Today the US Dollar (USD) is used in Liberia alongside the LRD with a few interesting side notes: 1) For whatever reason if your bill has a tear on it it will not be accepted by many vendors, so only bring crisp bills. (we had great difficulty getting someone to take an otherwise fine $20 bill with a slight tear on the corner). 2) Again for some strange reason the $1 USD bills are not considered to be at the exchange rate (currently $75 LRD = $1 USD). They are not accepted the same way as other US currency, which means you can't buy as much with 5 (five) $1 bills as you can with 1 (one) $5 bill. This is difficult to explain but in short: unload the $1 bills you do get in change for tipping and bring bills larger than $1 USD for spending. Perhaps the reason for this downgrade on the USD $1 bill is because the Liberian currency does not have a $1 bill, but rather starts at $5 LRD. Let's start by taking a look at this bill that is used today in Liberia and hopefully learn a bit about Liberian history from Liberian currency...
WHO'S WHO ON LIBERIAN CURRENCY
|Front of the Liberian $5 bill|
President Edward James Roye (1815 - 1872) is on the front of Liberia's $5 bill. He became the 5th president of Liberia in 1870 and was also Liberia's 4th Chief Justice before taking the role of President. With him began the dominance of the True Whig Party over Liberian politics that did not end until Tolbert (see below) who was assassinated in 1980. Only one other president (James Spriggs Payne) was voted into office from another party during that time frame and he only served from 1876 - 1878. Of interest to US citizens was that Mr. Roye was actually born in Ohio and was a graduate of Ohio University! In 1846 he heard about the ACS initiative to send free people of color back to Africa and he saw an opportunity and immigrated to Liberia. When he was elected as president, the fledgling Republic of Liberia faced an economic crisis. Roye tried to fix this by obtaining a loan from Great Britain which ended up actually making matters worse. He was deposed as president and jailed shortly after and died a mysterious death in early 1872 (either drowned, shot or beaten to death depending on the report). One bit of lore is that he was beaten to death and his nude corpse was paraded through the streets of Monrovia, an act that would be replicated with future presidents of Liberia (see Tolbert & Doe below).
|Front of Liberian $10 bill|
Joseph Jenkins Robert (1809 - 1876), commonly known as J. J., is one of the more famous Liberians presidents and one you should know about if you plan on visiting Liberia. He was both Liberia's 1st President (1848 - 1856) and 7th President (1872 - 1876) and between presidencies he served as a Major General in Liberia's army, a diplomat in France and England, and helped found Liberia College (later to become the University of Liberia). Like President Roye he was also born in the US; in Norfolk, VA. He actually had mostly European ancestry and some historians refer to him as an 'octoroon' (1/8th black). He supposedly immigrated to modern day Liberia in 1829 with hopes of evangelizing the indigenous peoples with Christianity. Before becoming president he served as Liberia's first black Governor (following the white Liberian Governor Thomas Buchanan; a relative of US President James Buchanan). Later, as Liberia's first head of state, he traveled extensively introducing the new Republic to such dignitaries as Queen Victoria. Liberia was officially recognized by Britain in 1848 followed by many of the other world powers with the conspicuous lone hold out of the United States. It wasn't until the days of President Abraham Lincoln that the US would recognize Liberia as a nation during her own Civil War in 1862. One wonders if this was simply a political move by Lincoln, although Lincoln was a long time proponent of sending African American Freedmen to their own colony (he preferred Central and South America). During Jenkin's presidencies Liberia's land was expanded to include the territory of the Republic of Maryland (named after the US state of Maryland) and the infant nation garnered international recognition. Today, Liberia's main airport (Roberts International Airport) is named after him along with the town of Robertsport and Robert's Street in the capital city of Monrovia. His birthday (March 15th) is celebrated as a national holiday to this day.
|Front of Liberian $20 bill|
|Front of Liberian $50 bill|
(equal to less than $1 US)
WARNING: GRAPHIC VIOLENCE
View with discretion
|Front of the Liberian $100 bill|
(roughly equal to $1.33 USD)
In the next post I will turn these bills over so that you can get a "What's What" of Liberian culture as depicted on the back of Liberian currency.