Tally-Ho: The Coin & Note Museum

Tally-Ho is a semi-regular column of my adventures with the Adventure Crew (and sometimes other people). We figured that Singapore can’t be all that boring, and are determined to show other folks how fun Singapore can be… if you know where to look.

The Singapore Coin and Notes Museum was celebrating its first birthday. They have a regular coin-making workshop that’s open to the public, and as part of the birthday celebrations there was an offer on the workshop. I didn’t even know we had a Coin and Notes Museum, so off the Adventure Crew went to Chinatown!

The Museum is tucked away in Chinatown, right in front of the Chinatown MRT station. It’s quite hidden; I actually walked past it and had to double back before I found it. The Museum is in a old shophouse; the first floor is a coffeeshop, so you need to head up to get to the Museum proper!

There’s usually an entrance fee; something like $10 for an adult. But since it was their birthday, we got in free – we only paid for the workshop. Included was a guided tour of the Museum, so that was awesome fun!The Museum itself is quite narrow, but there are three floors to it. We went to the top floor, and out into the little balcony to the workshop area.

Coin making equipment

The coins we were making weren’t actual metal coins. They were plaster molds, which is about halfway through the actual minting process.

Anyway, our equipment was a rubber mould (the white square on the table), water, plaster powder, painting stuff and a towel. We all had to wear masks because of the plaster powder; that stuff is nasty if you inhale it by accident.

All prepped for coin making!

So you mix the plaster powder with water and work out all the bubbles so your dried coin won’t have holes. Then you pour it into the rubber mold. Since we had to wait for it to set, we went on a guided tour of the museum wearing our plastic aprons (because it was easier to leave them on, heh).

The history of money is really interesting. There were examples of pre-money currency, and all sorts of coins and notes from Singapore’s past. We saw Singapore banana notes from World War II, produced during the Japanese Occupation. They were called banana notes because they had banana trees printed on them.

British colonial bill

Big rock placed outside houses to indicate wealth

Along the way, we also got special decorative coins! They start out as blanks, then we put them in the machine and it does all the heavy pressing. Mostly you hear lots of whirring and then your coin comes out from the slot.

Souvenir coin

There were also displays of other uses of coins and notes. Like how at Malay weddings they would fold notes into corsages to show who the ‘staff’ are. I understand that’s no longer the case, since I guess it can get really expensive. Old coins were also used in ‘swords’ that are used in Chinese exorcisms and the like.

Chinese coin sword and Malay wedding corsage with $5 note

There were also commerative coins, like this one that can split up into various pieces. The individual pieces have coinage value, but their value as a collectible outweighs that so yeah, you wouldn’t use it to buy a newspaper.

Splittable commerative coin

There were also commerative coins that look really nice, but also have a bonus surprise – they glow in the dark!

Rabbit coin and F1 coin

And at the end of the tour, we headed back to the workshop area to find our coins. The plaster was mostly dry, and then we could take them out to paint. I thought mine was dry enough, but when I gently popped it out, my coin promptly broke into four pieces. Not just cracked, but broke.

Ah, well. My luck is like that.

I painted my different sections different colors, since it broke into rough quarters. I know it’s garish, but I like my coin :D

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