World Coins: Singapore

Posted on 2/12/2013

Scenes of marine life and animals popular with collectors worldwide, and the coins of Singapore fit neatly in many collections.

Singapore has been historically important for hundreds of years; however, it has only been an independent country since 1965. Developing its own currency and coins were important steps in demonstrating its independence and economic power in the world.

Prior to 1963, the British placed Malaysia, including the territory of Singapore, under the same currency — The Board of Commissioners Currency for Malaya and British Borneo.

Coins Used In Singapore Before Independence - Obverse

Coins Used In Singapore Before Independence - Reverse

As decolonization was occurring worldwide, Malaysia left British rule. In 1963, Singapore declared independence from Great Britain and joined the Federation of Malaysia that included several other British colonies such as Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak. As a small country, Singapore feared that if it did not join Malaysia, Great Britain would have rejected their independence based on its size and lack of natural resources.

Under Malaysian rule there were several issues of conflict between Singaporeans and Malaysians causing great difficulties between the two areas. Singapore, with a large population of ethnic Chinese, was infuriated with Malaysia for passing laws giving special rights to individuals of Malay ethnicity. This caused tension because under Singapore law and previous British rule these societies enjoyed equality. Malaysia was concerned that as an economic powerhouse Singapore would shift power away from its capital Kuala Lumpur. As a result, Malaysia passed bills to hinder Singapore’s economy. By 1964, things were so heated that race riots broke out between ethnic Chinese and ethnic Malay. In 1965 the Malaysian Parliament voted 126 to 0 to expel Singapore from Malaysia. No longer part of Malaysia, Singapore finally gained its independence. As an offer of unity, everyone present in Singapore on the date of independence was offered Singapore citizenship.

In 1967, Singapore issued its first coins and bank notes. The coins were minted by the Board of Commissioners of Currency. The currency was exchangeable with the Malaysian ringgit until 1973 and pegged 1:1 with the Brunei Dollar. Coins were issued in the denominations of cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents and dollar. The designs vary with the 1 cent coin featuring a public housing block high-rise building with a fountain in front; the 5 cent coin, an Anhinga or snake bird sitting on a nest; the 10 cents, a sea horse with seaweed; the 20 cents, a swordfish; and the 50 cents, a lionfish. The dollar features a stylized Singapore lion, that symbolizes the mythology of the origin of the name Singapore or “Singa Pura” (lion city). These designs lasted until 1985. In 1968, the Singapore Mint was founded and has been minting the coins ever since.

Singapore 1969 1 Cent

Singapore 1969 5 Cent

Singapore 1969 10 Cent

Singapore 1969 20 Cent

Singapore 1969 50 Cent

For the most part, the coins are relatively easy to collect, with a little difficulty in some rare proof and mint set issues where the mintages range in the several thousands. The 1972 proof set, with a mintage of only 749 sets, is the key for those who collect the proof issues of the circulating coinage. With scenes of marine life and animals popular with collectors worldwide, the coins of Singapore fit neatly in many collections. With the recent growth of collectors in Asia and the low mintage of some issues, the collectability and demand for Singapore’s coins may increase in the future.

Singapore 1968 Proof Set
Left: Obverse; Right: Reverse
Mintage: 5,000
Click image to enlarge.

Singapore Mint Packaging
Click image to enlarge.

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