The History of Macau's Patacas Banknotes

Posted on 5/19/2020

This month, we take a look at the intriguing history of the Macanese Pataca banknotes.

In the 1500s Portugal expanded its trade and empire throughout the world. Portugal had been trading with China at various times, but the relationship was strained with conflicts. The Portuguese then were banned from maritime trade around China. The Portuguese were expelled from various ports around China but ultimately found a place to “dry their cargo” in Macau, China in 1553. The Portuguese shortly after established a foothold there by helping the Chinese fight local pirates.

The Portuguese continued to occupy Macau from the mid-1500s by paying a yearly rent. Portugal maintained its presence in Macau throughout the 17th and 18th century with an ever-growing authority in Macau. Eventually Macau was administered solely by Portugal after signing the Sino-Portuguese Treaty of Peking in which Portugal agreed to help stop the illegal smuggling of Opium into China and agreed to never surrender Macau to someone other than China.

Until this moment in Macau, the currency used was a mixture of many. Silver Mexican Pesos; Hong Kong, China Trade Dollars; Chinese Silver Dollars; and various others were the currencies that circulated in Macau. In 1894, Portugal decided to improve the records of its goods and services in Macau by using a unit of the Macanese Pataca. Using the new unit allowed Portugal to better grasp its income and assets instead of having many of its records in various currencies. “Pataca” originated from the Silver Mexican Peso used for trade in Asia, as Pataca means peso in Portuguese.

In 1901, the Macanese Pataca was deemed to be the official currency of Macau but would not be issued until 1906 by the Banco Nacional Ultramarino or BNU. The banknotes issued in Macau were met with hesitation and would trade at a discount to silver coins.

Macau, Banco Nacional Ultramarino, Pick# 12, ND (1920), 50 Avos, front
Graded PMG 35 Choice Very Fine
Click image to enlarge.

Macau, Banco Nacional Ultramarino, Pick# 12, ND (1920), 50 Avos, back
Graded PMG 35 Choice Very Fine
Click image to enlarge.

As the years progressed in Macau, it had to adapt to fluctuations in metal prices from World War I. After the war, metal was at a premium and, in response to the high cost of metals, Macau produced small denomination notes to alleviate a coin shortage. Macau went on to produce banknotes in various denominations of Avos, in which 100 Avos equaled 1 Pataca. Macau continued to produce small denomination notes throughout World War II, after which these were phased out.

BNU produced Pataca banknotes for the government of Macau until 1995, when the Bank of China began issuing banknotes for Macau. In 1999, Portugal transferred its governmental rights of Macau back to China. Both BNU and the Bank of China have continued to issue Pataca notes for Macau. Oddly enough, the Hong Kong Dollar has consistently had a higher supply of notes in Macau than the Macanese Pataca – making the Pataca issues slightly rarer to find in Macau.

Check out the PMG Registry to see how others' Macanese Pataca collections compare to yours!


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