Without looking into your wallet or your purse, tell me what are the colours of the Brunei money? We see the notes so often that sometimes we forget the colours but instinctively we know what the colours are. It's blue for $1, green for $5, red for $10, light green for $50 and I am not sure how to describe the $100. There are of course $500, $1,000 and $10,000 notes as well but of the latter, that's seldom seen. A guest blogger wrote about the Brunei Currency Gallery and the Brunei money sometimes in September. [For the blog, link here and for the temporary Brunei Currency and Monetary Board's website, link here.]
How did the colour of the notes come about? In the past, Brunei's money were made up of many things, other than just coins issued by the various Sultans but also coins of the other other countries of which coins from the Chinese Empire made up the bulk of it. We also used among others shells, strips of irons and even small cannons. However by the mid 19th century, Brunei started to use the coinage of Queen Victoria (dated 1845) which was the currency of the Straits Settlements. Also used at that time was the coinage and paper money of Sabah and Sarawak.
The paper money and coins of the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Malaya were used before the Second World War. And of course during the Japanese occupation, Brunei used the famous 'duit pisang' which was the currency issued by the Japanese government.
On 1st January 1952, the currency of the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Malaya was reconstituted as the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Malaya and British Borneo. This is when you see the original colours of blue, green and red for the $1, $5 and $10 come in. Though the $50 and $100 notes were of slightly different colours and the denomination of $1,000 and $10,000 were also issued.
New coins and notes bearing the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II were issued and continued to be made up to 1961. In 1959, the Board had issued new designs where the portrait of Queen Elizabeth was no longer used but the colours remained.
Under the 1960 Malaya and British Borneo Currency Agreement, the Board was responsible in circulating the paper money and coinage in Malaysia and Brunei. In 1964, this agreement was terminated and the Board ceased to issue the currency to the banks and public on Saturday, 10th June 1967. The issuance of currencies were to be made by each country, in Brunei by the Brunei Currency Board, in Malaysia by Bank Negara Malaysia and and in Singapore by the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Singapore.
On 12th June 1967, the Brunei Currency Board for the first time issued and circulated notes in denominations of $1, $5, $10, $50 and $100 in the original colours as the previous currencies of the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Malaya and British Borneo. In fact all three countries retained the same colours and maintained the same colours up to now. That's why when you hold the Malaysian notes or the Singapore notes, the colours looked quite familiar even though there are slight variations. It was the original 1952 Board which influenced what our money looked like today.
On 22nd August 1967, Brunei Currency Board issued and circulated Brunei coins of 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents to the banks and public. The coins of the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Malaya and British Borneo were then withdrawn. On the obverse of the 1967 paper money and coinage is the portrait of the late Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, the 28th Sultan of Brunei.