A Gossip on Singapore’s FIFTH Series

Singapore’s fourth and current series dollar notes, the Encik Yusof bin Ishak PORTRAIT series has been in circulation since 1999.  

Up to 2014, it’s been 16 long years, and that’s way too long!! Don’t you think so? If it’s going to be any longer, this blog will go out of business!! Is there anything new to write on something that’s been around for 16 years??

Fortunately, as we approach 2015, Singapore will celebrate its 50th year of nation building. As part of the SG50 celebration,  I suspect the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) will issue Singapore’s FIFTH series dollar notes. There isn’t a better time, isn’t it? So before we speculate what we will see on the new series, let’s take a stroll down memory lane to 1967.

The Orchid Series (1967-1976) 

Being the first series, the theme was the national flower. Singapore being a new nation was like a blooming flower, out to seduce the world despite the gloom and doom of independence. Orchid was the national flower and the orchid industry thrived becoming a major exporter until the late 1980s.

The Coat of Arms of the Republic was large and prominent on the front. The reverse featured prominent landscapes and public buildings, a common theme among dollar notes past and present, with artwork carrying a colonial flavour.

So which is your favourite Orchid dollar note? For me it has to be the Orchid $5 where the reverse depicts a bustling scene of the Singapore river. Do you know who is the painter? If you do, pls tell us on our Facebook page.

OrchidSpecm HSS34 5 Bck

The BIRD Series (1976 – 1984) 

After a decade of independence, our wings have become stronger and we are ready to fly to the sky, and to the centre-stage of the world.

Out of the nine dollar notes in the series, five notes bear the map of Singapore on the front. Patriotic and economic themes came into the lime-light. Changi airport, PSA container terminal, oil refinery, public housing, national parades and multi-racial dancers were found on the back of the series. And sure enough, Singapore became the darling of multi-national corporations , leading the pack in foreign domestic investments in South-East Asia.

BirdSpec HSS66 20 Frt

 BirdSpec HSS66 20 Bck

The SHIP Series (1984 – 1999)

After two decades of independence, we are ready to sail the seven seas. Singapore has become a strategic shipping hub connecting world trade between the East and the West.

The social-economical landscape has been transformed. The Benjamin-Sheares Bridge depicted on the back of the $50 bears testimony to Singapore’s ambition of becoming a first world nation.

When I looked at the theme of this series and the previous, I see “Total Defence”. Although I’m quite sure Total Defence was introduced in the nineties, the five pillars of “Military, Civil, Economic, Social & Psychological” defence were clearly etched out in the Ship series.

Ship50-28 HTT Frt

Ship50-28 HTT Bck

The Yusof Ishak PORTRAIT Series (1999 to present)

Leaping into the 21st century, the currency issuing authority decided that we should like most countries in the world, put a “face” on our paper money. The Yang di-Pertuan Negara, Inche Yusof bin Ishak was chosen to be the first. Also as a first, the honour to design the entire portrait series was given to acclaimed Singaporean artist Eng Siak Loy.

All thanks to Siak Loy, Inche Yusof became the most popular and recognizable person in Singapore: handsome and affable, he reminded me of my vow: ” . . . to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” 

Who doesn’t want Inche Yusof? :-)))

The theme on the reverse is centered on “Education, Garden City, Sports, Arts & Youth”. It has become less chauvinistic, more scholarly, with less emphasis on propaganda and infrastructure successes. Our education has also provided more options into the arts, sports and social sciences. The series showcased our transformation towards a  knowledge economy as depicted on the reverse of the $10,000 note.

Port IdenSet Frt
Port IdenSet Bck
Before we speculate further, let’s take a look at the possible candidates. You like history? Of course you do. Here’s a quick revision on the modern history of Singapore. :-)))

Possible Candidates for the Singapore FIFTH Series

Former Presidents of the Republic of Singapore

  1. 1965 – 1970     Yusok bin Ishak
  2. 1971 – 1981     Benjamin Henry Sheares
  3. 1981 – 1985     C.V. Devan Nair
  4. 1985 – 1993     Wee Kim Wee
  5. 1993 – 1999     Ong Teng Cheong
  6. 1999 – 2011     S.R. Nathan

The first 10 cabinet ministers of the Republic of Singapore in 1965:

  1. Prime Minister– Lee Kuan Yew
  2. Deputy Prime Minister– Dr Toh Chin Chye
  3. Minister of Defence– Dr Goh Keng Swee
  4. Minister for Foreign Affairs– S Rajaratnam
  5. Minister for Education- Ong Pang Boon
  6. Minister for Health– Yong Nyuk Lin
  7. Minister for Finance– Lim Kim San
  8. Minister for Labour– Jek Yeun Thong
  9. Minister for Law & National Development– E.W. Barker
  10. Minister for Culture & Social Affairs– Othman Wok

Former Speakers of the Republic of Singapore

  1. 1955 – 1963     Sir George Oehlers
  2. 1963 – 1964     E.W. Barker
  3. 1964 – 1966     A.P. Rajah
  4. 1966 – 1970     Punch Coomaraswamy
  5. 1970 – 1989     Dr Yeoh Ghim Seng
  6. 1989 – 2002     Tan Soo Khoon
  7. 2002 – 2011     Abdullah Tarmugi
  8. 2011 – 2012     Michael Palmer

Former Chief Justices of the Republic of Singapore

  1. 1963 – 1990     Wee Chong Jin
  2. 1990 – 2006     Yong Pung How
  3. 2006 – 2012     Chan Sek Keong

Shortlisted Candidate for Singapore’s FIFTH Series (1-Person Series)

If it’s ONE person for the entire series, then I suspect it will be The Late Dr. Benjamin Henry Sheares (Former President of the Republic of Singapore, 1971 to 1981). 

I’ve a vivid memory of him, in black and white, when I watched the National Day Parade on a black & white TV back in those days when I was a little kid. A very benign and dignified looking grand-fatherly figure. He was highly respected by the ordinary folks. And I could still remember my late grandmother who once told me that the President was a medical doctor at KK Hospital, and she said it with admiration.

Shortlisted Candidates for Singapore’s FIFTH Series (6-Person Series)

To guess who are the VIPs selected by MAS for the new series is as good as guessing what are the winning numbers for next week’s TOTO!

MAS has just announced that it will no longer issue the $10,000 from 1st October 2014. That means there will only be 6 notes in the new series: $2, $5, $10, $50, $100 & $1000.

Will MAS bring back the $500 banknote to fill the gap? Or maybe the $20 or $25? Honestly, I don’t think so. I think the current denominations are good enough. More denominations will not add more value to the economy, but more costs of printing and maintenance. (And increasing the bleed on the pockets of collectors.)

If the FIFTH series were to come with only 6 dollar notes, which are the 6 dignitaries you would like to put on our currency? I’ve thought of setting up a poll and let you vote for your preferred candidates but I think that’s too much work for me. But it would be good to know what are your guesses? Who would you like to see on our dollar notes?

For me, I would like to see the following forefathers of Singapore on the FIFTH series:

  1. Dr Benjamin Henry Sheares
  2. Dr Toh Chin Chye
  3. Dr Goh Keng Swee
  4. S. Rajaratnam
  5. Dr Yeoh Ghim Seng
  6. Wee Chong Jin

What do you think? Is your list same as mine? How can it be the same?! Copycat! :-))) 

Out of the 6, I hope I’ll get at least ONE right.

Anyone want to bet? :-))) No, I don’t bet.

Let time do the talking; we will find out soon, in less than 12 months?

Now, if you are still reading this blog post, that’s really amazing . . . most would have given up long ago. Here’s the deal, look at the $50 commemorative note below. 

Mas 50 Bck CrC

If you can tell me who were the FOUR ministers sitting on the left of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, in the correct order, you will win a similar $50 commemorative note (first plastic dollar note). Terms & Conditions apply.
Too difficult? Okay, I give you multiple choice answers.

A) Goh Keng Swee, Ong Pang Boon, Yong Nyuk Lin & E. W. Barker
B) Goh Keng Swee, Jek Yeun Thong, Lim Kim San & Othman Wok
C) S. Rajaratnam, Toh Chin Chye, Ong Pang Boon & E. W. Barker
D) Goh Keng Swee, Toh Chin Chye, Yong Nyuk Lin & S. Rajaratnam

To qualify, you must 1) Like this blog post, 2) Share this blog post on your FB timeline, and 3) Leave your answer (A, B, C, or D) on our Facebook Page under this blog post.
If there are more than one person with the right answer, I will conduct a lucky draw to pick the winner. The winner will be announced on 10 August 2014.
I hope you found something interesting about the modern Singapore currency, and had fun reading this blog. :-)

by Russell Cheong

owner & author of uncutcurrency.sg