Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Singapore 2nd Series of Banknotes - Bird Series

Many of you who are around my age, born in the 1980s, would have still seen these notes circulated when we were in primary school, mostly the 1 dollar due to the large amount printed. I shall provide a short intro and upload some scans of these notes.

The Bird Series of currency notes is the second set of notes to be issued for circulation in Singapore. Issued in the years 1976 to 1984, it has nine denominations, the same number as in the Orchid Series, except that the $25 note was replaced by the $20 note.

Each note features a bird on the right side of the note's front, a theme selected to represent a young Singapore "ever ready to take flight to greater heights". Standard on each note, is the Coat of Arms, a lion head watermark, and the signature of the Minister for Finance and Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Singapore, on the front of the note. As an added security feature, all notes have a vertically embedded security thread, while the $1,000 and $10,000 notes have 2.

Bird 1 Dollar

(Note that the print on this note is shifted left, comparing it to the other note underneath. This is an example of a small error note, and sought after by some collectors.)
Bird 5 Dollars

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Singapore Millennium 2 Dollar Presidential Note

Singapore had released a paper portrait note in 2000, commemorating the millennium. This specific series of Yusof Ishak notes have the millennium logo at the top right and bottom left hand corner of the note, before the serial number. This is the only note in Singapore that has 7 serial numbers, in which actually the first number is also part of the prefix, e.g. millennium 1, when 1 is being used as the first number of the serial no.

United Overseas Bank had packaged these notes in 3s, with the same serial numbers.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bahamas 50 Cents and 1 Dollar

I am also a collector of world banknotes, including the Queen Eizabeth II series.

Queen Elizabeth's portrait appeared more often on the banknotes of Great Britain's colonies, prior to the colonies gaining independence and the use of her portrait is still present in some countries today, like Australia. The Queen has been depicted on the banknotes of thirty-three issuing authorities, as well as on an essay prepared for Zambia.

In this post, I will share you with the Bahamas 50 cent and 1 dollar banknote. You may find the layout and the printing style familiar, as Bahamas also employs the same printer, Thomas De La Rue to print her banknotes in the early days.

The Bahamas, officially the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is an English-speaking country consisting of 29 islands, 661 cays, and 2,387 islets (rocks). It is located in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cuba, Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti) and the Caribbean Sea, northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and southeast of the United States of America (nearest to the state of Florida). Its total land area is almost 14 000 km², with an estimated population of 330,000. Its capital is Nassau. (Wikipedia, 2010)

Interestingly, the currency of Bahamas is being pegged to the US Dollar, similar to how we peg our currency with Brunei.

1988 Singapore Proof Coin Set

Singapore released her second series of coin in the years of 1985 - 1986, with the first proof coin set released in the year of 1986. A proof set consists of all the circulatory coins, minted in silver and encapsulated, and sold with a certificate of authenticity.

When buying a proof set, firstly ensure there is a certificate. Secondly, please check whether the dates correspond to the certificate. Thirdly, check whether the capsules were opened. The same applies to the uncirculated coin sets. Do check whether the plastic casing has been cut open.

This is because even in a country as safe as Singapore, there are also black sheeps in the numismatic community. I have ever chanced upon "doctored" commemorative note sets (where the 50 dollar plastic commemorative note was swapped with a circulated one, and selling for the original price), and uncirculated coin sets filled up with circulated coins of different years. The shop still has the cheek to sell the sets at the price of the real thing. This shop in particular is located around Furama hotel, and operated by a foreign talent, coincidentally from a country known best for copying. I wonder whether if the checks on the integrity of newly migrated foreign talents are stringent enough. Please beware.

Anyway, enjoy the scans. This is a 1988 Silver Proof Set. It is one of my favourites as the coins are housed in a nice velvet red folder with our coat of arms in gold on the front.

Silver Tiger Coins

Chinese zodiac has been a big influence on many silver mints across the world, where they mint silver coins with Chinese zodiac animals every year. Some mints may sell these coins as purely an investment option where it is only priced slightly higher above silver spot price, but some of the mints sell the coins way above the silver price. Coins purchased from the Singapore mint have retail prices way higher than its face value and silver content. But of course, we have to factor in the high overhead costs they might have for producing the coins as well.

I have collected 2 of Singapore's Tiger Coins, 1986 and 1998, and a 2010 Australian Tiger coin, which is actually my Chinese zodiac.

1st Series of Singapore 10 Dollar Coins

After independence, Singapore had minted its first 10 dollar silver coin in 1972 - 1974 (Eagle), 1975 - 1977 (Ship), 1977 (Asean), 1978 - 1980 Satellite). These coins comes in 2 versions, the uncirculated coins in pouches and proof coins in boxes. Uncirculated coins are minted with a larger quantity, while the proof coins supply is much lesser. The issue price for proof coins are also significantly higher as it comes encapsulated, has a shinier and nicer finishing, and of course a certificate of authenticity by the Singapore Mint.

Silver was initially used as a component for all coins, for both uncirculated coins and proof coins. However, it was changed in 1980 where the satellite uncirculated coin was minted in Copper-Nickel. So do take note when you purchase an uncirculated satellite coin minted in 1980, please do not take the silver content into consideration as there is none.

The below picture shows a coin from each series, namely the ship, eagle and satellite. You can see that the finishing of the ship and satellite coins are more mirror like and shinier than the finishing of the eagle coins as these coins are proof coins. The eagle coin is an uncirculated coin. However, the proof coins does not appear as silvery as the eagle coin, this is due to toning, which is the ageing of the coin, and this does not affect its value.

Monday, March 22, 2010

1st Set of Singapore Coins

Many of you who are born after the 80s may have only seen the 1 cent, 10 cents and 20 cents but not the full set of these coins. The older coins had more elaborate designs and in my opinion, looks nicer than the current set of coins. Something interesting to note, the 1 dollar coin was changed from a silver round coin to a golden coin which looks like an octagon. Urban legend has it that it was the idea of a certain prominent political figure who had made the change after consulting a fengshui master. GIYBF, google is your best friend.

I have attached a scan of the 1982 proof set. The older coins were slightly bigger in size, especially the 1 dollar coin.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Example of a VF - Very Fine Note

I have recently purchased a 1953 Malaya Queen Elizabeth Dollar Bank Note. This note is a used note, but is still in fairly good condition. There are no holes and tears, and is in original, unwashed and unpressed condition, which makes it quite a rare find nowadays. I would rate the note as a low grade VF. Note the rounded corners and deep centre fold on the reverse, this should be an obvious sign that this note should be VF and below.

Brunei - Singapore 40th Anniversary Commemorative Issues

Most Singaporeans would know about this 20 dollar note. It was issued for the 40th Anniversary for Singapore Brunei Currency Interchangeability Agreement. There were 2 20 dollar notes issued, one from Singapore and the other from Brunei. There were also 2 versions being issued, one in the form of a same number pair in a commemorative folder, the others were issued as circulatory notes.

There were only 12,000 folders issued for both Singapore and Brunei, and therefore the price of this set of notes has went up a few times its issue price.

Commemorative Folder Version

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Example of an EF - Extra Fine Note

In short, an extra fine note is a new note, which has been lightly circulated and has maximum 3 light folds, or 1 strong crease. The note should look like new except for the folds.

In this example I shall be using the 1953 Queen Elizabeth II 10 Dollars Banknote. From the front view, we can see that the note is relatively new and with not many flaws. The corners are sharp and colours are strong. The tell tale signs for folds generally shows on the reverse. On the reverse, we can see one strong crease in the middle of the note. Other than the crease, the note is almost new. Therefore I would grade it as an Extra-Fine (EF) note.

Interesting Singapore Commemorative Banknotes

Singapore has issued several commemorative banknotes throughout the years, and most Singaporeans may not have seen them before, thus i shall share them with you in this post. If you are interested in owning a piece of the banknote, I would recommend you to buy them now as the prices are rising fast due to the limited prints and the increasing demand for these notes from overseas collectors. I have attached scans of 2 commemorative notes in this post.

The 1st note is the polymer $50 note to celebrate the nations 25th year of independence. The front illustrates the country's development. The oval in the centre shows the first President of Singapore, Encik Yusof bin Ishak. The back of the note highlights the multi-racial character of Singapore. Note the red date 9 August 1990, only 300,000 notes are produced with the red date.

This note was also circulated for a period of time during 1990, where 4.8 million notes were put into circulation. The supply dwindled, and disappeared from circulation within a short period of time.

The 2nd note is the second commemorative note, as well as the 2nd 25 dollar note ever produced by Singapore. This note commemoratives the 25th Anniversary of MAS, and it is not circulated.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Example of a VF - Very Fine Note

A very fine grading would be normally the grade for a circulated note, which has visible marks of circulation. The exact description can be found under the grading tab on the menu bar. The most important factor that determines whether a note is VF or F, would be looking out for tears and holes on the note. If generally the note is free of tears, holes, and is still in 1 good single piece, without any visible ink smudging or abrasions, the note should be VF.

In this example, I am using the 100 orchid dollar note. From this example, we can see that actually a very fine note should be the lowest quality note that anyone should collect. Edges are rounded, there are may visible folds and dirt marks, but there are no tears or holes. This note would belong to the lower rung of the VF Grading.

Orchid Series 100 Dollar Bank Note by Hon Sui Sen with seal.

Example of a AUNC - Almost Uncirculated Note

Almost uncirculated is a very tricky grading. Some sellers would use this grading to sell "done up notes" which look uncirculated, some would use this grading to sell "pressed notes". These are notes which are not original in condition, like putting on makeup. Some collectors shun this kind of notes, others are more welcoming, due to a lower price. So it depends on individual. (I will cover the topic of "done up" notes in the future).

Strictly speaking, almost uncirculated notes should look like uncirculated at the first glance. However, when flaws such as counting marks, rounder corners, or mishandling by the collector or others are found, the note drops a grade to become an almost uncirculated note. Most AUNC notes cannot be differentiated from UNC by scans. I will try to highlight a few differences in this post.

Almost Uncirculated: Bird 10 dollars. I shall now showcase a note from the 2nd series, the bird series which I will formally do a write up later on. This note as you can see, have the yellow spots which i was talking about in the previous post. The circled areas on the right shows some of the yellowing of the paper, also know as ageing, toning or foxing. A close inspection of the corners show that there is a light handling mark on the bottom left corner of the note, and the upper left hand corner is a little rounded.

Example of a UNC - Uncirculated Note

You may ask me, so what if you describe the condition to me, a picture is worth more than a thousand words. I will try to share with you how i grade my notes. Grading is very subjective, and please do not take ones grading to be what the note is. It is best is to see and look at the note yourself and make your own judgement.

Thats why I believe that when buying a note, a good way is to request for a detailed scans, and the best is to meet up with the seller and see for yourself. That is the only way that you can make the best judgement and will be least likely to regret what you buy.

Grading of notes can also be done by experts, and the note would be enclosed in a plastic sleeve with a guarantee of the grade. One famous grader would be PMG, paper money guaranty. Do note that professionally graded notes would fetch a higher price than those not professionally graded, but you can buy these notes with a peace of mind.

Ok. Now I shall show you what an uncirculated note should look like in my opinion:


This note is one of my favourite orchid notes, it is quite rarely found as the prefix ends at A/50, which limited the supply of these notes. It is one of the most expensive note (in terms of the premium paid). Also, Singapore's weather is very humid, and notes would definately have "foxing", which is browning of the notes surface. From the scans below, you can observe that the notes do not have patches of browning (I will scan and show some examples of foxing on notes), and there are no folds. The corners are sharp and colours are very strong. Embossing cannot be seen from scans.

The background colour of the note is offwhite, which is the original colour of the note. If you see that a note is unbelievably white, it may suggest that the note was chemically treated to give that superwhite and clean appearance.

Grading of Banknotes - Terms used.

UNCIRCULATED (UNC): A perfectly preserved note, never mishandled by the issuing authority, a bank teller, the public or a collector. Paper is clean and firm, without discoloration. Corners are sharp and square, without any evidence of rounding, folding or bending. No light handling is present, no compromise, a perfect note. An uncirculated note will have its original, natural sheen. For Singapore notes, embossing can be visibly seen.
Take note: A banknote that has less than perfect corners is considered nearly uncirculated. Many collectors and dealers refer to such notes as AU-UNC.

ABOUT UNCIRCULATED (AU): A virtually perfect note, with some minor handling. May show very slight evidence of bank counting folds at a corner or one light fold through the center, but not both. An AU note can not be creased, a crease being a hard fold which has usually "broken" the surface of the note. Paper is clean and bright with original sheen. Corners are not rounded.

EXTREMELY FINE (EF/XF): A very attractive note, with light handling. May have a maximum of three light folds or one strong crease. Paper is clean and bright with original sheen. Corners may show only the slightest evidence of rounding. There may also be the slightest sign of wear where a fold meets the edge.

VERY FINE (VF): An attractive note, but with more evidence of handling and wear. May have several folds both vertically and horizontally. Paper may have minimal dirt, or possible colour smudging. Paper itself is still relatively crisp and floppy. There are no tears into the border area, although the edges do show slight wear. Corners also show wear but not full rounding.

FINE (F): A note which shows considerable circulation, with many folds, creases and wrinkling. Paper is not excessively dirty but may have some softness. Edges may show much handling, with minor tears in the border area. Tears may not extend into the design. There will be no center hole because of excessive folding. Colours are clear but not very bright. A staple hole or two would not be considered unusual wear in a Fine F note. Overall appearance is still on the
desirable side.

VERY GOOD (VG): Contrary to its name, its not good at all. A well used note, abused but still intact. Corners may have much wear and rounding, tiny nicks, tears may extend into the design, some discoloration may be present, staining may have occurred, and a small hole may sometimes be seen at center from excessive folding. Staple holes and pinholes are usually present, and the note itself is quite limp but NO pieces of the note can be missing. A note in VG condition may still have an overall not unattractive appearance.

GOOD (G): A well worn and heavily used note. Normal damage from prolonged circulation will include strong multiple folds and creases, stains, pinholes and/or staple holes, dirt, discoloration, edge tears, center hole, rounded corners and an overall unattractive appearance. No large pieces of the note may be missing. Graffiti is commonly seen on notes in G condition.

FAIR (FR): A totally limp, dirty and very well used note. Larger pieces may be half torn off or missing besides the defects mentioned under the Good category. Tears will be larger, obscured portions of the note will be bigger.

POOR (PR): A "rag" with severe damage because of wear, staining, pieces missing, graffiti, larger holes. May have tape holding pieces of the note together. Trimming may have taken place to remove rough edges. A Poor note is desirable only as a "filler" or when such a note is the only one known of that particular issue.

For collection of Singapore banknotes, I would recommend you to keep notes which are EF to UNC, as the notes which are available now are fairly cheap.

How to start collecting banknotes

Humans are weird, when something attract you, you would tend to want to collect them. It happens, like the Magic the Gathering cards we were crazy about when we were young, the stacks of Pokemon cards that you secretly still keep in your cupboard.

Collecting banknotes is sort of similar but this hobby enables you to collect something more meaningful, has collector's value and legal tender. (Its still a piece of banknote and usable if you decide not to keep it, oh yes and ALL SINGAPORE BANKNOTES ARE LEGAL TENDER, do not get conned by anyone who claims that these old banknotes are worthless). Besides admiring the banknotes, they can also be inexpensive and meaningful gifts for your overseas friends.

If you are thinking of collecting banknotes as a hobby, or even trying to make a set to frame up and hang on the wall, you would need to read up! Make sure you are paying for what you are really getting, you should be familiar with all the terminologies that people are using, and know what you are supposed to get.

In my new few posts, I shall share with you some of the basic knowledge that you should possess before buying any notes!

Images of Singapore Orchid Banknotes

If you are still reading on these posts, I bet that you want to know and see more of the notes. Monetary Association of Singapore has a basic image gallery for all the notes. To see more, click here.

Orchid Banknotes Details

For some of the more specific and detailed description of the notes, you can always Wiki it. For your convenience, click here.

Singapore First Bank Note Series

As mentioned in my previous post, Singapore had her first set of banknotes issued in 1967, 2 years after independence, and has 9 denominations. (1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 10000)

Each note has an orchid design in the centre of the note's front, the orchid being the national flower of Singapore. A scene of Singapore is depicted on the back, which varies across denominations. Standard on each note, is the Coat of Arms, a lion head watermark, and the signature of the Minister for Finance and Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Singapore, on the front of the note. The security feature back then was the watermark and security thread. All notes have one vertically embedded security thread, while the $10,000 note has two.

For collectors, there are 4 variation of each note, i.e. the different signatures which are found on the note. The 4 variations are by name by, Mr Lim Kim San, Dr. Goh Keng Swee, Dr. Hon Sui Sen (With and without red seal). These variations are priced differently accordingly to the supply of each note. Generally, Dr. Goh's notes commands the highest price, followed by Dr. Hon without red seal, Mr Lim and lastly Dr. Hon with red seal.

Who is a collector?

In my opinion, everyone one of us is a collector of banknotes and coins, its just the degree of seriousness. I term everyone as a "stealth" collector. For instance, does the scenario of keeping a bird series note in your wallet and never wanting to spend it familiar to you? And this stealth collecting resulted in a stash of these notes which are tucked away in your drawer along the years?

Everyone likes to keep something unique and special for themselves. For me, I started off just like any other person, collecting these "notes of chance" in my wallet. My first "collectible" note was a 10 dollar orchid note my mum passed it to me, and this marked the start of my collection.

The note mesmerized me, I was amazed by the detail, the art and the meaning behind this note. Alongside with the illustrations, there were also bit and parts of history hidden in each note. To ingnite your interest, I shall attach a small scan of the orchid 10 dollar note here.