Moneygami – A New Way Of Looking At Banknotes

Posted by Allison on 5 April 2009, 10:50

Whatever you think about the currency in use in your particular country, we all know those paper banknotes are worth less with each day that passes. 

So if you fancy doing something a bit different with your banknotes other than watching them gradually depreciating, why not explore the wonderful if slightly bizarre art of moneygami?

If you hadn't already guessed, moneygami is a close relation to origami, that wonderful pastime of paper folding that is great when you have time (or paper) on your hands and you're bored.  Moneygami carries on where origami left off, and brings it firmly up to date – whatever currency you might be using.

Moneygami does have its downsides though.  It's fantastic in that you can use pretty much any type of banknote you like – a dollar is just as good as a pound, and a Euro will work as well as the yen – but when it comes to paper folding it seems that size really does matter.

That means there is a limit to what can be done with a banknote, purely because of the size they come in.  A lot of origami paper folding starts with a plain square of paper, and obviously that isn't going to happen when you have a rectangular banknote to play with, especially when you don't particularly want to cut it in two pieces.

But then on the other hand this has led to some creative work being done by those people who enjoy moneygami and use it to entertain other people on street corners and at parties.  You have to work with what you've got, so you find ways of doing just that.  Some people start by folding a banknote into a square with which they can work, while others simply use the shape of the banknote itself to come up with something completely different.  Interestingly even the British Origami Society makes a mention of the more modern art of folding banknotes, keeping itself bang up to date in the process.

There are plenty of examples online of how people have used banknotes as the basis of a piece of moneygami, and if you take a look at them you can see that there are two broad types of moneygami in existence.  The first type is simply the use of a banknote folded into a specific shape.  There was an example on YouTube recently of someone who made a stand for their iPhone out of a one hundred dollar bill.  The finished result – quite easy to do once you know how, even if you haven't had any practice or experience of paper folding before – was as solid as a rock.

The second type takes into account the fact that you are actually using a banknote to do your folding with, and incorporates the face of the person who appears on the bill itself.  These examples of moneygami also have a real sense of humour about them, and tend to be more impressive as a result. 

For example, there was an example of moneygami which turned an American banknote into a picture of Abraham Lincoln appearing on what looked rather like a Starbucks takeaway cup with a straw poking out of the top.  There have also been examples of Queen Elizabeth II appearing on a ten pound note and being folded to look like she is wearing a small hat.  This is the basic talent which you can see present on many examples of origami with banknotes.  The paper folder takes the basic banknote and folds it to create a hat or more unusually a scarf that the person on the banknote will end up wearing.  It is a feat of genius to see how they get to the end result.

But some people have taken this a step further and combined the two different types of paper folding to create true banknote art.  These people must wait with baited breath to see what a new design of banknote will look like when it is released into general circulation, in case they can do something new with it that hasn't previously been done before. 

If you look at a selection of average banknotes you will see a range of patterns on them, quite apart from the head and shoulders of the main person who appears on them.  These might be wavy lines; they might be shapes; they could be patterns of any kind.  But to the expert money folder they are opportunities to create new things where they simply didn't exist before.

There is a wonderful example of a one dollar bill which has been folded to look like a Chinese person who is wearing a round Chinese hat which goes up to a point.  The bill has been folded in such a way that it actually gives the person a face.  The eyes, nose and mouth are formed from the dark shading which is given to the right hand edges of the downward strokes in the letter E on the reverse of the one dollar bill.  If you look at a picture of the bill so that the words read upwards, you will see the face right there – but it takes the genius of a moneygami expert to be able to use that knowledge and present it to the rest of us as a person, giving our currency a whole new look.

So while some people have become well known for their expertise in trading currencies and in making a lot of money from it in the process, so other people have become rather well known for simply folding the stuff and getting some enjoyment out of money in a whole different way altogether. 

It seems that the folding of banknotes only came about in the 1930s, although since then there has been a flood of different designs and shapes which have come about from all corners of the world.  Have banknote, will fold it, you could say.

Of course the moneygami experts will be hoping and praying that polymer banknotes don't replace all of the current paper and cotton based ones, since polymer doesn't take kindly to being folded.  Once you do fold it you won't be able to unfold it that easily.  It's possible though that if people do persevere it could result in a more solid and longer lasting example of moneygami than a traditionally made banknote would provide; after all, moneygami isn't generally very successful with an old and crumpled banknote – you do need one that is in pretty good condition to get a good result from your paper folding efforts.

Only time will tell, but seems that the quest to find a longer lasting banknote might do away with one of the most intriguing and charming uses for it that has yet been discovered – even though that use has nothing to do with currency at all.

And that would be a real shame.  Governments are only interested in how long their notes will last, not in what else you can do with them, but as anyone who has seen a good example of moneygami will know, the art of banknote folding can be way more interesting than the art of currency trading at times.