The euro notes were specifically designed to be generic. Quoting http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/1735880.stm:
"One note had to be redesigned when it proved in fact to be a real bridge. And not from Europe, but from India."
Even the name was carefully chosen not to offend. And more or less, the European Central Bank succeeded. But the result looks a bit like toy money.
I don't mean this as a criticism of the designer, Robert Kalina of the Oesterreichische Nationalbank. He did as good a job as possible within the existing political constraints, which were many and must have made his job a frustrating exercise.
But look at some of the notes they replaced:
- Sigmund Freud
- Rene Magritte (I particularly like the back.)
- Jean Sibelius
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, complete with the Little Prince
- Carl Friedrich Gauss and his distribution
- A smiling James Joyce
- Vasco da Gama
- A very politically incorrect Hernan Cortés and Francisco Pizarro
Still, one of my favorite notes doesn't even have a person on it, so that objection doesn't arise. It's just got a big sunflower.
The old notes had national distinctiveness and character. The new ones are bland.
But that's progress, I guess. And international political compromise.
[Edit: http://www.admirabledesign.com/-Designs-de-l-euro- shows some of the designs that weren't chosen.]