11 Mind-Blowing Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Singapore Dollar Notes

Kendra Tan

Kendra Tan

Last updated 22 December, 2021

What’s in your wallet will totally surprise you.

Dollar bills are one of the most familiar objects in Singapore, with Yusof Ishak's stern face gracing the front. However, while we've carried this currency in our pockets all this time, there are still many things about the Singapore dollar you might not know. From the unique designs to Singapore’s largely forgotten history, our notes (and coins) are actually full of surprises. 

Here are 11 things you may not know about the Yusof Ishaks in your wallet. 

Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)

Singapore S$1 coin is in a shape of the Chinese ba gua

If you take a close look at the S$1 coin, you’ll notice that it is hexagon-shaped. According to fengshuibeginner.com, the Singapore one-dollar coin is inscribed with an octagon which looks like the Chinese ba gua

The ba gua, which literally translates to ‘eight areas’, represents eight symbols commonly used in Taoist cosmology. 

Legend has it that the feng shui (Chinese geomancy) masters that Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had consulted said that the construction of the MRT tunnels would have a negative effect on the country and its people. To circumvent the bad feng shui, they said that every Singaporean household MUST have a ba gua displayed. 

Obviously, this was impossible to implement. Therefore, they decided to incorporate the hexagon-shape into the one-dollar coin instead. Now you know.

Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)

Our S$10,000 note is one of the largest banknotes in the world

Unknown to many, Singapore pioneered banknotes that carried one of the highest value currencies in Asia and the world. 

Denominated with a value of S$10,000, the most prominent note of the early Orchard series had a dimension of 203 x 133 mm. To put things in perspective, the latest variant of the S$10,000 note has a dimension of 180 x 90 mm and our S$100 note has a dimension of 170 x 83 mm. 

Unfortunately, the Orchard series has concluded its dissemination since 1976 and the current variant has halted its circulation since 2014 to deter money laundering. As such, they are highly sought after by collectors. 

Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)

Singapore’s entire national anthem is printed on the back of the S$1000 note

One of the most unique and innovative banknotes produced in Singapore, the S$1000 note of the Portrait series alludes to Singapore's sense of patriotism and duty. To commemorate our sovereignty, the entire national anthem’s lyrics have been inscribed onto the back of the S$1000 note in microtext so as to immortalise Singapore’s independence.

Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)

You don’t have to change currency when you go to Brunei

The Currency Interchangeability Agreement, active for over 54 years and counting, authorises the use of Brunei currency in Singapore and Singapore currency in Brunei without the need for monetary conversions. The sole case of such an arrangement in Asia, the agreement is a reminder of Singapore and Brunei Darussalam’s flourishing bilateral relationship.

Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)

1-cent coins may no longer be in production, but they are still legal tender

The Board of Commissioners of Currency, Singapore (BCCS) stopped minting Singapore’s copper-hued one-cent coins back in 2002. Nevertheless, these coins remain legal tender and up to a limit of 20 coins can be used per transaction.

That being said, there’s a limit to the number of coins you can use in a transaction

That’s right, and each transaction caps the number of coins to 20 per denomination. In other words, you can pay up to S$37 worth of coins per transaction. It is time to limit your coin hoarding!

Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)

You can exchange damaged notes for new ones at the bank

If you’re worried about your kid defacing your notes or perhaps you’ve dropped your entire wallet into the water, don’t fret. Your dampened/ruined notes can actually be exchanged for new ones at the bank, though at the teller’s discretion. 

However, there are a few criteria and corresponding compensatory values subjective to the damages to your notes:

Portion RemainingRefund Value
At least ⅔ of the note is evidentFull value
More than ⅓. but less than ⅔ of the note is evidentHalf value
⅓ or less of the note is evidentZero value
Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)

The tree on the S$5 note still exists

If you were to look at the back of your S$5 note, you would notice what it would seem like an ordinary tree. However, there is a greater significance to the imagery for it is a caricature of the venerable Tembusu tree. Located at Singapore Botanic Gardens, the Tembusu tree is part of the flora and fauna that is thriving in this UNESCO world heritage site. 

Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)

Visually impairment friendly dots on the notes

Every note has a Braille pattern emblazoned in ink at the top right of the front of the note so that the visually impaired can identify the note’s value by touch.

Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)

Polymer (plastic) banknotes are not only for water-proofing purposes

Given the simplicity of banknotes, it can be surprising to know that within your polymer dollar note lies multiple layers of materials unavailable commercially. These notes are then infused with security elements that make it remarkably difficult to counterfeit. 

Interesting enough, the polymer notes are also dirt-proof and able to withstand high temperatures.

Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)

The buildings on the S$2 note are the schools Yusof Ishak used to attend

Representative of our progressive educational pathway — where one goes through primary and secondary school before starting tertiary education — the buildings featured in the S$2 note are Yusof Ishak’s early educational institutions and alma mater. The buildings, starting from the extreme right are Victoria Bridge school, the old Raffles Institution and the College of Medicine. 

Avid promo code hunter and haggler. Kendra doesn’t like paying full price for anything. She’s the best person to bring along if you’re travelling on a budget. Have an interesting story to tell? E-mail her at kendra.tan@singsaver.com.sg


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