The Macau Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China is a small peninsula that is located in the western Pearl (Zhu) River Delta near the southern coast of China. It stands approximately 62 km away from Hong Kong. Macau was a former colony of Portugal until 1999, when it was transferred to China. As a special administrative region, Macau has its own separate governing and economic systems from Mainland China.
Macau’s main source of economic power comes from their flourishing gambling and tourism industries. It has one of the highest GDP per capita by purchasing power parity and highest per capita incomes in the world. Because Macau has its own separate economic systems from China, it has its own currency. The monetary unit used in Macau is the Macanese pataca. One pataca is equivalent to 10 ho or 100 avos. The pataca has been in use since the beginning of the Portuguese rule. The Banco Nacional Ultramarino (National Overseas Bank) branch in Macau opened in 1902 and had exclusive rights to issue legal tender banknotes for Macau. In 1906, foreign coins were outlawed and 1, 5, 50, and 100 pataca banknotes were introduced. These notes had the old coat of arms featured on the reverse side because they were printed under the Portuguese monarchy. These notes had perforated edges when separated from the counterfoil as a security feature. In 1912, the Portuguese republic took over printing the notes and the coat of arms was updated. In 1912 higher quality paper notes were issued and the counterfoil disappeared. During the two World Wars, the Banco Nacional Ultramarino (BNU) issued small denomination notes to alleviate the coin shortage. In 1945, the “temple issues” were introduced. These notes had the same design: the Templo Chines da Barra (Chinese temple) and the Portuguese Empire coat of arms on the front and the BNU seal at the back. The first person to be featured on the Macanese pataca is the poet Luis de Camoes. He was seen on the 1948 25-pataca banknote, and a decade later, the Luis de Camoes series was circulated. In 1963, BNU replaced Camoes’ portrait with Bishop Belchior Carneiro Leitao, the first Jesuit bishop in Macau. In 1981, the BNU issued newly designed notes that featured different landmarks and historical figures in front and the Bay of Praia Grande at the back. In 1988, the “Bridge Issues” were introduced, with notes featuring different bridges on the reverse side. In 2005, BNU issued a new family of notes that featured different Portuguese-Chinese landmarks in front and the Banco Nacional Ultramarino headquarters at the back.
On October 16, 1995, the Banco da China (Bank of China) became the second note-issuing bank in Macau. However, the Monetary Authority of Macau has full authority to issue patacas. The first series of banknotes Banco da China (BDC) issued featured scenic spots in Macau on the obverse side, the Bank of China building and varied patterns of lotus flowers on the reverse side, and lotus flower watermarks. The lotus flower motif in the note refers to Macau’s nickname as the “land of the lotus”. In 2008, Banco da China issued new designs that showcased the fusion of Eastern and Western cultures in Macau. These notes featured different World Heritage sites that demonstrate the East-West culture co-existence through architecture, and bridges at the back that symbolize the role Macau plays in East-West communication and cultural exchange. The heritage sites appear on the denominations in the order of history.
Every Lunar New Year since 2012, the Banco da China and the Banco National Ultramarino jointly issue a Commemorative Lunar New Year banknote. These banknotes have the face value of 10 patacas. These notes depict the zodiac animal, Chinese zodiac, and a Chinese lantern in front and the issuing bank’s headquarters building, the temple of A-Ma, and the zodiac animal at the back. In 2019, both banks introduced a 20-pataca note that commemorates the 20th anniversary of Macau’s return to China. The note was honored as the Best Commemorative Banknote at the 2019 High Security Printing Asia Conference.