Piasters (French Indochina)

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1 piaster, of the type minted 1885–95 (Obverse: Allegory of the Republic of France, ears of rice, year. Reverse: Country and currency designation, weight.)

The piastre de commerce (piasters) was the current currency in French Indochina during colonial times . It was divided into 100 centime, 5 sapeque.


Former Saigon main branch of Banque de l'Indochine, 2012

After the occupation of Cochinchina in 1859-62, a protectorate was set up in Annam , followed by the successive takeover of Cambodia from 1869, Laos in 1893 and Tonkin . The areas were combined in 1888 to form an administrative and economic unit. Siam was taken from other frontier provinces until 1909. The southern Chinese city of Kwangchou , leased for 99 years, was also subordinated to the resident in Hanoi in 1899.

The Banque de l'Indochine with the right to issue banknotes was founded in 1875 as a central bank through the merger of the Comptoir d'escompte de Paris and Crédit industriel et commercial . Her field of business was the entire Asia-Pacific region, she gave u. a. also rupee notes for Pondicherry (today: Puducherry ), Chandernagore and New Caledonia .


The piaster , the designation of an old Spanish currency coin of high value, was supposed to displace the Mexican dollar (mex $) circulating as a trading coin in the whole of East Asia , which is on the "pieces of eights" based on the Spanish model . At the time of its inception , France was the leading nation of the Latin Union of Coins , which used bimetallism to codify standard coins .

In the five sub-areas of what would later become Indochina, their own currencies were in circulation. The currencies of the Laotian and Cambodian kings were based on the model of the Siamese Tikal . Chinese cash was also in circulation as change, some of which were paid in the country with cowrie money until around 1900 .

Piastre de Commerce

1/500 piasters of the first series. Chinese on the lapel: "Government of the Republic of France."

The newly created silver-based piaster weighed 27.215 g when it was introduced, like its model, the Mexican dollar, which was then reduced to 27 g from 1896. The copper respectively. Zinc (value 6: 5) coins produced by the Annam Empire were converted in the ratio of 500 Sapèque or Van . The circulation of the piasters was legally regulated by decrees of January 21, 1875, February 20, 1888, May 16, 1900 and April 3, 1901.

The first dividing coins for Cochinchina produced after the decree of January 21, 1875, which introduced the piaster as a means of payment, were normal 1 cent. Pieces that were pierced in Saigon.

The first series of coins included pieces about:

  • 6 Van with hole, minted 1887-9, 1892-4, 1896–1902; 2 g bronze, ø 20 mm
  • 1 centime (cent.), 1885-9, 1892-4; 10 g bronze, ø 30 mm. Indication of value also in Chinese: 百分之 一 "One hundred pieces for one [piaster]"
  • 10 cent, 1885, 1888-9, 1892-5; 900 silver 2.7 g
  • 20 cent, 1885, 1888-9, 1892-5; 900 silver 5.44 g
  • 50 cent, 1885, 1889, 1894-5; 900 silver 13.6 g
  • 1 piaster, 1885-90, 1895; 900 silver, 27.215 g, 27 g since 1896

The fineness of the small silver coins was reduced to 835 from 1898 and to 680 after 1921, the design remained almost unchanged. The fineness of the 1-P.-piece was reduced to 680 in 1938, the coin now showed the wreathed head of the republic.

After the First World War , 5 cent coins (Cu-Ni) with a hole were introduced. The 10 and 20 cent. Pieces of the 1920 series contained only 400/1000 silver.

In 1930, the theoretical gold bond was also introduced for the piaster in French Indochina. Accordingly, 1 P. = 10 fr. Francs equivalent to 589½ mg of fine gold. The speculation initiated against the franc by international finance capital in 1936 after the Popular Front government took office , led to its devaluation in early 1937.

Those issued between 1935 and 1940 were given a different look:

  • ½ cent., With 3.7 g bronze (ø 21 mm), showed the freedom cap, oak wreath and "RF"
  • 10 and 20 cent., Nickel, with a fluted edge, the Marianne with a laurel branch and "Republique Francaise"

The coins issued at the time of the joint Franco-Japanese administration (July 1940 to March 9/10, 1945) were mostly made of zinc, and the name of the state was changed to " État français ". The coins of ¼ (1942-4), 1 (1943) and 5 cents. were with hole.

After the reconquest in 1946-8 , coins were issued for the Fédération Indochinoise with a Marianne looking to the left on the obverse and rice, country and value on the lapel. As part of the Union , the Paris mint produced small-scale coins for the individual regions, which were provided with local symbols and inscribed in the national language.

Regional coins

Norodom I (1860)
1/600 piasters for Tongking (1905)
10 cents. Laos 1952

For Cambodia , 1860–1906 coins (1 cent. To 4 francs; always with the year 1860) were produced that bore the portrait of Norodom I. From 1880–1906, brass small change was minted only for use within the royal palace.

In 1905 a coin of 1/600 piaster was minted from zinc for use in the Protectorat du Tonkin.

The Ministry of Finance had "coins" made for the opium trade in Laos during World War II , which consisted of pure silver and weighed ½ or 1 tael (37.78 g). The obverse is labeled in Lao and Chinese. In 1943 the lapel showed the symbol for prosperity (富) in seal script , in 1944 a deer head.

Paper money

20 piastres banknote from the 1898 series still with the parallel designation “Dollar.” Issued by the Banque de l'Indochine in Saigon.
100 piastres from 1932 (reverse of a sample).
200 piastres for Cambodia 1953 (Institut d'Emission)

The first notes of the Banque de l'Indochine from 1876 had values ​​of 5 or 20 piastres and were also given the currency denomination "dollar". The location of the issuing branch (Haiphong or Saigon) is indicated, the grades differed slightly. The first 1 piastre note appeared in 1892, the next year a 100 p. Note, in 1899/1900 a series of 5, 20 and 100 p. Notes made before 1920 are inscribed in Chinese on the reverse.

The ordinance of October 6, 1919 allowed the bank to issue emergency notes in denominations of 10, 20 and 50 cents. The notes of the series 1921–28 - 1, 5, 20 and 100 p. - also have overprints in Vietnamese and Laotian script.

After the conversion to the gold standard , new notes were issued from 1932 (until 1939). The same design was used again from 1946, but the Lao inscription was simplified. The first 500 P. note was issued in 1939.

Emergency notes of 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents. have been made locally since 1939 on behalf of the Général de l'Indochine government . The banknotes of three different series 1942–45 in the name of the Banque de l'Indochine were also produced in the Imprimerie de l'Extreme-Orient in Hanoi. In Japan in 1944 notes of 1 and 5 piastres were printed, which were then put into circulation by the French in 1949. The first series put into circulation during the Reconquest in 1946 was printed in England and the USA, and they are signed by Paul Gannay and Edmond Bruno.

The exchange rate was set at 17 francs in 1945 (100 francs = 5.88 piastres), but 10 francs remained in effect within Asian markets. The President of the Conseil René Mayer tried to re-establish the old course in 1953.

The banknote privilege of the Banque de l'Indochine was revoked on December 31, 1951. Instead, an Institut d'Emission des Etats du Cambodge, du Laos et du Vietnam was created .


In 1946, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam , later North Vietnam, issued its own currency, the Đồng , divided into 10 Hào or 100 Xu . 1953 followed the standing further French influence state Vietnam , later South Vietnam, with the publication of a likewise with Dong currency quoted that well in 100 Xu was divided. The two currencies were merged two years after reunification in 1978.

In Laos, the Kip of 100 Att has been in effect since May 5, 1955, the change was made 1: 1, and the banknotes were issued by the Banque Nationale du Laos. In the Kingdom of Cambodia (1953–1970) the riel was first introduced on November 24, 1955 .


  • Henri Baudoin: La Banque de l'Indo-Chine. Paris 1903 (A. Pedone; Thèse - Univ. De Paris.)
  • Albert Cornu: De la Piastre en Cochinchine . Saigon 1886 (Impr. De Rey et Curiol).
  • Jean-Dominique Giacometti: La bataille de la piastre: 1918–1928; réalités économiques et perceptions politiques dans l'empire colonial français]. (= Southeast Asia Working Papers. 9). Inst. For Asia and Africa Studies, Berlin 1988, OCLC 214973750 .
  • Gonjō Yasu (権 上 康 男, 1941-): フ ラ ン ス 帝国主義 と ア ジ ア: イ ン ド シ ナ 銀行 史 研究 Tokyo 1985 (東京 大学 出版 会), ISBN 4-13-046029-3 ["Furansu teikoku shugi to Ajia: ..." ]
  • Gonjō Yasu, Antoine Jeancourt-Galignan, Patrick Fridenson: Banque coloniale ou banque d'affaires la banque de l'Indochine sous la IIIe République. Paris 1993 (Comité pour l'histoire économique et financière de la France, Ministère de l'économie et du budget).
  • A. Laurent: La Banque de l'Indochine et la piastre. [Paris] 1954.
  • Maurice Kolsky, Maurice Muszynski: Les billets de la Banque de l'Indochine. V. Gadoury, Monaco 1993.
  • Albert Sabés: Le renouvellement du privilège de la Banque de l'Indochine. M. Giard, Paris 1931.

Individual evidence

  1. From Malay sapacou for 1000 (lined up) coins, but used in Vietnam for a string of 600.

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