Singapore 25th Anniversary $50 Plastic Currency Note

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This $50 plastic banknote was issued to commemorate Singapore’s 25th year of independence on 9th August 1990.

This special issue is of numismatic significance for a few reasons:

  1. This is the first commemorative note issued by the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Singapore (BCCS).
  2. This is the first plastic note in the history of Singapore’s currency.
  3. This is also the first note designed in Singapore by a Singapore artist.
However the significance of this commemorative note is dampened by the unusual high production numbers issued under two tranches:
  1. 300,000 notes issued with an overprint of the anniversary date “9 August 1990″ that came in a special folder.
  2. 4,800,000 notes (without overprint) issued for circulation.
Clearly the BCCS wanted each and every working citizen to own a piece of history. This suspicion was substantiated by a low issue price of $55 for the $50 note in folder and each purchase was limited to 2 sets only.The 4.8 million notes issued for circulation was a dry-run to test out the ability of the banking system to handle plastic notes. Although I have no knowledge of the outcome, I suspect it must be very challenging because plastic notes or polymer notes as it is currently known, were only issued for circulation some 15 years (estimated) later. 

Numismatic was a popular hobby in the late eighties to early nineties, and very quickly the 4.8 million plastic notes disappeared, into the hands of collectors and ordinary folks, hoping to make a few bucks. And a few bucks they could but anything more, would be quite impossible.So let’s take a closer look at the design of the note, the security features and how it impacts plastic notes of the future.

Specifications

  1. Date of Issue: July 1990
  2. Size: 157 x 74 mm
  3. Signed by Minister of Finance Dr Hu Tsu Tau
  4. Special Serial No.: Single prefix starting with A, follow by 6 digits.
  5. Special Notes in Folder with Overprint “9 August 1990″: 300,000.
  6. Notes for Circulation: 4,800,000.

The most striking feature in this plastic note is the hologram (not sure if I use this term correctly), a silver substrate that shows the image of the first President of Singapore Yusoff  bin Ishak and five stars. This accordingly is the Optical Variable Device (OVD) that enables the image to be viewed from the front and back, and would give out a rainbow pattern when viewed at different angles.

MAS 50 S6

The  front of the note depicts Singapore’s transformation from a trading sea-port in the 19th century into becoming the world’s busiest port, strategically connecting the East and the West.

MAS 50 S4

The reverse of the note depicts a scene of the first sitting of parliament on 8th December 1965 and ‘a jubilant mixed group of Singaporeans with the State flag behind them’.

Do you know who were the four cabinet ministers seated next to founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew? If you know the answer, tell us on Facebook.

Based on the notes I have, a few of them did not have the last digit of the serial numbers printed correctly- it was only printed partially. This was probably a mechanical problem and it happened only to the set of serial numbers on the top right-hand corner.

Apart from the OVD, this commemorative plastic note also has some very advanced security features that makes it ‘virtually unforgeable’.

  1. Intaglio printing: or raised printing to give the embossed texture was widely used on texts and graphics.
  2. Perfect registration: images that are exactly the same on the front and back of the note, such as the green Orchids on top of the OVD.
  3. Micro-printing: printing that are so small, it’s only visible under 10x magnification. For this note it’s just below “YUSOF BIN ISHAK”, and it reads “BOARDOFCOMMISSIONEROFCURRENCYSINGAPORE . . . “.
  4. Shadow-image: like a water-mark in paper currency, an image can be viewed when it’s held against light. In this note it shows the 25th anniversary logo.
  5. Latent image: an image varies when viewed at different angles.  In this note, the BCCS logo.
  6. Invisible feature: invisible under normal lighting condition but will glow brightly under ultra-violet (UV) light. In this note, the decorative outline of the OVD will glow brightly under UV light.
  7. Fluorescent ink: the serial numbers and seal of the minister’s glow under UV light.

For the first time in the history of Singapore currency, the signature of the designer, Mr Chua Mia Tee, can be found on the note. This is the first and only note that bears two signatures: the minister’s and the designer’s. Well done Mr Chua!

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So do the current polymer notes (Portrait series $2, $5 & $10) shared the same security features of the 1990 $50 note?

All except the OVD and latent image, they were replaced with the “gold patch”, “complex clear window” and “embossed clear window”.

So, why did it take so long from this 1990 plastic note to the current polymer notes? And why isn’t there a $50 polymer note in circulation yet?

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by Russell Cheong

owner & author of uncutcurrency.sg