The official currency of Guyana is the Guyanese dollar. It is abbreviated with the dollar symbol $, and is often distinguished from other dollars by abbreviating it as G$ or GY$. The Guyanese dollar has been the country’s currency since January 1839. It was initially intended to act as a transitional unit to facilitate the changeover to the British sterling pound from the Dutch guilder system of currency. However, by the time of changeover, the Spanish dollar was already in circulation in Guyana, and so the Spanish dollar operated in the country alongside the sterling pound. Guyana switched to a US dollar peg in 1975 following the depreciation of the British pound.
History of the Guyanese Dollar
The Guyanese dollar shares a common history with the currencies of the surrounding British West Indies as a whole. The common history involved the continued use of the groat coin within the British West Indies when all of the other territories had abandoned it. The British introduced a variety of Dutch guilder when Guyana became its colony in 1815. In 1839, the Spanish dollar was introduced as a unit of account to facilitate the entry of the British sterling coinage. The dollar replaced the Dutch guilder at an exchange rate of one dollar for 3.125 guilders. The Spanish dollar remained in use together with the British sterling currency until 1876. The Spanish dollar is not to be confused with the United States dollar, as the latter was introduced in the US in 1792.
The British Guiana Bank and the Colonial Bank introduced the first private banknotes in the late 19th century. The notes were issued in the denominations of 5, 20, and 100 dollars. When Barclays Bank took over the Colonial Bank, it began circulating notes in the denominations of 5, 10, 20, and 100 dollars. Paper money production for British Guiana ceased in 1942 with the replacement of the notes with BWI$ notes. The BWI$ notes were replaced by the East Caribbean dollar in 1965. Following the country's independence in 1966, the Guyanese dollar replaced the East Caribbean dollar at par. The first Guyanese dollar banknotes began printing in November 1965 in four denominations ranging from 1 to 20 dollars. The second series of banknotes in the denominations of 20, 100, and 500 dollars were issued between 1988 and 1992. By 2013, there were five currency notes in circulation in Guyana. The notes were in the denominations of 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 5,000 dollars. The banknotes have several features on the observe side including Kaieteur Falls (20), the crest of the Bank of Guyana (50), and Bank of Guyana logo (100, 500, and 1000). The reverse side has features including Saint George’s Cathedral, Parliament Building, and Bank of Guyana Building.
Regular British coins continued to circulate after the introduction of the Guyanese dollar together with the 2 and 4 pence coins. Coins in the denominations of the 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents were introduced in 1967. The coins were struck in nickel, brass, and cupro-nickel. The high inflation in 1996 led to the introduction of the dollar coins in the denominations of 1, 5, and 10 dollars. The dollar coins were struck in copper-plated steel and nickel-plated steel.