History of Philippine Money

November 14, 2010 Neil

Ever wondered how our money came to be? I searched the net for information on the history of our moneys (banknotes and coins). Here’s some interesting facts.

Pre-Hispanic Era

Long before the arrival of the Spaniards, the Philippines has been home to many seafaring communities. These communities traded (barter) with other communities and countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam, China and even as far as India.

Piloncitos ancient gold bead moneyChinese Ming Dynasty porcelains and metalware have been unearthed in several locations in the Philippines. Early Pinoys bartered goods like pearls, gold pieces and medicinal plants for foreign goods like metalware, porcelain and silk.

The earliest form of coinage (money) in our country were gold beads, referred to as piloncitos. Barter rings and other gold pieces were also used in commerce.

The term piloncito comes from the word pilon, a local sugar container that resembles the coin. They are engraved with the Brahmanic character “ma” which looks like an upside down “R”. We can only guess that this character refers to the pre-colonial kingdom of Ma-yi which is roughly the Philippines we know today. –philmoney.blogspot.com

Spanish Era

When the archipelago was colonized by Spain, Manila became the trade center for oriental goods. The Galleon Trade was established to monopolized the country’s goods.

Philippine Barilla coinsThis eventually introduced alternative forms of currencies to the Philippines. Silver, in the forms of Macuquinas (cobs), dos mundos (pillar dollars), counterstamped and portrait series coins, replaced gold beads and the primary forms of money.

A shortage of coins caused the Royalty of Spain to authorize the production of copper coins in Manila. The first copper coins, called barillas, were issued in 1728. The countries first banknotes (paper money), called Peso Fuertes, were circulated in 1852.

And in 1861, Casa de Moneda de Manila minted the countries first gold coins known as Isabelinas and Alfonsinos. Both of these coins are inscribed with “Filipinas.”

Revolutionary Period

Two types of 2-centavo coins were produced, in the army arsenal in Malolos, Bulacan, after Emilio Aguinaldo was proclaimed the President of the First Philippine Republic. Paper money was also issued.

The American Regime

America defeated Spain and took over the rule in 1901. The Philippine Coinage Act was passed by the US Congress which authorized the production of silver coins from 1903 to 1912.Culion Leper Colony Coin

These coins were minted in the Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver mints. The inscriptions and figures of these coins were designed by a young Filipino artist named Melecio Figueroa.

Silver certificates were issued until 1918 which was later replaced with Treasury Certificates from 1918 to 1935. Due to the high cost of minting and transportation, the American government decided to reopen the Manila Mint in 1920. The newly-opened mint produced coins until Manuel L. Quezon’s Commonwealth Government.

During this same era, special coins were minted for circulation within the Culion Leper Colony in Culion, Palawan.

World War II

During the Japanese occupation, two kinds of paper money were circulated – the Japanese Invasion Money by the Japanese Empire and the Guerilla Notes issued by Filipino guerillas.

There are many types of Guerilla notes which circulated in their respective provinces. Examples are notes from Leyte, Cebu, Ilocos and Misamis Oriental.

Republic Period

In 1949, the Central Bank of the Philippines was created through the Republic Act No. 265.

In 1951 the English Series, Central Bank’s first official banknotes, was circulated. The Pilipino Series followed in 1967, then the Ang Bagong Lipunan Series in 1973, and the New Design Series in 1985.

For the coins, the English Series coins were introduced in 1959, followed by the Pilipino Series in 1967, the Ang Bagong Lipunan Series in 1975. The Flora and Fauna Series was introduced in 1983. An improved version was circulated in 1992.

All of these series were demonitized in 1998.

Special Notes

PHP 100000 CoinCommemorative banknotes and coins have been issued from time to time.

As a matter of fact, the World’s Largest Legal Tender is a Philippine bank note issued in 1998 to commemorate the country’s Independence Day Centennial. It has a face value of PHP 100, 000.

New Generation Money

Don’t be surprised if you see new banknotes in December 2010!

To make it harder for counterfeiters, BSP will issue paper money and coins with new designs.

Our new banknotes will pay tribute to Filipinos who played significant roles in various moments of our nation’s history. World heritage site and iconic natural wonders of the Philippines are also proudly highlighted.

The new coins will feature our national symbols.

Banknotes will start circulating in December 2010 while the coins will be issued in 2012.


  1. www.bsp.gov.ph
  2. philmoney.blogspot.com
  3. www.philippine-history.org
  4. www.filipinonumismatist.com

I posted this same article at hubpages.com. I’m neither numismatist nor historian so please don’t be surprised if I missed some information. If you think I need to add information, feel free to drop some lines in the comment section or email me at neil@kartonista.com.

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  4. How money works? | Kartonista

    […] Pilipinos have used gold beads, called piloncitos, as a medium of exchange before the arrival of the Spaniards. European-style […]

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