Philippine Currency Trivia

 Antibacterial Banknotes

It is good to know that the New Generation Currency of the Philippines is printed with Bioguard technology by Arjowiggins. Bioguard produces banknotes that are treated to prevent bacteria from multiplying. The anti-bacterial property has been tested to resist washing and will last throughout the lifetime of the banknote.

Here is a screenshot from their slideshow showing the difference between treated and untreated paper 24 hours after inoculation with E. coli bacteria.

How did they do this? They don’t say how, but most likely the banknote paper is treated with metallic ions which are known to have a wide range of antibacterial properties. Most notable among these ions is silver although copper, zinc, and other ions may also have been used. These ions inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi.

So now, could we rub our hands on our banknotes instead of washing before eating? Maybe not, unless you’re willing to hold the banknote and let your food wait for 24 hours. But still this is a welcome feature to keep our banknotes cleaner and safer for the public.  

How many soldiers on 50 peso bill?

While the fifty peso banknote from the New Design Series (NDS) is still in wide circulation, let's challenge ourselves to a little trivia:

How many soldiers can you spot on the obverse (front) of the 50 peso bill (NDS)? (clue: there are more than 0 of them)

Gold in the 10 peso coin?

Word has been spreading that the current 10 peso coin bearing the 2000 and 2001 year mark contains gold. Specifically the inner disc of the coin is said to be worth between 10 to 14 karats, the reason why some people are hammering them out and casting them into "gold" rings.

I chanced upon a man selling some of these "gold" rings. He also presented the remains of a ten piso coin and claimed two coins are melted to create one ring. He was selling the ring for 100 pesos.

So is there gold in the current 10 peso coin?I don't think so. According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the inner disc of the coin is made of an aluminum-bronze alloy (92% copper, 6% aluminum, 2% nickel).

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas could not be senseless to put gold into millions of coins with a face value of only 10 pesos. It might look like gold, but it isn't necessarily gold.

Hammering out the core of the 10 peso coins is a violation of Article 164 of the Revised Penal Code (An Act Prohibiting and Penalizing Defacement, Mutilation, Tearing, Burning or Destruction of Central Bank Notes and Coins). Selling of these mutilated coins is a violation of Article 165.
Art. 164. Mutilation of coins; Importation and utterance of mutilated coins. — The penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period and a fine not to exceed P2,000 pesos shall be imposed upon any person who shall mutilate coins of the legal currency of the United States or of the Philippine Islands or import or utter mutilated current coins, or in connivance with mutilators or importers.

Art. 165. Selling of false or mutilated coin, without connivance. — The person who knowingly, although without the connivance mentioned in the preceding articles, shall possess false or mutilated coin with intent to utter the same, or shall actually utter such coin, shall suffer a penalty lower by one degree than that prescribed in said articles.

Manny Pacquiao on 5 Peso Bill

This spoof of the five peso bill has circulated in the internet last 2006 after Manny Pacquiao defeated Erik Morales and Oscar Larios in much anticipated boxing matches. Efforts were made to trace the creator of this banknote spoof but to no avail. Whoever you are, nice work!

Uncut Sheet of Banknotes

Image courtesy of jt40tmh of ebay
These banknotes are interestingly, uncut. In one large sheet of uncut paper money are 32 pieces of banknotes. That is how they print them in the mint. Sometimes, uncut sheets of eight banknotes (2 columns of four) are also available for collectors.

The banknotes in the photo are specimen notes which mean they are not of legal tender. However, I have seen uncut legal tender banknotes. Those you can use to pay for your groceries. Just imagine the cashier's surprise if you hand out an uncut sheet for payment. Without the "specimen" overprint, uncut notes are still legal tender.

Most likely you won't be doing that though. There aren't too many uncut sheets around so they fetch a high price in the numismatic community. I saw a sheet of eight 10 peso bills (new design series) for sale at SM Megamall for 600 pesos. A similar sheet of 20 peso bills with overprint was 1,200 pesos.

This definitely makes a good collectors' item.

Banknote Error - Excessive Ink

Why are 20 peso bills always so worn out?

Why are 20 peso bills always so worn out? Compared to other denominations, the 20 peso banknote is most of the time old, crumpled, dirty, and simply rotten.

It just so happens that the 20 peso bill is the smallest banknote denomination being printed by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) today. The smaller the denomination, the more frequently the banknote changes hands, and the faster it wears out.

In the New Design Series, we used to have the five peso and ten peso bill. These are still valid today and is legal tender, but the BSP has stopped printing them. Why? They simply wore out too fast that the BSP decided they should be replaced with coins which last a longer.

This makes us think that someday, the BSP might replace the 20 peso bill with a 20 peso coin. As the currency devaluates and loses its value, small bills wear out faster.

So what do we do with worn out bills? The BSP asks us to help replace them with new bills. If you have collected a number of worn out banknotes, bring them to your nearest bank and have them change it to crisp, clean notes. The BSP wants our money to look presentable.

Mutilated notes are another story. Banks are not required to replace or accept mutilated banknotes and coins, although they may do so as extra service to their clients. Mutilated currency notes are those which are torn, brittle, split edgewise, or has lost all signatures inscribed on it.

50 Centavo Coin Error (1983 )

Photo courtesy of Maiylah (

Long before there was the "Arrovo" error on the 100 peso bill, there was the "Pithecobhaga" error on the 1983 fifty centavo coin. The coin which comes from the flora and fauna series depicts the monkey-eating eagle, more popularly known as the Philippine eagle on its reverse side. The scientific name of this eagle, which happens to be the country's national bird, is Pithecophaga jefferyi but the Central Bank wrongly minted it as "Pithecobhaga jefferyi". A biologist reported the error to the Central Bank who immediately corrected the coins.

Fake 10 Peso Coins

photo from
The Central Bank never thought someone would actually bother counterfeiting 10 peso coins. To their big surprise, some syndicates did take up the challenge and minted fake 5 and 10 peso coins. In one raid, they even seized 5 million pesos worth of 10 peso coins.

A few clues on how to spot these fake coins:
  1. The fake coins are dated either 2001 or 2002. Be more careful with coins bearing these dates.
  2. Fake coins stick to magnets. While the genuine coins are made up of an alloy of aluminum, copper, nickel, and zinc, the counterfeit ones are made of steel.
  3. The fake coins tend to rust, real ones don't. This is because of their metal composition. The image above shows rust on the outer ring.
  4. The fake coins are lighter. Again, this is because they are made of a different metal.
  5. Fake coins are not well minted. Upon closer examination, the fake coins miss out some details. Click on the image above and you will see the "B" in "Bonifacio" to be distorted. The other letters are also indistinct. The edge of the inner metal (yellow) is also uneven.
Possession of these fake currency is illegal so surrender them to the nearest bank. Don't expect them to refund you!

Take note that only 10 and 5 peso have been counterfeited so far. Some 1 peso and 25 centavo coins stick to magnets, but this is because the Bangko Sentral changed their composition to prevent their smuggling. That's another topic.

Banknote Error - "Arrovo" on 100 Peso Banknote

The 100-Piso bill became subject of controversy after bills printed in France were printed with the President's name misspelled, the first in Philippine history. The bills, which are still legal tender, spelled the President's name as "Gloria Macapagal-Arrovo" instead of the correct "Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo".

The error was realized only when the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) emloyees started withdrawing their salaries from the bank's ATMs. The Central Bank claims that less than 1,000 pieces of this banknote have been released into circulation. The defective banknotes that were still in the vault of Bangko Sentral were shredded.

Opposition Congressman Rolex Suplico of Iloilo commented:

“My Spanish teacher told me ‘rovo’ sounded like ‘robo,’ which means robbery in Spanish. This is from ‘robar,’ which means to rob someone.”
President Arroyo was accused by the opposition of corruption and cheating in the 2004 elections.

The French printer Francois Charles Oberthur Fiduciare, the third-largest private banknote printer in the world, shouldered the cost of 19.477 million or 25% of the total 77.9 million misspelled banknotes. In addition, 58.43 million or 75% of the total were replaced by the printer.

The last time the BSP commited a misspelling in the currency was in the early 1980's. The scientific name of the Philippine Eagle on the 50 centavo coin, Pitheco
paga jefferyi" was misspelled as "Pithecobaga jefferyi".

Why are there stars in the serial number?

Ordinarily, one or two letters followed by six or seven numbers comprise the serial number in Philippine banknotes. Occasionally, we encounter bills with stars in the serial number instead of letters.

If you are holding a bill with a star in the serial number, then what you have is a replacement banknote.

For some reason, an error occurred during the printing of the bills at the Central Bank. These defective notes are destroyed and are reprinted, but this time with a star in the serial number.
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