On 10 June 2019, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) issued a single commemorative note as part of the Singapore Bicentennial celebrations. Instead of a $200 note, the MAS opted for a $20 denomination in order to make it more affordable for Singaporeans to own a piece of history.
This $20 polymer banknote commemorates 200 years since the landing of Sir Stamford Raffles on the shores of Singapore in 1819. In total, 2 million banknotes were put into circulation. Members of the public could exchange these commemorative banknotes at the face value of $20 each. There was a limit of 20 pieces per transaction, and notes were made available at major bank branches across Singapore.
Compared to the previous commemorative issue in 2017 to mark 50 years of Currency Interchangeability between Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, stocks were depleted quickly for the Singapore Bicentennial notes. In 2017, 2 million commemorative banknotes were issued by MAS, with a face value of $50 each. There was another 1 million $50 banknotes issued by the Monetary Authority of Brunei Darussalam. These banknotes were still made available at banks right before the 2019 Chinese New Year festive period.
Each note also comes with a commemorative folder that has a two-sided transparent window which can be used to display the banknote. Unlike the hard cover folders for the SG50 commemorative banknotes (2015) and the 50th Anniversary of Currency Interchangeability Agreement notes (2017), the folder for the Singapore Bicentennial banknotes comes with a matte-finished soft cover.
The inside of the folder contains a short description of the bicentennial commemorative banknotes, as well as a message by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The message was written in the four official languages of Singapore: Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English.
The banknote was launched by President Halimah Yacob at the Istana’s Hari Raya Puasa open house held on 5 June 2019. The note was designed by local artist Eng Siak Loy, together with his son Weng Ziyan. This was also the third time a $20 note appeared in the history of Singapore currency: the first two being the $20 Bird Series circulation note (1979) and the $20 commemorative note to celebrate 40 years of Currency Interchangeability Agreement between Singapore and Brunei Darussalam (2007).
For more information on previous banknote issues, you may wish to get hold a copy of my book, Singapore Banknote: Complete Prefix Reference. Detailed descriptions are provided for all commemorative banknotes in Singapore’s currency history.
The front of the note shows a portrait of Singapore’s first president, Yusof bin Ishak. It also shows the former Supreme Court and City Hall, which is currently occupied by the National Gallery Singapore. The left side of the note also features the numerals ‘20’, the Singapore Coat of Arms, the Singapore Bicentennial logo and the years ‘1819’ and ‘2019’, all printed in gold foil with optically variable effects. The banknote carries the signature of MAS Chairman Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
The reverse side pays tribute to eight pioneers who have contributed to Singapore in the early days in various ways. These individuals arrived on the shores of Singapore from as early as the 1800s, helping to lay the foundations for Singapore.
The back also shows the Singapore River, flowing from the past to the present. The Singapore River helped Singapore transform herself into a trading port in the early days, and eventually into a thriving financial centre for the region.
Unlike the SG50 commemorative banknotes issued in 2015, there are no special symbols found on the back of the note to indicate the batch.
The banknote has a size of 162 mm by 77 mm, which is the same size as the $100 circulation banknote from the current Portrait Series.
There are five prefixes for this commemorative banknote: AA, AB, AC, AD and AE. Prefix AA is used for the 3-in-1 uncut sheets. On the first day of issue, all four remaining prefixes AB, AC, AD and AE have been observed on single notes.
These banknotes are legal tender in Singapore, and can be used in day-to-day transactions. Perhaps you may be lucky enough to receive these banknotes as change when you go shopping next time?
Update: On 14 June 2019, the MAS announced in a media release that there will be another additional 2 million pieces of Singapore Bicentennial $20 note. The second batch of commemorative notes is expected to be issued around October to November. The first batch of 2 million notes were fully exchanged at the banks within a week.
Similar to all other commemorative issues, the Singapore Bicentennial banknote cannot be deposited into cash deposit machines. Due to the limited quantity of banknotes issued, and that most of these notes will be kept for future generations, it is not too cost-effective for banks to calibrate their machines to accept these notes.
The Singapore Bicentennial commemorative note also comes as a 3-in-1 uncut sheet, with an issue date of 20 June 2019. A total of 5000 uncut sheets were issued by balloting. These uncut sheets are distributed by the Singapore Mint, and comes in an acrylic display case.