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What is the Rarest Colour on National Flags?

It’s quite easy to notice what some of the most common national flag colours are, you see them all the time, whether it's at the Olympics, the World Cup, or during a holiday. But, have you ever wondered what the rarest colour on national flags is? In this article, we take a dive into what the least common flag colour is, why it’s not used, and the significance of the colour.

So, what is the rarest colour on national flags? Purple is the rarest colour on national flags, currently used on only 2 national flags (Dominica and Nicaragua), and historically has never been used on national flags before the 20th Century. Red and blue are the most commonly used colours on national flags, featuring on 78% and 71% of national flags respectively.

Read on to learn more about the least and most common colours on national flags, as well as commonly used designs and symbols.

What is the Least Common Flag Colour in the World?

Purple is the rarest colour on national flags. In fact, of the 196 countries of the world, virtually none of them use purple on their national flag. However, a small number of nations have amended or changed their national flags over the years to feature very small portions of purple. For example, the Second Republic of Spain (1931-1939) featured purple as part of their tricolour design, whilst Nicaragua added purple to the triangular design in the very centre of their flag in 1908, and Dominica included purple within an image of a bird in 1967.

You might find the lack of purple on flags surprising considering how popular the colour purple is today, but until relatively recently, it was reserved for only the absolute richest in society.

Other uncommonly used flag colours include grey, brown and orange, all used on less than 10% of flags around the world.

Dominican Republic Flag

Why Isn’t Purple Used on Flags?

Not only does purple feature very rarely on flags today, it was never used to represent a Kingdom or country before the 20th Century. But, there’s a very simple explanation why; purple was once the most expensive colour to produce. In fact, until the 1800s, purple dye was worth more than its weight in gold. Just 1lb of purple dye was once worth $56,000 (£46,421) in today's money.

This is because the dye used to make purple originally came from a sea snail only found in a small region of the Mediterranean in what is now Lebanon. A lot of work went into creating purple dye and over 10,000 sea snails were required to produce just 1 gram of purple dye. Quite often, this price was too steep even for royalty!

In short, purple dye was just too expensive to use on national flags. Not even the richest nations could justify the cost of having purple on their flags.

What Does Purple Signify?

Purple has been associated with royalty and nobility for centuries; Queen Elizabeth I even forbade anyone other than close family members and couriers to wear it. What’s more, until fairly recently, royalty was often seen as almost Gods, which gave the colour purple even more significance - divine significance.

What is the Most Common Flag Colour in the World?

The most common colour used on national flags is red. In fact, it appears on 78% of all national flags in one way or another - that’s 148 out of 196 flags! Coming a close second, blue appears on 71% of all national flags, and white is the third most common colour, appearing on 50% of all national flags.

Red, white and blue are also the most commonly combined colours on national flags, featuring on 30 flags around the world (out of 196).

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What are the Most and Least Common Designs on Flags?

It’s not just colours that help national flags to stand out; many countries also elect to include designs, images and symbols to represent their nation and culture. The most common symbol used on flags around the world is the star - two thirds of all national flags feature at least one star. This is followed by a crest or coat of arms, a cross, a sun and, least commonly, a moon.

This, of course, only takes into account common symbols, but there are a number of fairly unique flag designs around the world, notably Nepal, perhaps the world’s most unique flag with a triangular shaped design.

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