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Are Old Singapore Notes Worth More Than Their Actual Value?

profileKenneth Fong

While cleaning out the storeroom at my grandmother’s place, I found a stash of old Singapore money notes and currencies.

I did a little research and discovered that they were from Singapore’s first circulation of currency notes, the Orchid series which were launched back in 1967.

In case you’re wondering what they look like, here’s the $25 Orchid series note:

Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore

DAMN COOL RIGHT?!

Apparently, there was a time when we needed a $25 note in circulation.

Oh, and by the way, it turns out that people are willing to pay a fortune for the Orchid series old money notes.

Especially rare ones like this $25 Orchid series note.

Before you start digging in your parents’ or grandparents’ storeroom for ‘hidden treasures’.

Let’s find out how much these old Singapore currencies are worth.

And whether you should consider buying and holding these old banknotes in hopes that they will appreciate in value.

How Much Are Old Singapore Notes Worth?

At a glance, here’s how much they’d be worth.

Old Singapore NotesMalaya and British Borneo Board of Commissioners of Currency Notes
(1953 - 1967)
Orchid Series Singapore Currency Notes
(1967 - 1976)
Bird Series Singapore Currency Notes
(1976 - 1984)
Ship Series Singapore Currency Notes
(1984 - 1999)
Portrait Series Singapore Currency Notes
(1999 - Present)
Denominations Available7 denominations
($1, $5, $10, $50, $100, $1,000, $10,000)
9 denominations
($1, $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, $500, $1,000, $10,000)
9 denominations
($1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, $1,000, $10,000)
9 denominations
($1, $2, $5, $10, $50, $100, $500, $1,000, $10,000)
7 denominations
($2, $5, $10, $50, $100, $1,000, $10,000)
Dominant Feature1953 series had the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.

1959 series was a sail boat for the $1 bill, and a buffalo for the $10 bill.
A spray of orchids in the centre of the front of each noteA bird on the left side of the front of each noteVessels that have plied the waters of Singapore over the centuriesA portrait of Singapore's first president, the late Encik Yusof bin Ishak
What I Found OnlineMalaya and British Borneo Buffalo Banknote ($10)Orchid Series Singapore Banknotes ($1, $5, $10, $25, $50 and $100)

Note: short of 3 denominations
Bird Series Singapore Banknotes ($1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100)

Note: short of 3 denominations but PMG-graded
Ship Series Singapore Banknotes ($1, $2 both versions, $5, $10, $50 and $100)

Note: short of 3 denominations
Portrait Series Singapore Banknote ($50)

Note: with printing error
Face Value$10
(ignoring conversion rates)
$191$186$170$50
Market Value$1,068$1,200$3,680$200$3,200
Appreciation in Value10,580%528%1,878%17%6,300%

However, I spoke to a friend who is a collector of old banknotes and found out a couple of things.

In order for your old Singapore cash note to be worth its maximum value, it really depends on a few things.

Age

The older the banknote the better.

Especially those that pre-date Singapore’s independence.

Like the Malaya and British Borneo dollar which was the currency of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, North Borneo, Brunei and the Riau archipelago from 1953 to 1967.

Note: On 12 June 1967, the Malaya and British Borneo Board of Commissioners of Currency ceased operations and Singapore started to issue her own currency.

A good example would be this $10 Malaya and British Borneo Buffalo banknote which is going for a whopping $1,068!

Source: tee7788 | Carousell

Available in a Full Set or Running Serials

For collectors, it’s always better to have a full set of a series (includes all denominations).

These are hard to find and most ‘full sets’ available on the market usually run from $1 to $100 denominations only.

Like these Orchid Series banknotes:

Source: michele9966 | Carousell

The face value is $191 but the selling price is $1,200, which is a 528% increase in value.

Imagine what the seller could ask for if they had the $500, $1,000 and $10,000 denominations included…

Notes in running serials will also fetch a higher price too.

Condition

Notes that are in mint or good condition always command higher prices.

The best ones are uncirculated (UNC), meaning they have no handling damage such as folds, creases, stains or cuts.

Even better if they’re UNC and in running serial numbers.

Take for example these two stacks of 200 pieces of $1 Ship Series Singapore notes in running serial, which are going for $380.

Source: hotcafe | Carousell

That’s a 90% increase in value!

Grading

If you’re a serious collector, you’ll want to get your collection graded by Paper Money Guaranty (PMG) — a third-party grading service for paper money.

Your old banknotes will be graded, sealed, and certified so their value is even higher.

Take this set of Bird Series banknotes with a PMG grading of 65EPQ.

Source: rita_jj | Carousell

The face value is $186, but the asking price is $3,680. That’s a 1,878% increase in value!

It’s short of the other denominations in the series to make a complete set.

But its condition and PMG grading allow the buyer to ask for a higher price as compared to the Orchid series which I was talking about earlier — a series which is even older than the Bird series banknotes.

Rarity

Rare denominations are also worth more.

Although I only have one $25 Orchid series note (which is the only $25 Singapore note to ever be issued by the way) and it isn’t graded or in very good condition.

It’s still a pretty rare banknote.

Which is why an ungraded one is going for $105.

Source: R8IKCY | Gumtree

That’s a 320% increase in value. Which is still pretty neat.

My collector friend also added that rarest of all are those with printing errors.

Like this $50 Yusof Ishak note:

Source: Monetarium Singapore

When this particular note was put up for auction back in 2015, it had a minimum bid price of $3,200.

That’s a 6,300% increase in value!

And it’s not even an old note since it’s from the latest Portrait series which is still in circulation.

From 1 Jan 2021, MAS will also stop issuing $1,000 notes from the Portrait series as well, with a limited quantity made each available each month till end-December.

They will join the $10,000 note that has been discontinued in 2014.

If you own notes in these two denominations, they are now considered rarer denominations as well.

Huat ah!

Can Old Singapore Notes Still Be Used?

Apart from those that pre-date Singapore’s independence, all notes and coins issued since 1967 by MAS and the former BCCS (Board of Commissioners of Currency) are legal tender in Singapore.

Yep.

That means that I can walk into a McDonald’s and pay for a meal with my grandmother’s $25 Orchid series note.

Source: SpongeBob SquarePants | Giphy

RELAX.

I’m not going to that lah

The cashier is only going to take it at its face value of $25 and not the market value.

Where Can You Sell or Buy Old Singapore Banknotes And Coins?

The most legit place you can do it is on The Singapore Mint’s website.

But it’s not really updated and the listings aren’t that much.

And since this is the age of online shopping, you’ll probably be checking out online marketplaces like:

  • Carousell
  • eBay
  • Gumtree (think Singaporean version of Craigslist)
  • Hardwarezone
  • and even Shopee!

But if you want to avoid lowballers and potential scammers then you’ll probably want to visit an actual shop to get a quote before deciding how much you want to sell your collection for.

The following shops listed are based on my collector friend’s recommendation.

ShopShop Address
Clifford Numismatic & Collectible Centre111 North Bridge Road, Peninsula Plaza, #02-04, Singapore 179098
Coins & Coins1 Rochor Canal Rd, Sim Lim Square, #B1-02, Singapore 188504
Fang Zheng Trading60 Eu Tong Sen St, Singapore 059804
Monetarium Ptd Ltd1 Coleman St, The Adelphi, Singapore 179803
Numis-Phil (S) Pte Ltd10 Anson Road, International Plaza, #37-14, Singapore 079903
Taisei Stamps & Coins (S) Pte. Ltd.135 Middle Road, Singapore 188975
William Ng Collections101 Upper Cross Street, People’s Park Centre, #03-73, Singapore 058357

Once you get an agaration of the value of your collection, you can also check out the online marketplaces to see what the market rate is like in order to price your collection appropriately!

So… Should I Invest in Old Singapore Banknotes?

Well…

Based on the listings I found, there is the potential to earn big.

But that’s ONLY if you have something that is rare (read: damn old or has a printing error), is professionally graded, a complete set or with running serial numbers.

And seriously, what are the odds of that happening?!

So I wouldn’t count on this as a realistic form of alternative investment.

If you’re like me and stumbled upon an odd collection of old banknotes and currencies.

Chances are, there’ll probably be one or two gems which are worth something.

The rest will probably be worth more to the correct buyer or collector.

Most people collect these banknotes because they hold sentimental value (passed down by a family member).

Or some just like collecting them as a hobby.

If you can find the right buyer or collector who is missing a piece in their collection, you might be able to drive a hard bargain and get more than your money’s worth.

But I wouldn’t bank on that (get it?).

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About Kenneth Fong
I threw all of my money into the longkang once... because I wanted to see my cash flow.
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