Many Singaporeans fondly remember the one dollar note, which is no longer produced and is replaced exclusively by one dollar coins. The orchid is Singapore’s national flower, and the series introduced two years after independence, in 1967, showcased the Vanda Janet Kaneali Orchid, with the flip side featuring blocks of housing flats. The easily recognisable note is still is a source of inspiration for Singaporeans and collectors, and is a unique part of Singapore’s heritage.
The orchid series notes were extremely popular and came in denominations of $1, $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, $500, $1000, and $10000. The famous ten dollar orchid note became something of a symbol for the young nation, with its obverse showing four hands clasping each other (symbolising the nation's unity between the four major ethnic groups) overplayed on a map of Singapore, representing her determination in becoming an Asian financial powerhouse.
The popularity of the orchid series followed through to the ship series notes in 1984, featuring different vessels that made port here, from traditional junks of the 1800s to modern container carriers. If you’re lucky enough to get hold of a S$10000 denomination, you’ll see a large bulk carrier on the front with a fiery dragon on the back overlaid with Singapore’s National Day Parade. The ship series notes were produced by Thomas De La Rue and are still in circulation, though extremely rare.
For something that’s relatively easier to come by, check out Singapore’s current portrait series notes, which has the portrait of Singapore's first president, Yusof bin Ishak, on the front. The back of a thousand dollar bill has the entire national anthem of Singapore printed in micro text.
If you’re fascinated by technology, Singapore notes will not disappoint. With its series of fraud-protection devices that span from touch and sight to ultraviolet mechanisms and specific design features, you can hold any modern note under a UV light to discover an unseen world of images and patterns. Each note is also coded with Braille in the form of raised dots on the top right to aid the visually handicapped in identifying the denominations.
Singapore has a variety of dollar bill denominations, some more widely used than others. Arguably the more used denominations are the tens and fifties. The fifty dollar note, like all the other bills, is made of polymer that’s more resistant to tears. This also means that leaving your wad of fifties in your pant pockets that are swirling around in the washing machine may not be the worst thing. The polymer note was issued in 1990 as a practical medium for notes. Equally significant is that the fifty dollar note was the first note to be designed by a local, Chua Mia Tee.
While it’s easy to get fascinated by older notes, the current collection has its own stories. Did you know that the serial numbers of some notes are sometimes worth more to collectors than the denomination of the note itself? At an auction of the then new portrait series note, a one thousand dollar note bearing the serial number 2AA000001 was sold for S$155,000. That’s 155 times the value of the denomination!
So the next time you make a purchase, consider the notes in your wallet and the stories they could tell. And if you’re a currency fan, place visiting the Singapore Coins and Notes Museum on top of your list of things to do in Singapore.