Macau is a Special Administrative Region of China. It is a small peninsula in the western Pearl River Delta near the southern coast of China, approximately 62 kilometers away from Hong Kong. It was once a colony of Portugal until 1999. Now, Macau is a special administrative region of China. Though it is part of China, Macau has its separate government and economic systems.
Macau has one of the highest GDP per capita by purchasing power parity and the highest capita incomes in the world. Its main source of economic power comes from its gambling and tourism industries, with Macau having the largest casinos in the world.
Because Macau has a separate economic system from China, it does not use the yuan. Instead, it uses the pataca. The Macanese pataca is equivalent to 10 ho or 100 avos. The pataca was used in Macau since the beginning of Portuguese rule.
The Banco Nacional Ultramarino (National Overseas Bank, BNU) branch in Macau opened in 1902. It is one of the two banks in Macau that have issuing rights. The pataca was introduced in 1906, after the banning of foreign coins. These notes had Portugal’s old coat of arms and perforated edges that separated from the counterfoil as its security features. In 1912, the Portuguese Republic took over the banknote printing for Macau, updated the coat of arms, used higher quality notes, and stopped the counterfoil method. During the two World Wars, the bank issued notes with small denominations to address the coin shortage. The temple issues were introduced in 1945. These notes featured the Templo Chines da Barra (Chinese temple), the Portuguese Empire coat of arms in front, and the BNU seal at the back. Luis de Camoes is the first person to be featured on the Macanese pataca. He was first featured on the 1948 design of the 25 pataca note. Ten years later, the Luis de Camoes series was introduced and circulated in 1958. In 1963, Luis de Camoes was replaced with Bishop Belchior Carneiro Leitao, the first Jesuit bishop in Macau. The BNU introduced a new series of notes in 1981. These notes featured historical figures and landmarks in front and the Bay of Praia Grande at the back. The “Bridge Issues” were introduced in 1988, replacing the Bay of Praia Grande with different bridges at the back. In 2005, the BNU introduced a new series of notes that highlighted Portuguese-Chinese landmarks and the BNU headquarters.
The Banco da China (Bank of China) is the second bank in Macau that has issuing authority. It was given the authority on October 16, 1995. The first series of Banco da China (BDC) notes featured scenic spots in Macau in front, the Bank da China and lotus flower patterns at the back. The lotus flower is a motif in the Bank da China notes. This lotus flower motif refers to Macau’s nickname, “land of the lotus”. In 2008, the BDC issued its second series. These notes showcased the fusion of Eastern and Western cultures in Macau by featuring World Heritage sites in Macau in front and bridges at the back. The bridges symbolized the role Macau played in East-West communication and cultural exchange. The heritage sites that appear on the notes were arranged in the order of history, with the smallest denomination having the oldest site.
Since 2012, the Banco da China and Banco National Ultramarino collaborate to issue Commemorative Lunar New Year 10 patacas notes every Lunar New Year. These notes depict the Chinese zodiac animal of the year and a Chinese lantern in front and the issuing bank headquarters, the temple of A-Ma, and the animal at the back. In 2019, both banks issued a commemorative 20 patacas note to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Macau’s return to China. This 20 patacas note was honored as the Best Commemorative Banknote at the 2019 High-Security Printing Asia Conference.