If you like collecting varieties (and I do) there are tons of them out there for Ukrainian notes, and probably my favorite varieties to collect are for the 1918-1921 1,000 Karbovantsiv banknote. It's a great note to collect by variety as it is probably the most readily available note from that period, it's fairly cheap (especially in lower grades), and it will definitely keep you on your toes as there are many varieties, especially if you collect by prefix. Before we get to the varieties let's start with some background on the note itself.
In 1918, Kyiv, the newly established Ukrainian People's Republic (1917) was in a state of flux, as it was for its entire existence, with war raging on several fronts and the Arsenal Uprising threatening to topple the Central Rada. In early February the uprising was suppressed, but shortly thereafter Russian forces captured the city on February 9th, remaining in control until March 1st. During this time the cliché for the 1917 issued 100 Karbovantsiv banknote was taken and forgeries printed, resulting in the note's removal from circulation and official demonetization on November 1, 1918. Also, on the same day that Russian forces had captured Kyiv, Ukraine signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire), in which Ukraine was recognized as a neutral state. Shortly after signing the treaty, German and Austro-Hungarian military forces were sent to Kyiv to clear Russian-Bolshevik forces from the city and Ukraine. By April tensions were rising between Ukraine's Central Rada and the assisting foreign forces which eventually led to a coup d'état on April 29th, orchestrated by the German lead military forces still present in Kyiv. The Ukrainian People's Republic was toppled and Pavlo Skoropadsky inserted as Hetman of the autocratic Ukrainian State. Thus begins the story of the 1,000 Karbovantsiv banknote.
Contemporary Counterfeit of a 100 Karbovantsiv note, using the captured cliché.
50 Karbovantsiv cliché used to print banknotes.
Hetman Skoropadsky's Ukrainian State was instrumental in organizing quality printing of banknotes in a remarkably short period of time (summer-fall 1918). The entire printing department needed an overhaul, and no expense was spared in modernizing. Printing presses were acquired from the Leipzig based firm of Karl Krause, the world's leading manufacturer of printing equipment, several types of paper were ordered from Deutsche Reichsdruckerei and 370 poods of Hostmann-Steinberg specialty inks. In all likely hood the lithography stones were also purchased from Germany, as records for the purchase of expendable materials mention lithography stones but from a different time. With everything in place, and a design ready, the first 1,000 Karbovantsiv notes were printed on No. 217 paper with the Reichsdrucerei-Wellenlinien (Reich's Printer-Wavy Lines) watermark, in Kyiv, and in circulation by December 1918. Four series of notes were produced, prefix АБ, АА, АВ, and АГ all in red ink.
1,000 Karbovantsiv note of Kyiv, 1918.
The printing of 1,000 Karbovnatsiv banknotes did not last long in Kyiv. By November an uprising had led to the restoration of the UPR, under control of a Directoria, followed closely by the withdrawal of German forces from Kyiv, the abdication of Skoropadsky on December 14, 1918, and the fleeing of the Government and removal of UPR troops from Kyiv on February 5, 1919, before Russian forces retook the city. Prior to the Russian reoccupation all government offices, including the Treasury Printing Office with its valuable property, had been evacuated. Among the items saved were the lithographic stones used to produce 1,000 karbovantsiv banknotes. No printing supplies, of any kind, were known to have been obtained by the advancing Russian forces at this time.
Lithography Stones of the 1,000 Karbovantsiv banknote.
All printing equipment and supplies were moved to Kamianets-Podilsky, the Treasury Printing Office was "billeted" in the former Orthodox Seminary building, and it was there that the printing of Ukrainian paper money resumed in the summer and fall of 1919. By the spring the printing office had run out of certain expendables (paper, ink, etc.) and on March 28, 1920 the decision was made to print 1,000 Karbovantsiv notes on No 227 paper with the Stern Sechseck Muster (Star-in-Hexagon Pattern) watermark. Not long after relocating, the city fell under Polish control (November 16, 1919 to July 12, 1920), during which the Warsaw Treaty was signed between the Second Polish Republic and Ukraine in an effort to create an alliance against Bolshevik Russia. Subsequently, printing of the 1,000 Karbovantsiv note was moved to Warsaw. Six series of notes were produced in Kamianets-Podilsky, prefix АН & АО on No 217 paper with wavy lines (waves) watermark and prefix АА, АВ, АБ and АГ on No 227 paper with linked-stars watermark.
As previously mentioned, the next and final stop for the 1,000 Karbovantsiv banknote was Warsaw. With Russian forces advancing on Kamianets-Podilsky the printing operations were relocated to Warsaw. By November of 1920 the UPR lost the remainder of its territory to the Bolsheviks, and on March 18, 1921 the Treaty of Riga between the Second Polish Republic and Soviet Russia was signed, effectively terminating the UPR. Printing of 1,000 Karbovantsiv notes began on July 5, 1920 and would continue, not continuously, until 1921. After which an independent Ukrainian State or governing body ceased to exist. 1,000 Karbovantsiv notes printed in Warsaw are distinguished by the letter "W" present on the font of the note. Presumably this was added to the existing lithography stones. There were only two series of notes produced in Warsaw, AE & AI on paper containing no watermark. Zig-Zag lines or varnish were added to the surface of the paper in place of a watermark, the varnish can be present on the front, back, or both sides of the notes. There is a possibility of a third series printed in Warsaw but that has yet to be confirmed.
The 1,000 Karbovantsiv banknote was the note the public trusted the most and which were in highest demand. These notes would often trade for 1,500 even 1,700 Karbovantsiv in depreciated and unpopular 250 Karbovantsiv notes. The proof is in the printing, as these were constantly produced over multiple locations and years during which several regime changes took place and a monetary shift from the Karbovanet to Hryvnia as the national currency. Due to the times and multiple printing locations these notes have several varieties both minor and major, some of which were touched on above. In the next entry I'll go more in-depth with those varieties.
Printing locations for the 1,000 Karbovantsiv banknotes on a WWI era map. Right to left, Kyiv, Kamianets-Podilsky, and Warsaw.