East Timor, or Timor-Leste, is an island found in the south of Indonesia and north of Australia. East Timor was colonized by the Portuguese in 1769 and gained its independence in 1975. Currently, the official currency of East Timor is the US dollar. The country adopted the US dollar in 1976, a year after the East gained its independence. Before that, it used the pataca, the rupiah, and the escudo. 

Map of location | Source: Britannica

The pataca was used from 1894 to 1958. One pataca was equivalent to 100 avos. The National Overseas Bank (Banco Nacional Ultramarino) was in charge of issuing banknotes to all of Portugal’s overseas territories and colonies, including East Timor (or Portuguese-Timor as it was known). The BNU established a representative in East Timor in 1902 and opened a branch 10 years later in 1912. Patacas notes featured the BNU seal and the Portuguese empire coat of arms. 

25 Patacas | 1920 | P-5s | Source: Banknote World Educational

Last Banknotes

The escudo replaced the pataca at a rate of 5.6 escudos for one pataca. The Timorese escudo was equivalent to the Portuguese escudo. The Timorese escudo notes were the first Timorese notes to feature portraits of people. There have only been two people to be featured on a Timorese banknote. They are former Timor governor Jose Celestino da Silva and King Dom Aleixo Corte-Real. The escudo notes also showed the Portuguese empire arms and the BNU seal at the back.  

20 Escudos | 1967 | P-26a | Source: Banknote World Educational

Both pataca and escudo notes had similar design elements. To distinguish one denomination from another, one must look at the color scheme of the note. For example, the 5 pataca note had a brown and pink color scheme while the 20 pataca note had a blue color scheme.  

The escudo circulated until it was replaced by the Indonesian rupiah after Indonesia occupied East Timor. The rupiah ran concurrently with the US dollar until Indonesia relinquished its control over East Timor in 1999. East Timor became the first sovereign state of the 21st century on May 20, 2002.  

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