Find out the history of currency in Singapore and interesting facts about Singapore's notes and coins.
The first monies used in Singapore were coins from various parts of the world that traded with Singapore. While the silver dollar was the main currency of trade, copper coins were mainly used at the bazaar. Later, banks in Singapore also issued paper monies known as “banknotes”. The first banknote with “Singapore” imprinted on it was issued by the Singapore branch of the Union Bank of Calcutta in 1840.
From the 1850s, these banknotes were the main paper currencies used by the island’s trading community until 1899 when the local government issued the first government note, the Straits Settlements dollar. The Straits Settlements dollar also became the official currency of the Malay States and North Borneo.
In 1940, the Straits Settlements dollar was replaced by the Malaya dollar to reflect the relationship of Singapore and the other Straits Settlements with the Malay States. However, the roll-out of the new notes was disrupted by the onset of World War II. During the Japanese Occupation, the Japanese Military notes, also known as “banana notes”, were introduced. Both the Straits Settlements dollar and the Malaya dollar remained in circulation throughout Malaya and continued to be legal tender after the war. In 1954, Britain issued the Malaya and British Borneo notes and coins, which became legal tender in all British colonies in Southeast Asia.
It was only from 1967 that Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei designed, printed and issued their own national currencies.
The first signatory on the Singapore notes issued in 1967 was by Mr Lim Kim San, then Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Singapore (BCCS).
The seal on currency notes first appeared in 1970. The notes bore the seal and signature of Dr Goh Keng Swee, then Chairman of BCCS.
The $50 polymer commemorative note issued in 1990 was the first note to be designed by a local artist, Mr Chua Mia Tee.
The first uncut sheet issued was the $2 'Ship' series (red colour) in 1991.
The entire series of the Portrait notes issued in 1999 was designed by a local artist, Mr Eng Siak Loy.
Of all the notes issued since 1967, only three notes have two security threads on them. They are the $10,000 'Orchid' notes, and the $1,000 and $10,000 'Bird' notes.
The entire lyrics of the national anthem are printed in microtext on the back of the Portrait Series $1,000 note.
Following the merger of BCCS with MAS, the first inaugural note issued by MAS was the $10 polymer Portrait note, overprinted with "Commemorative First Note Issue & MAS logo" and bearing a unique prefix 'MAS'.
The SG50 $50 commemorative note won the International Association of Currency Affairs (IACA)’s award for Best New Feature or Product in 2016,
The innovative optical security feature on the CIA 50th anniversary commemorative notes won the Best Applied Security Product award category at the Excellence in Holography Awards 2017.
The first gold coin (face-value $150) was issued in 1969. On the reverse, it bears the design of the Raffles lighthouse with the inscription '150 Dollars', and it was issued to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the founding of Singapore by Sir Stamford Raffles.
The first and only aluminium 5-cent circulation coin was issued in 1971. It was issued in conjunction with Singapore's participation in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation's Coin Programme.
The $5 Uncirculated Silver Coin issued in 1973 was the first commemorative coin packaged together with a set of stamps for a Philatelic-Numismatic Cover. It was issued to commemorate the staging of the SEAP Games in Singapore and the opening of the National Stadium.
The first platinum coin was the $500 Platinum Proof Coin issued in 1990 to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Singapore's Independence.
The first piedfort coin (ie double thickness) was the $10 Silver Piedfort Proof Coin issued in 1992 to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of BCCS.
There are two versions of the National Coat of Arms on the Second Series circulation coins. The first version is the stylised form of the National Coat of Arms and has the shield (bearing the crescent and five stars) higher than the lion and tiger supporting it. The second version is the official form of the National Coat of Arms and has the shield lower than the lion and tiger supporting it. The stylised version was adopted for aesthetic purposes and was used on the Second Series circulation coins until 1992, when the then Coin Advisory Committee reviewed and felt that there was little justification to continue using the stylised version. Thus, the Committee recommended and the BCCS Board approved to use the official version of the National Coat of Arms on all Singapore coins henceforth. This would also align with the version of the National Coat of Arms used on Singapore currency notes.
The first Singapore coin to receive an international award was the $250 gold proof Year of the Tiger Coin (Second Chinese Almanac Series) issued in 1998. It was awarded the Best Gold Coin in the Coin of the Year Competition organised jointly by World Coins News and Krause Publication in 2000.
The $5 millennium coin issued in 2000 is the first Singapore coin to have a latent image (which shows the year date "2000" and BCCS logo when viewed at different angles).
The smallest Singapore coin is the $1 Gold Bullion coin, first issued in 2003. The size of the coin is 7.00 mm in diameter and the weight is 0.30 grams.
The $10 Silver Piedfort coin issued in 2005 is the first Almanac coin in full colour (Year of the Rooster).
The $10 Gold Cameo Silver Proof Coin issued in 2005 is the first commemorative coin with cameo (silver with gold insert) feature which was issued to commemorate Singapore's 40 years of independence.
Singapore's first rectangular coin is the $5 Silver Proof Colour Coin issued in 2010, commemorating Singapore's 45 years of independence.
The Third Circulation Coin Series was one of the three finalists for the IACA’s award for Best New Circulation Coin/Coin Series in 2013.