Singapore Money–Bills

Singapore issues bills in denominations of 2, 5, 10, 50, 100, 1000 and 10000.  According to Wikipedia

On 27 June 2007, to commemorate 40 years of currency agreement with Brunei, the $20 note was launched; the back is identical to the Bruneian $20 note launched concurrently. A circulation version of the $20 note can be exchanged at banks in Singapore beginning July 16, 2007, limited to two pieces per transaction.

However, I have only ever seen the 2, 5, 10, and 50.  I have taken S$1000 out of an atm and it just spat twenty 50’s at me.

As you can see, each bill is a different color.  I’m not sure if you can tell, but they’re each also a slightly different size, which is odd to me.  The front of the bills are identical.  The guy in the picture is Yusof bin Ishak, the first President of Singapore.

You’ll have to click on the picture to enlarge it, but the back of each bill denomination celebrates something.  The S$2 celebrates education.  The S$5 celebrates Singapore as the “Garden City.”  The S$10 celebrates sports (I find this one funny…the only professional team in Singapore are the Singapore Slingers–yes, they went there–a basketball team that plays in the Aussie league–and we have our own Soccer league).  The S$50 commemorates the arts.

Again, according to Wikipedia (which does have pictures), the S$100 commemorates Youth, the S$1000 celebrates government and the S$10000 celebrates economics.

Another interesting point about the bills is that they aren’t made of paper.  They are made of polymer (and feel very slippery), and if you look closely on the first picture, you’ll see that each has two points where it is transparent.

I do have to say that I’m still getting used to the money here…it all looks like Monopoly money.  I’m also trying to get used to the fact that here in Singapore there are lots of places where money is required.  Many eateries (including most McDonald’s) do not accept credit cards or NETS (the debit card).  You can use credit or NETS cards in cabs, but there’s a surcharge, so it’s better to use cash.  I’m also always trying to find a $20 and get thrown by the S$2 bills.  But, as with most things, we’re getting used to it, and I’m sure that by the time I visit in November I’ll be confused by how the money is all the same color and size.

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16 Responses to Singapore Money–Bills

  1. Jes6ica says:

    Interestingly, warnings issued to travelers to the US (here in these foreign parts) tend to list all the money being the same size and color as something they need to keep an eye out for.

    From what research I could find, the US is the only country where all the bills are the same size and color. And initialy this was because of the US Civil War. Before the Civil War, all states were basically printing the name of the state on paper and calling it money, and it had no gold or other valuable metal backing, and was mostly worthless outside the state it was printed in. During the war, though, Lincoln, in a pretty good stroke of cleverness, said, Nope…all money should be the same color and same size or else it’s worth nothing. This effectively made all Confederate money no good at all in the northern states, and the South, in essence, lost the war due to lack of funds to buy necessary goods.

    Okay, there was my babbly comment. Sorry…I AM a geek after all. 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      You’re right…I remembered British Pounds and Euros as being colorful…but they’re also different sizes.

      And once again the US is the weird kid out, with our uniformly sized and colored money, our feet, our pounds, and our “soccer.”

      My BA in History is going to have to come out and play and say that losing the war due to devaluation of the money is an oversimplification of the Confederacy’s loss. As an agrarian society, it was at a loss for manufacture of weapons, artillery, etc. because it had no factories. They were unable to make or easily acquire more during the war, while the North didn’t suffer any such limitations. The North was also able to set up a relatively effective blockade, preventing the South from getting more supplies from abroad (although of course there were blockade runners) because they had more ships and could constantly make more–the shipyards were in the North. The Northern army was twice as big, and while on paper both sides lost around the same number of men, that loss represented 10% of Northern Males (white, free) and 30% of Southern (white, free) males. Finally, the war largely took place on Southern land…the North didn’t care about the land and had no real investment in it…hence Sherman’s strategy of total destruction (burning, salting land, etc). The South never really got a chance to enact battle strategy like that. The little bit of time they did spend in the North (Pennsylvania, etc) it was fall/winter and they were completely unprepared in terms of cold weather gear and unable to easily get new boots, jackets, etc.

      In my opinion, the devaluation of confederate money affected the South far more during Reconstruction. During the war, they denied that they were part of the Union and hence their money was valid. I know they were trading with France and England at this point in time, but I’m not sure if they were paying their bills using confederate money or gold. But once the war was over and the Union was imposing things like taxes, Southerners had no money to pay them, or to pay their former slaves (although, of course they got around that neatly by setting up sharecropping). The Southern economy suffered the double blow of the loss of its money AND the mechanism by which its economy ran (slavery).

      • Zach Woods says:

        You go, History BA Girl!

      • jes6ica says:

        I concede, but who _doesn’t_ oversimplify in blog comments? 🙂

        The Brits are pretty odd too, with their weights in stones and such. I still find it pretty neat and a bit quaint that land parcels and water rights in Idaho are measured in rods though. Makes me smile. 🙂

      • Crystal says:

        Quite true 🙂

        Rods? I didn’t know that. Where does that measurement come from?

      • jes6ica says:

        Also interesting is

        Dang, I lose so much time browsing on wikipedia!

      • Zach Woods says:

        Imperial gallons cause Canadians to get “better” fuel mileage than US Drivers (because Imperial gallons are slightly larger than US gallons, it is easy for folks to mistakenly assume that gallons are the same everywhere and therefore not understand that the mileage based on Imperial gallons is going to be greater than the mileage for the same car on US gallons). This has caused many US drivers to pull their hair out trying to figure out why they were not achieving the same mileage as Canadians driving the exact same car. And Canadians have offered all kinds of theories concerning their fuel being better quality, the vehicles being specified differently, etc. Amusing unless you are stuck in the mis-perception that the gallon measurements are the same . . .

  2. Jim says:

    I think most foreign money looks like Monopoly money to us Americans: we’re so used to bills with the same color and size that we’re thrown for a loop by bills of different sizes and colors. We’re behind the rest of the world, though: bills of different sizes are much better for people with visual impairments.

  3. Joshua Ledwell says:

    Yeah, what Jim said. Low or no-vision people shouldn’t have to trust the kindness of strangers.

  4. Wendy says:

    This is fascinating. I’m so used to paying for everything with a card, now, that the idea of using cash regularly feels more foreign than the currency does, I think.

    I’m loving these posts — thanks for writing!

    • Crystal says:

      @Wendy…you could have blown me over at the first place that told me no credit cards accepted. Like you, in the US, I almost never use cash. Here I use it all the time…and it’s weird!

  5. Zach Woods says:

    @Crystal – See for info on the rod as a unit of measurement. It is very common for deeds to property in the US to still use rods to define the property boundaries. If the deed was originally written up in rods and nothing else has changed, it is still necessary for surveyors to measure in rods (or chains).

  6. Daphne says:

    I am Wowed Crystal!

    I believe 99% of Singaporeans have never even wondered what the pictures on the back of the notes represent!

    • Crystal says:

      If it helps, I was recently at trivia night at Krish with some friends. Our team was 3/4ths American and there were no other americans playing on any of the other teams. The bonus round question was about which presidents were on American Bills…we knew the most common but the 500? the 100? We had no idea….and were soundly trounced by another team. I guess we always have more curiosity when it’s not our currency.

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