Ecuador does not have its own banknotes. Instead, it uses US Dollars as its official currency. It is one of about 25 nations that use US dollars are one of, or their only recognized currency. Ecuador made the decision to abandon its own Ecuador Sucres banknotes in 2000 after an economic crisis and the loss of value of the sucres. While this decision seems to have been a positive for the economy, it did cost the Ecuador President Jamal Mahuad his job as he was deposed in a coup de tat. Twenty plus years later, Ecuador seems to have a stable and improving economy under the dollarization approach. From a collector perspective, this is disappointing because Ecuador had some very nice banknotes in the past.

Ecuador City View
Source: AS

Early Prints In Ecuador

The 1928 series was printed by American Banknote, and like many notes in South America followed the design concepts of the US dollar. The 1928 10 Sucres (P-85) shows a large portrait of a woman on a backdrop of a hacienda. The reverse is all blue (so it is not a ‘greenback’) and has complex security line designs with a small image surrounded by flags. Most of their banknotes had similar designs but just different ink colors on the reverse. The 5 Sucres from the 1939 series (P-91) shows a woman wearing a laurel on her head and a peasant dress. She is sitting with a bountiful harvest around her. It is a very well-designed vignette. The reverse looks the same as the 1928 10 Sucres just printed in blue.

Ecuador 5 Sucres | 1940 | P-91a.2 |
Source: Banknote World Educational

Waterlow printed a few banknotes in the 1950s but maintained the same design concept. The 50 sucres (P-99) is a good example of their work. The vignette on the front is an Ecuador obelisk in a city. The reverse maintains the same design as previous notes but is green. The 1975 series replaced the images of monuments and local people with portraits of famous historical people. The five sucres shows Antonia Jose de Sucres, hero of the Battle of Tarqui which led to the independence from the Gran Colombia Empire. The 10 sucres shows Sebastian de Belalcazar, the Spanish Conquistador who conquered the Ecuador area. The 20 sucres shows the Church of the Jesuits in Quito.

Ecuador 50 Sucres | 1951 | P-99a.4 |
Source: Banknote World Educational

Economic Troubles

Like much of Latin America, Ecuador experienced economic troubles in the 1980s leading to higher denominations. The 1987 series represented a significant departure from previous designs. Printing was also done locally. Notes were brighter and contained much less ink density. The 5,000 Sucres (P-126) has a portrait of Ecuador author Juan Marie Montalvo on the front along with a crest that includes a volcano seen in the Ecuador Coat of Arms. The reverse has a large turtle and several tropical birds. 

Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, so it is not surprising to see a focus on flora and fauna. Ecuador released denominations up to 50,000 sucres, but this was only worth about two US Dollars. It is strange though that the 50,000 sucres and the 20,000 sucres had a different design concept that the 5,000 and 10,000, and these were different from the 100 sucres which never changed.

Ecuador 5,000 – 50,000 Sucres 4 Pieces | 1999 | P-128c-130d |
Source: Banknote World

 In fact, it is hard to believe that all of these notes are from the same country given how different the designs are. The large denominations have a portrait on the right but look like notes from the 1970s just with less ink density and lighter colors. The 5,000 and 10,000 have portraits on the left and a lot of white space. And the 100 still has a small portrait in the center. This had to be confusing for the average person.

It would be good to see Ecuador design and have printed its own series of banknotes. While dollarization has been an economic success, transitioning back to an Ecuador currency would impart local confidence and pride. Someday, maybe.

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