The Saudi riyal is the official currency of Saudi Arabia which was introduced in 1925 when the kingdom was established. However, the country has had numerous other currencies used in domestic and foreign trade with some being minted in other countries while others such as the Hejaz riyal were minted locally.
Maria Theresa Thaler
Maria Theresa Thaler was an Austrian currency which was used extensively in the 18th and 19th centuries in Saudi Arabia where it was locally known as the “Alriyal Alfransi” or the “French Riyal.” The Maria Theresa Thaler was first introduced in 1751 and was named after Empress Maria Theresa whose kingdom encompassed modern-day Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary. The currency was minted in different countries and was used as an official currency in Saudi Arabia in the early 19th century. The Maria Theresa thaler was issued exclusively in coinage and was minted in silver coins. Due to its accurate weight (a single Thaler coin weighed one ounce); the Maria Theresa thaler was also used as a weighing unit in local markets. Saudi merchants preferred using the Thaler over other existing currencies due to its circulation in many neighboring countries.
The Ottoman kurus
The Ottoman Kurus was the official currency used in the Ottoman Empire which Saudi Arabia was a part of. The Kurus were issued from the Ottoman capital, Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) and was originally minted in large silver coins. However, the Kurus were not as popular among Saudi residents as other currencies such as the Maria Theresa thaler.
The Hejaz riyal
The Hejaz riyal was the original currency used in Saudi Arabia when the kingdom was known as the Kingdom of Hejaz. The riyal was introduced in 1916 by the royal decree of King Hussein bin Ali to become the official currency of the Kingdom. The value of one riyal was equivalent to 22 Ottoman kurus. The Hejaz riyal was made up of subunits known as qirsh, with 1 riyal being equivalent to 20 qirshes. This currency was minted exclusively in coinage and was issued in 20, 10, 5, 1, a quarter, a half, an eighth qirsh and 1 dinar denominations. The 20, 10, and five qirsh coins were issued in silver coins while 1 dinar coins were minted on gold coins. One, half, quarter, and eighth qirsh coins were minted in bronze coins. The Hejaz riyal was replaced in 1925 by the Saudi riyal at par.
The Saudi riyal is the official currency used in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is abbreviated as SAR in the international money markets. The Saudi riyal is made up of subunits known as halalas where 1 riyal is equivalent to 100 halalas. Introduced in 1925, the Saudi riyal replaced the Hejaz riyal at par. The issuance and circulation of the Saudi riyal are regulated by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority. In 1986, the Saudi riyal was pegged to the SDRs (Special Drawing Rights) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The currency later reverted its peg to the US dollar in December 2007 with 1 USD being equivalent to 3.75 Saudi riyals. The Saudi riyal is issued in coinage as well as in banknotes. The coinage is minted in 2, 1, 0.50, 0.25, 0.10, 0.05, and 0.01 riyal denominations while banknotes are issued in 500, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 riyal denominations.
The Future Monetary Union
Saudi Arabia together with several Arab countries established the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, a regional economic body which proposed to have a common currency to be used among member countries in the future.