The Kingdom of Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy. Its state religion is Mahayana Buddhism. It is a small country found in the Eastern Himalayas, in between China and India. Because Bhutan is surrounded by mountains, it is historically isolated until transportation improved in the early 21st century. Even though improvements in transportation opened Bhutan to the world, it is still one of the world’s smallest and least developed countries. Its economy is largely based on subsistence farming, animal husbandry, and forestry. Bhutan is also widely known for its mostly untouched natural resources and its population’s spirituality.
The ngultrum is the national currency of Bhutan. Its name is derived from the Dzongkha word “ngul”, which translates to silver. The Royal Government of Bhutan had authority in issuing banknotes until 1982. The first ngultrum banknotes were issued on June 2, 1974—the same day as the coronation of Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth king of Bhutan. His portrait was featured on the first 5 and 100 ngultrum. His predecessor, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, was featured on the 10 ngultrum note. A new series of banknotes was issued in 1978. The 1978 series of notes had redesigned 5, 10, and 100 ngultrum notes and introduced the 2, 20, and 50 ngultrum. All the banknotes featured the royal emblem of Bhutan in front. The three smaller denominations (1, 2, and 5 ngultrum) showcased the Paro Rinpung Dzong, a prominent Buddhist monastery and fortress, at the back. These notes were distinguished through their color. The larger denominations (10, 20, 50, and 100 ngultrum) featured different monarchs and landmarks at the back.
On August 4, 1982, the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan was established. It took over central bank responsibilities and functions from the Royal Government of Bhutan. Her Royal Highness Ashi Sonam Choden Wangchuck, the Representative of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck in the Ministry of Finance, was appointed as the first chairman. The Royal Monetary Authority continued issuing the 1978 series, only updating the text to reflect the change in authority. In 1994, the 500 ngultrum note was introduced. The note was issued on National Day, the national celebration of the coronation of the first King of Bhutan. In 2003, the Royal Monetary Authority updated the portraits of the kings of Bhutan and the vignettes featured on the notes. Five years later, the 1,000 ngultrum note was introduced. In 2011, the 1 and 10 ngultrum notes were printed on a paper-polymer hybrid substrate by Louisenthal.
The Royal Monetary Authority issued two commemorative 100 ngultrum notes. One was issued in 2011 to commemorate the royal wedding of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema. The other was issued in 2016 to celebrate the first birthday of His Royal Highness the Gyalsey Jibme Namgyel Wangchuck.