Be it run by a bank or mint, a money museum is not an uncommon concept across the globe, but on the whole such institutions tend to be neglected by a majority of tourists and locals alike. What’s there to expect, after all? A collection of coins and banknotes and nothing more, right?
Well, that is pretty much true, but one also must consider how many forms money can come in—and its history. The Museum of the National Bank of Belgium, the oldest of its kind in Europe, showcases how fascinating money can be, and how it itself has its own culture.
Housed in the grandeur of the former Union du Crédit de Bruxelles building from the early 1870s, the museum recounts the general history of money, from the origin of coinage in ancient Lydia to Belgium’s shift from the franc to euro, and back to the proto-money such as Celtic sun-wheels, ancient Roman “aes signatum” ingots, and strands of cowrie shells once used by the Yoruba people.
On the first floor, there is a collection of money-related miscellanea, including a French playing card that served in place of money in the colonies, several engravings and political cartoons, a street performer’s hat with coins in it, and even an LP copy of AC/DC’s 1990 single “Moneytalks.” Another thing that makes this money museum worth a visit is its admission: it’s free.