Reach for the sky with the banknotes of the land of happiness!

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The land of Gross National Happiness

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a country in South Asia renowned for its monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and spectacular landscapes. It is located in the eastern Himalayan range, landlocked between India and China (Tibet Autonomous Region). Buddhism is the majority religion practiced in the country. The capital and largest city is Thimphu. The local name of the country is Brug-yul, often transcribed Druk Yul and meaning "Land of the dragon". But Bhutan’s originality is its pursuit of happiness through the enhancement of what it calls "Gross National Happiness" or GNH. Around the world, the majority of nations use the value of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to measure the level of wealth of their citizens. In 1972, the 4th king Jigme Singye Wangchuck decided to substitute the GDP by the GNH in ​​order to measure the level of happiness of its inhabitants. This index is based on four fundamental principles, real pillars of the sustainable development of the country: sustainable and equitable socio-economic development, environmental conservation, preservation and promotion of culture and good governance. In recent years, the political regime seems to evolve slowly, but surely, from an absolute monarchy to a parliamentary democracy ...

Banknotes issued by Bhutan

The first banknotes were issued by the Royal Government of Bhutan between 1974 and 1978, an issue that coincided with the coronation of 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. On June 2, 1974, a series of 4 banknotes (Pick # 1 to Pick # 4) of 1, 5, 10 and 100 ngultrum type 1974 was put into circulation followed in 1981 by a second series of 7 banknotes (Pick # 5 to Pick # 11).


Above: front of 100 ngultrum type 1974 with the profile portrait of Jigme Singye Wangchuck. This note from the prestigious Ruth W. Hill Collection was sold for $ 7,050.00 in 2014 at Heritage Auctions (lot #21032).

A new monetary institute

On August 4, 1982, the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan Act was promulgated. The new monetary institute is then responsible for issuing the Bhutanese currency, the ngultrum (1). The third issue put into circulation between 1985 and 1992 uses the 7 banknotes of the second series with some changes ... The banknotes are smaller. Then, on the front, "Bank of Bhutan" is replaced by the "Chairman" signature and on the back the institute "Royal Government of Bhutan" is replaced by "Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan" at the top in the center (see below).


The 1994 issue saw the appearance of a new denomination with a 500 ngultrum type 1994 note issued with two 50 and 100 ngultrum notes. No notable changes with the 2000-2003 issues. The latest and current series of banknotes, started in 2006, sees many changes to the portraits of sovereigns. They are represented with more simplicity and modernity as on the 10 ngultrum type 2006, the 50 ngultrum type 2008 or more recently with the series of commemorative banknotes from 2011 to 2016 with the 100 ngultrum type 2011 or the very last banknote of 100 ngultrum type 2016.


Above: front of the 100 ngultrum type 2011 commemorative banknote. Dimensions: 145 x 70 mm.

Apart from the 100 ngultrum type 1974 banknote, all other Bhutan banknotes are very affordable financially and getting all 37 issued copies into your personal collection will not be too difficult to achieve. So, to start collecting the banknotes of this country, no need to climb the highest mountains in the world, since you now have direct access to all the banknotes in the Numizon catalog ... Have a good trip on the "Land of the dragon" and good discoveries!


(1) The ngultrum is the official currency of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Its origin derives from the Dzongkha "ngul (money)" and "trum", a Hindi word meaning the same thing. The ngultrum is subdivided into 100 chetrum. The currency is currently backed by the Indian Rupee at equal par. As of January 19, 2017, € 1 was worth 72.25 ngultrum and US $ 1 was worth 68.13 ngultrum.

Our sources

  • "Bhutan", Wikipedia.
  • "Bhutan", Banknote Museum.
  • The Banknote Book "Bhutan" by Owen W. Linzmayer.
  • "Bhutan" Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, 1961-present, 17th edition (pages 126 to 130).
  • Photo archive: banknoteworld,, eBay, Heritage Auctions and The Banknote Book.

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