Singapore Coins and Notes Museum
Address: 2 Trengganu Street, Singapore 058 456
Opening hours: 10am to 8pm daily
Admission: Adults $10, concession: children (3 to 12 years old) / senior citizens (60 and above) / full-time national servicemen and students $6
Singapore’s transformation from sleepy fishing village to today’s thriving international financial centre could not have been possible without a strong currency.
The Singapore Coins and Notes Museum acknowledges this fact by tracing the country’s history alongside the evolution of the currency that have been in use here over centuries.
Most informative and educational, the museum explores currency from its very beginnings.
It examines early forms of currency, such as spices and seashells, which were used to exchange for desired goods, to the primitive precursors to coins, metal tokens created by ancient civilisations as standard representatives of value.
The museum also showcases the earliest coins used in Singapore, which were foreign in origin and brought here through trade. These came from as far afield as Mexico and Holland, and remained in use even after indigenous coins surfaced in the region. (Some consider the Spanish dollar, widely used in the East Indies and other parts of the world during the 19th century, was the first truly global currency.)
The museum also exhibits more recent currencies such as that produced in 1938 by the Board of Commissioners of Currencies of Malaya. Following the onset of the Japanese Occupation in 1942, this production was stopped abruptly.
The highlight of the exhibition, however, are the uniquely designed Singapore coins and notes that have been produced for circulation since Singapore’s independence in 1965.
The Board of Commissioners of Currency was set up in 1967, for there was great urgency to produce Singapore’s own currency at the time. Since its inception, two series of coins and of notes have thus far been issued for national circulation.
In addition to those, the Singapore Mint has also designed other award winning and commemorative coins that are featured at the museum.
They include the very first commemorative coin to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Singapore by Sir Stamford Raffles, a $150 Raffles Lighthouse 22 karat Gold Coin that features the same-named lighthouse located on the southernmost part of Singapore’s territorial waters .
There’s also another coin, a technological marvel that presents views of the architectural structure of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat by way of a holographic effect.
Furthermore, there musuem houses an interactive zone that sheds light on how coins are manufactured. An informative video details step-by-step the manual skill and mechanical precision required in the process, while a hands-on area where visitors can touch, feel and learn about the common metals used in coins.
The smallest coin in the museum is a Majapahit gold coin-like piece with a stamped design.
It is suspected to have originated from as far back as 800 years ago, a product of the Majapahit empire centred in Java, Indonesia, from the 13th to 16th centuries. Until today, ‘coins’ like this are still being uncovered throughout Southeast Asia, proof of the empire’s bygone influence.
Spare some time for the museum’s shop, as it is literally a treasure trove. There you can purchase commemorative coins and medallions, currency memorabilia and other souvenirs.