Portuguese escudo

The Portuguese escudo was the currency of Portugal prior to the introduction of the euro on 1 January 1999 and the removal of the escudo from circulation on 28 February 2002. The escudo was subdivided into 100 centavos. The word escudo derives from the scutum shield.

Portuguese escudo
Escudo português  (Portuguese)
Portugal 1 escudo.JPG Portugal 1 escudo 2.JPG
1 escudo (1993)
ISO 4217
SymbolCifrão symbol.svg ($; substituted with ⟨$⟩ when ⟨$⟩ not available)
 Freq. used500$, 1,000$, 2,000$, 5,000$, 10,000$ (2001)
 Freq. used1$, 5$, 10$, 20$, 50$, 100$, 200$ (2001)
Central bankBanco de Portugal
MintImprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda
Inflation2.8% (2000)
 Since19 June 1989
 Fixed rate since31 December 1998
 Replaced by €, non cash1 January 1999
 Replaced by €, cash1 January 2002
This infobox shows the latest status before this currency was rendered obsolete.

Amounts in escudos were written as escudos $ centavos with the cifrão as the decimal separator (for example: 25$00 means 25.00$, 100$50 means 100.50$). Because of the conversion rate of 1000 réis = 1$, three decimal places were initially used (1$ = 1$000).


The currency replaced by the escudo in 1911 was denominated in Portuguese reals (plural: réis) and milréis worth 1,000 réis. The milréis was equivalent to 2.0539 grams fine gold from 1688–1800, and 1.62585 g from 1854–1891. Gold escudos worth 1.6 milréis (or 1$600; not to be confused with the 20th-century currency) were issued from 1722–1800 in denominations of 12, 1, 2, 4 and 8 escudos.

The escudo (gold) was again introduced on 22 May 1911, after the 1910 Republican revolution, to replace the real at the rate of 1,000 réis to 1 escudo. The term mil réis (thousand réis) remained a colloquial synonym of escudo up to the 1990s. One million réis was called one conto de réis, or simply one conto. This expression passed on to the escudo, meaning 1,000$.

The escudo's value was initially set at 675$00 = 1 kg of gold. After 1914, the value of the escudo fell, being fixed in 1928 at 108$25 to the pound sterling. This was altered to 110$00 to the Pound Sterling in 1931. A new rate of 27$50 escudos to the U.S. dollar was established in 1940, changing to 25$00 in 1940 and 28$75 in 1949.

During World War II, escudos were heavily sought after by Nazi Germany, through Swiss banks, as foreign currency to make purchases to Portugal and other neutral nations.[1]

Inflation throughout the 20th century made centavos essentially worthless by its end, with fractional value coins with values such as 0$50 and 2$50 eventually withdrawn from circulation in the 1990s. With the entry of Portugal in the Eurozone, the conversion rate to the euro was set at 200$482 to €1.[2]

Territorial usageEdit

The escudo was used in the Portuguese mainland, the Azores and Madeira, with no distinction of coins or banknotes. In Portugal's African colonies, the escudo was generally used up to independence, in the form of Banco Nacional Ultramarino and Banco de Angola banknotes (rather than those of the Bank of Portugal used in Portugal proper), with Portuguese and in some cases local coins circulating alongside:

Of the above, only Cape Verde continues to use the escudo.

In Macau, the currency during the colonial period was, as it is today, the Macanese pataca.

Timor-Leste adopted the Portuguese Timorese escudo whilst still a Portuguese colony, having earlier used the Portuguese Timor pataca.

Portuguese India adopted the Portuguese Indian escudo for a brief time between 1958 and 1961 before Goa became a part of India; prior to that, it used the Portuguese Indian rupia.


Portuguese 8 gold escudos (1729)
Portuguese 4 centavos, 1917
0$50 of 1926
200$00 of 1991

The mintage period for the various denominations of the gold escudo (worth 1.6 milréis or 1$600) introduced in 1722 was different: 12 escudo through 1821,[3] 2 escudos through 1789,[4] and 4 escudos through 1799.[5] The eight-escudo coin was only struck between 1722 and 1730.[6]

Between 1912 and 1916, silver ten-, twenty- and fifty-centavo and one-escudo coins were issued. Bronze 1c and 2c and cupro-nickel 4c coins were issued between 1917 and 1922.

In 1920, bronze 5 centavos and cupro-nickel 10c and 20c coins were introduced, followed, in 1924, by bronze 10c and 20c and aluminium-bronze 50c and 1$ coins. Aluminium bronze was replaced with cupro-nickel in 1927.

In 1932, silver coins were introduced for 2$50, 5$ and 10$. The 2$50 and 5$ escudos were minted until 1951, with the 10$ minted until 1955 with a reduced silver content. In 1963, cupro-nickel 2$50 and 5$ were introduced, followed by aluminium 10c, bronze 20c and 50c and 1$ in 1969. Cupro-nickel 10$ and 25$ were introduced in 1971 and 1977, respectively. In 1986, a new coinage was introduced which circulated until replacement by the euro. It consisted of nickel-brass 1$, 5$ and 10$, cupro-nickel 20$ and 50$, with bimetallic 100$ and 200$ introduced in 1989 and 1991.

Coins in circulation at the time of the changeover to the euro were:

  • 1$ (0.50 cent)
  • 5$ (2.49 cents)
  • 10$ (4.99 cents)
  • 20$ (9.98 cents)
  • 50$ (24.94 cents)
  • 100$ (49.88 cents)
  • 200$ (99.76 cents)

Coins ceased to be exchangeable for euros on December 31, 2002.

Another name for the 50c coin was coroa (crown). Long after the 50c coins disappeared, people still called the 2$50 coins cinco coroas (five crowns).

Also, people still referred to escudos at the time of the changeover in multiples of the older currency real (plural réis). Many people called the 2$50 coins dois e quinhentos (two and five-hundreds), referring to the correspondence 2$50 = 2500 réis. Tostão (plural tostões) is yet another multiple of real, with 1 tostão = 10 réis.


Counterfeit 500$ note (upper) and a genuine banknote (lower) of Banco de Portugal. Both carry the same serial number of 1K 02201, 1922. On display at the British Museum in London

The Casa da Moeda issued notes for 5, 10 and 20 centavos between 1917 and 1925 whilst, between 1913 and 1922, the Banco de Portugal introduced notes for 50 centavos, 1$, 2$50, 5$, 10$, 20$, 50$, 100$, 500$ and 1,000$. Fifty-centavo and 1$ notes ceased production in 1920, followed by 2$50, 5$ and 10$ in 1925 and 1926. 5,000$ notes were introduced in 1942.

The last 20$ and 50$ notes were printed dated 1978 and 1980, respectively, with 100$ notes being replaced by coins in 1989, the same year that the 10,000$ note was introduced.

Banknotes in circulation at the time of the changeover to the euro were:

  • 500$ (€2.49)
  • 1,000$ (€4.99)
  • 2,000$ (€9.98)
  • 5,000$ (€24.94)
  • 10,000$ (€49.88)

The last series of escudo banknotes can be returned to the central bank Banco de Portugal and converted to euros until 28 February 2022.

Escudo banknotes celebrated notable figures from the history of Portugal. The final banknote series featured the Age of Discovery, with João de Barros, Pedro Álvares Cabral, Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama, and Henry the Navigator.

The last 100-escudo banknote represented Fernando Pessoa, the famous Portuguese writer and poet.

Banknotes of the Portuguese escudo (1995–2000 "Portuguese seafarers & explorers" Issue)
Image Value Equivalent in Euros (€) Main color Obverse Reverse Watermark
[1] 500$ €2.49 Violet and brown João de Barros Allegory of the Age of Discovery João de Barros
[2] 1,000$ €4.99 Purple and brown Pedro Álvares Cabral Sailing ship, animals of Brazil Pedro Álvares Cabral
[3] 2,000$ €9.98 Blue-violet and deep blue-green Bartolomeu Dias; Cruzado coin of Dom João II Sailing ship, compass card, map Bartolomeu Dias
[4] 5,000$ €24.94 Deep olive-green and brown-violet Vasco da Gama Sailing ship, Vasco da Gama with authorities in Calicut Vasco de Gama
[5] 10,000$ €49.88 Violet and dark brown Henry the Navigator (Infante Dom Henrique) Sailing ship Henry the Navigator (Infante Dom Henrique)

Colloquial expressionsEdit

Conto was the unofficial multiple of the escudo: 1 conto meant 1,000$00, 2 contos meant 2,000$00 and so on. The original expression was conto de réis, which means 'one count of réis' and referred to one million réis. Since the escudo was worth 1,000 réis (the older currency), therefore one conto was the same as a thousand escudos. The expression remained in usage after the advent of the euro, albeit less often, meaning €5, roughly worth 1,000 escudos.

Occasionally paus, literally meaning 'sticks', was also used to refer to the escudo ("Tens mil paus?" – 'Do you have 1,000 escudos/sticks?'). During the move from escudos to euros the Portuguese had a joke saying that they had lost three currencies: the escudo, the conto, and the pau.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hayes, Peter (1 April 2015). How Was It Possible?: A Holocaust Reader. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 9780803274914. Retrieved 8 April 2018 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ "Use of the euro". European Central Bank. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  3. ^ Cuhaj 2009, p. 1147.
  4. ^ Cuhaj 2013, p. 1253.
  5. ^ Cuhaj 2013, p. 1254.
  6. ^ Cuhaj 2013, pp. 1254–55.


External linksEdit

Preceded by Portuguese currency
Succeeded by
  1. ^ 1999 by law, 2002 de facto.