I just came across a prototype for what money ought to represent and what they might look like.* This banknote prototype is from the early 19th century Cincinnati, USA. We understand from it that its owner has completed honest work and therefore is entitled to shoes, or an amount of corn, equivalent to his/her effort.
Depicted in the middle are Justitia and Minerva (maybe, but why?). In the right corner is a clock with the caption “Time is wealth” and above it is the toiling titan Atlas, carrying the whole world on his shoulders, depicted. On the left we find “100” repeated twice, the number corresponding to the amount of corn the owner of the bill is entitled to. Also there is a picture of a goddess seated on a package at a wharf, a full-rigged ship sailing away. Possibly this is supposed to symbolise trade.
The general idea expressed is that only time-consuming, “living labour” creates value and wealth – “dead labour”, i.e. products and capital, creates no value and wealth without it. The true beauty of the banknote is however the text above the goddesses in the middle: “The most disagreeable labour is entitled to the highest compensation”
The very first notes ever to be printed and circulated in a socialist realm is probably the rouble banknote from the Soviet Union in 1919. Or?
* The American banknote was found in George E. McNeill, (ed.) (1887). The Labor movement. Boston: A. M. Bridgman