Macau is nestled on the southern coast of China, surrounded by the Pearl River estuary, Guangdong city, Hongkong, and the South China Sea. Its blend of Chinese and Portuguese heritage, historical sites, and a multitude of resort, accommodation and leisure activity options have drawn tourists and foreign workers to Macau, making it the most populated region in the world with over 680,000 settlers.
Of all the regions in China, only Macau has legalized gambling and because of world-class casinos dotting around the city, the territory is dubbed as the “Las Vegas of the East” and for some, the region is described as the “Monte Carlo of the Orient”. The gambling industry is the greatest contributor to the city’s GDP.
Macau had long been a protectorate of the Portuguese Empire, when Portugal was granted a permanent lease agreement in 1557. The region was governed by Portugal under the Chinese jurisdiction until it was turned over back to China in 1999. At present, Macau is China’s special administrative region, with economic and currency systems as well as governing bodies separate from those of mainland China.
The First Macau Banknotes
The city uses the Macau pataca for its internal economic transactions. It was first introduced by Portugal in 1894, replacing the Portuguese real. When the Banco Nacional Ultramarino opened a branch in Macau in 1902, it had an exclusive to produce Macanese banknotes. Since these paper bills were produced under the Portuguese rule, they featured the Portuguese Empire emblem and had perforated edges.
The bank started releasing the “temple issues” in 1945, with a unified design featuring the Portuguese Empire emblem and the Templo Chines da Barra on the obverse and also the Banco Nacional Ultramarino logo on the reverse.
In 1948, a 25 Macanese pataca paper bill was issued depicting a portrait of Luis de Camoes. It was the first banknote from Macau to ever feature a person. In 1988, banknotes that highlight bridges were also put into circulation.
When the Bank of China became a banknote-issuing bank along with the BNU on October 16, 1995, it introduced a set of notes focusing on Macau’s attractions on the front and the Bank of China headquarters building and lotus flowers on the other side. Current issues of the Macanese pataca notes boast a combination of Portuguese and Chinese cultures in the city.