Thuan D. Luc



Standard catalog of World Paper Money, Vol 2, Krause publications.

Tu lieu 'Tien Te Viet Nam, tap Dong Duong', Luc Duc Thuan (chua xuat ban).

Indochina in the 1940s and 1950s, Takashi Shiraishi.

Les Billets de la Banque de l'Indochine, Kolsky, new Údition, Paris.


Collection is courtesy of:

Bao Tung Nguyen


Giay Bo Lu - Banque De L'Indochine



In 1859, the French occupied Saigon and surrounding area which began the formation of the Indochina peninsula under French administration. Indochina was composed of five parts: Cochinchine (South), Annam (Central), Tonkin (North Viet Nam), Cambodia, and Laos. Strings of zinc coins of Nguyen Dynasty were replaced gradually by piastre and cent, new paper notes and coins.


In 1875, the French administration issued Law of January 21st allowing the formation of Indochine Bank, a joint union between French administration and 3 private banks in Europe. This bank monopolized the production of money that circulated in Indochina peninsula and other French's colonies. The central bank was located in Paris with branches in Saigon, Haiphong, Vientiane, Pnompenh, Djibouti, Pondichery, Noumea, Paeete, and New Hebrides.



The first Indochine paper notes were issued by decrees 21-1-1885, 20-2-1888, 16-5-1900, and 3-4-1901. On front is the decree date of issuance DECRETS DU 21 JANVIER 1895, name of the branch, date of circulation, and the value of the paper note in English and French ONE DOLLAR / UNE PIASTRE. The piastre is equivalent to every foreign trade currency at this time. On back is the design of dragon and phoenix, with the value of the paper note in Chinese, the title INDOCHINE TRADE BANK, and Chinese inscription REPORTED EDITION to display proof of issuance. After 1903, the piastre was lost in value thus the value in dollar was not printed on the note. In 1920, the inscription of decree date of circulation also vanished.


Since 1923, a series of new bank notes were issued with the inscription INDOCHINE BANK but without the embossed seal in the middle of two words INDO-CHINE. On both sides are scenery of Asia. Based on the image of these notes, people refered to them as "giay con cong" (peacock note) to indicate 5 piastre notes or "giay bo lu" (incense-burner note) to indicate 100 piastre notes. The paper notes' values were printed in 5 languages: French, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, and Chinese. The 500 piastre notes was the highest value issued in 1939.


WW2 broke out in Europe, the communication between France and Indochina became difficult and completely interrupted in 1940. When the German troops occupied Paris, the Japanese spreaded out into Viet Nam via China, but still placed Indochina under the authority of French Governor Decoux, being dependent on French Petain administration who took the side of Germans. During this time, the Indochina administration issued a new paper note with inscription GOUVERNEMENT GENERAL DE L'INDOCHINE (Government General of Indochina) by contracting with IDEO (Imprimerie d'Extreme-Orient) printing office in Hanoi. Due to the war and the lack of communication with France, the scarcity of ink and material for fine paper printing has caused the bad quality paper notes.

The Japanese administration did not issue the occupation money in Indochina as they did in Philippine, China, and Malaya. However, in areas under their influence, the Japanese distributed a number of Japanese currency. The 50 sen, 1 yen, 5 yen, 10 yen, and 100 yen paper notes were similar to the notes issued by the Japanese in China, but in different color plus two letters RO and the Chinese inscription GOVERNMENT OF GREAT EMPIRE OF JAPAN. Those rare paper notes are of high value in the numismatist's market.


At the end of WW2, the French came back to Indochina. By confronting the movement Independence for Viet Nam, the French applied a policy of more tolerant rule, but still followed the general Lyautey's policy of "divide to easy control and exert power". The Franco-Vietnamese war became raging and exhausted French's potentialities which were already declined after the world war. The Auriol-Bao Dai Agreement came into being, the French recognized the independence and unification of Viet Nam, but Viet Nam should join the French Union. On 31 December 1951, the paper money issuance power was transferred to Institute of Issuance (commonly known as Institute of Issuance of Cambodia, Laos, and Viet Nam). However, Indochina Bank continued to publish Indochina paper notes until the Institute of Issuance was capable of produce the required amount for Indochina.

The paper notes used in Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, and within the French Union had same characteristics. On front is the inscription INSTITUT D'EMISSION DES ETATS DU CAMBODGE, DU LAOS, ET DU VIETNAM and the value of the notes in French. On back is a symbol of each nation, INSTUTION OF ISSUANCE inscription and the value in Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian. The highest value paper note in Indochina was 1000 piastre. The design was a sample and has never been issued. In 1954-1956, due to shortage in small changes, 1 piastre notes were torn into two to replace 50 cents; when assembled together, the note had the value of its sum.

Over a century of domination, the French was defeated in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu. They signed the Geneva Agreement, marking their last days in Indochina peninsula.

Thuan D. Luc