observe. Above the bridge is a large number "500", it features a turquoise-green color transition. A similar transition can be seen in the underprint.

To the right is the note's watermark area. At its top is a counterfeit warning, it reads, (trans.) "(c)ounterfeiting is punished with penal servitude". At the unprinted center is a Marshall Mobutu watermark, it can be viewed by backlighting. While lower section features a Bank of Zaire logo. Which also serves as the positive, for the observe side registration element.

The footer lists the note's printer as "Hôtel des Monnaies - Zaïre".

The Matadi Suspension Bridge


Additional Notes

  • This note's dimensions are 138 x 67 mm or 5.43 x 2.64 in, wider than a US Dollar.

  • The preferable method to preserve this note are side opening sleeves, cut to size.

  • The Zaire ISO code was ZRZ, it used both Ƶ. and Z as symbols.

  • The Zaire was subdivided into 100 Makuta, coins were issued in Makutas and Zaires.

  • Likuta is the Kongo word for a single Makuta, 100 Makuta equals 1 Zaire.

  • The abacost was a distinct Zaire alternative to the Western style business suit.

  • Zaire was a former Belgian colony, who's schools promoted the French language.

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