“Malaysia, Truly Asia” is the national tourism slogan of Malaysia. With its location at the crossroads of South, Southeast, and East Asia, Malaysia became a melting pot of different ethnicities living together in one country. Even though it was a colony of the British Empire, it is the fourth largest economy in Southeast Asia. It is also one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Its focus on manufacturing, trade, and agricultural industries made Malaysian economy one of the fastest growing economies in the region.

Malaysian Flag
Source: AdobeStock

Central Bank of Malaysia

The Bank Negara Malaysia is in charge of central bank functions in Malaysia. It also controls the introduction, circulation, and issuance of the ringgit, the national currency of Malaysia. The name comes from beringgit, the obsolete Malay word for “jagged”, referring to the jagged edges of the silver Spanish and Portuguese coins in circulation in the 16th and 17th century. To distinguish the Malaysian ringgit from the Brunei dollar and Singaporean dollar (both also called ringgit in Malay), the Malaysian ringgit is often abbreviated to RM (Ringgit Malaysia). Internationally, the currency code for the Malaysian ringgit is MYR.

Bank Negara Malaysia Headquarters
Source: Bank Negara Malaysia

The first series of banknotes issued by the Bank Negara Malaysia had a similar design scheme. The way to differentiate different denominations is through the color. The obverse side of the notes featured a portrait of Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, wearing a tengkolok headgear. Also, the reverse side of the notes featured the Bank Negara Malaysia logo.

Malaysia 1,000 Ringgit | 1967 | P-6a |
Source: Banknote World Educational

The exception to the design scheme is the 1,000 ringgit note. Aside from the BNM logo, the note also had a view of the Bangunan Parlimen, the parliament building in Kuala Lumpur, on the reverse side. 

Evolution Of Their Banknotes

The second series of banknotes were introduced by the Bank Negara Malaysia in 1981. The notes continued to feature the portrait of Tunku Abdul Rahman on the front. However, they also added different landmarks in Kuala Lumpur on the reverse side of the notes.

Malaysia 1 Ringgit | 1986-89 | P-27b |
Source: Banknote World Educational

Modern Generation

The third series of banknotes were introduced in 1996. These notes had a theme of “Wawasan 2020”, to “reflect Malaysia’s economic development and accomplishment towards achieving the status of a fully-developed country.” In addition, these notes had more complex color schemes, updated security features, a more detailed portrait of Tunku Abdul Rahman, and government projects and economic activities that showcase the progress towards a better economy and future.

For example, the green and blue 50 ringgit note highlighted the mining sector. Its reverse side featured an oil drilling platform, wellhead control valves, and oil pipes.

Malaysia 50 Ringgit | 2007 | P-49 |
Source: Banknote World Educational

In 2007, a commemorative 50 ringgit banknote was issued to celebrate the country’s 50th anniversary of independence. It is also the first note in the world to use Giesecke & Devrient’s Animal in the holographic stripe. It is also the first note in the fourth series of banknotes issued by the Bank Negara Malaysia. The fourth series of notes showcase the natural biodiversity of Malaysia. For example the obverse side of the notes featured the songket pattern, a hibiscus flower—the national flower of Malaysia— and the portrait of Tunku Abdul Rahman in tengkolok headgear. In addition, the reverse side of the notes featured different endemic species in their natural environment. The three smallest denominations—the 1 ringgit, 5 ringgit, and 10 ringgit—are all printed on a polymer substrate as an anti-counterfeiting measure. 

Malaysia 1 Ringgit | 2012 | P-51a |
Source: Banknote World Educational

The blue ringgit note is the only note that does not feature an endemic species. Instead, it depicts the traditional “bulan” (moon) kite-flying sport.

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