The first Vietnamese đồng was first issued in 1978, being churned out on aluminum coins. They were first introduced in denominations of 1, 2, and 5 hào and, of course, 1 đồng. It was not until later that the need was recognized for paper bills and, after that, even larger notes.
Closely after also in 1978, the State Bank of Vietnam introduced paper notes in denominations of 5 hào: 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 đồng. Following were the 2, 30, and 100 đồng notes that were released between 1980 and 1981. Although it was in and after 1985, when things began to shift significantly.
100 đồng – 1980
The value of the đồng varied between North Vietnam and South Vietnam until it was unified on May 3, 1978, just after Vietnam was reunified as a single country. The new, combined đồng was equal to one Northern đồng or 0.8 Southern đồng. After its reevaluation in September of 1985, the new one was actually worth 10 of the old.
Dates of Pre-2003 Circulation:
500₫ – August 1989
1,000₫ – October 1989
2,000₫ – October 1989
5,000₫ – January 1993
10,000₫ – October 1994
20,000₫ – March 1993
50,000₫ – October 1994
100,000₫ – September 2000
The year 2003 proved to be a year that saw the next big changes. Cotton notes shifted to polymer, smaller coins had been discontinued, and the subdivision of hào ceased to apply to the new system of higher paying notes – 500,000 now being the largest.
Dates of Polymer Series:
10,000₫ – August 2006
100,000₫ – September 2004
200,000₫ – August 2006
500,000₫ – December 2003
Interestingly, the Vietnamese đồng notes shift in size according to value. Smaller bills correspond with lower values making the 500,000 note hard to miss. Light blue or “Cyan-Green” in color, it measures 152 x 65 mm, and it depicts the birthplace of Ho Chi Minh.
While the 500,000 đồng notes are not the most frequently circulated of the bills, one of them is the equivalent of roughly $22.42 in the United States. To break that down, that means that their smallest unit of currency – the occasional 5,000 coin – is still worth about 22 cents. Making their smallest bill, the 10,000 đồng note, only worth somewhere around 45 cents.
500,000 đồng – 2003
According to Oanda and as of April 2008, 1 US Dollar was equivalent to about 20,850 Vietnamese đồng. After a second failed Five-Year Plan in 1981, their economy continued to be dominated by small-scale production, low labor productivity, unemployment, and material and technological shortages.
Like anything, though, it seems that more work can and will be done. Vietnam and their 500,000 đồng notes are progressing. Tourism has increased: likely due to the value of the American dollar and, especially, the uncompromising beauty of the country.