Photos: Checkout Nigerian Currency From Past To Present… Including Cowries, Trade By Barter & Others!

As a nation, Nigeria has come a long way, from the days of the colonial masters when their currency was the only thing allowed for buying and selling, to this period when our own Naira is the legal tender.



Before the colonization and subsequent creation of the place we now know as Nigeria, inhabitants of the land were known to execute their businesses with the help of ‘currencies’ like cowries, exchange of salt, animals and farm produce and also textiles, in an act known as trade by barter. The west African Currency Board was responsible for issuing currencies (which included banknotes and coins) from the year 1912 to 1959. The currencies in circulation then were pounds, pence and shillings.
In 1959 the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) started issuing the Nigerian currency notes, and in 1962, the legal tender was officially changed again. Following the Nigerian civil war, the currency was again changed in 1968 as a war strategy, and in 1973, the naira and kobo became the official legal tender. takes you down memory lane and presents a brief history of Nigeria’s currency in pictures:

1. Cowries
Cowries were used for buying and selling before banknotes and coins were introduced into the Nigerian economy. Payment of cowries was mostly made in cups or in bags.


Cowries were used as currency exchange before the introduction of banknotes and coins


2. Trade by barter (exchange of farm produce, animals, textile, copper, etc)

This system was adopted by people who lived in the same locality, and it involved giving what you had in exchange for what you needed. This exchange occurred mostly between individuals and their deities, and between friends and neighbours.




Goods were exchanged in return for other goods and services


3. The Nigerian shillings issued in 1958/1959

Even though this denomination is no longer in use in present day Nigeria, the shilling is the legal tender in Kenya and Uganda. If you happen to have about 5000 Shillings, you’d be N15,000 richer in Kenya and just about N400 richer in Uganda.


A front and back view of the five Shillings note


4. The Nigerian pound issued in 1967:

Just in case you didn’t know before or you may have forgotten, this is a reminder that the legal tender in Nigeria used to be the pound. Right now, anyone who possesses a large amount of this currency might be regarded as a rich person, judging by the current exchange rate of the pound to the naira, which is pegged at N565 to £1.



This was in circulation 1967


5. Another five shilling note issued in 1968

As a war strategy, the shillings notes were changed to reflect different colours. While the banknotes were changed, the coins remained unchanged and in circulation.


A front and back view of the ‘new’ five Shillings note


6. One pound notes were reintroduced in a different colour in 1968

All the pound notes had their colours changed, including the five pound notes.


One pound notes with different colours were circulated in 1968


7. 50 kobo was introduced in 1973,

and taken off the market in 1978 Just five years after the fifty kobo note was first circulated in Nigeria, it was decided that it should be taken off the market. The nickel-plated coins for the same denomination were introduced in 1989 and eventually withdrawn from the market in 2007.


The Fifty Kobo notes were introduced in 19


8. The one Naira note:

The one Naira note was introduced in January, 1973, by the Central Bank of Nigeria.


The front and back view of the one naira note


9. The five Naira note: The five Naira note was first introduced in 1973,

The green-coloured note bore the engraved portrait of Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa who was the first prime minister of Nigeria. In 1984, the colours of the note were changed to mauve (a mix of pink and purple), and in 2007, the notes were changed from paper to polymer notes.


The old five Naira note, the back of the note shows the Nkpokiti dancers from South Eastern Nigeria


The new polymer notes were circulated in 2007 and have remained in the market, even though the money itself may


Five Naira polymer note


10. The ten Naira note:

The 10 Naira note was also issued first in 1973, and is engraved with the portrait of Dr Alvan Ikoku, an educator and politician. The back is engraved with a picture of Fulani milk maids from northern Nigeria.


Front and back view of Alvan Ikoku


11. The 10 Naira note;

was reintroduced as polymer notes in 2007, and have remained in circulation.


Ten Naira polymer note


12. The 20 Naira note:

The 20 Naira note was first introduced as paper notes in 1973, and shows the engraved portrait of General Murtala Muhammed, a former Nigerian military ruler. The notes were eventually changed to polymer notes in 2007.


The old twenty Naira note


The polymer notes are still in circulation till date, the back of the polymer shows Ladi Kwali, a popular female potter.



Twenty Naira Polymer note


13. The 50 Naira note:

The 50 Naira note was the highest denomination in 1991 when it was first introduced into the Nigerian market. The back of the banknote depicted farmers working hard at their farm.


Old fifty Naira note


The note was later changed to polymer in 2007, and the back was later changed to depict fishermen holding their big catch.



Fifty Naira polymer note


14. The 100 Naira note:

The hundred Naira note was first introduced in December 1999. The note shows the engraved portrait of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a former premier of the western region. The back shows the popular Zuma rock, located in Niger state.


old hundred Naira note


The 100 Naira note was eventually changed on November 12, 2014 in commemoration of Nigeria’s 100 years of existence. The colour of the note was changed and the back was changed from Zuma rock to traditional dancers showing off their skills. The note also features a QR code which launches a website about Nigeria’s history when scanned (bet you didn’t know this)


new 100 Naira note


15. The 200 Naira note:

The 200 Naira note was introduced in 2000, and shows the engraved portrait of Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, the first Premier of Northern Nigeria. The back shows Pyramid of bags of agricultural commodity, fruits, vegetables, cattle and livestock farming. This probably refers to those early days of trade by barter, or shows that Nigeria is a country that is rich in agriculture.


The 200 Naira note


16. The 500 Naira note:

The 500 Naira note was introduced in 2001, and shows the engraved portrait of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The back shows a picture of an offshore oil rig (why not? Nigeria is known for its oil after all).



The 500 Naira note


17. The 1000 Naira note:

The 1000 Naira note was introduced in 2005, becoming the highest denomination of the nation’s currency. It is also the only Nigerian banknote that has the engraved portrait of two prominent Nigerians, Alhaji Aliyu Mai Bornu and Dr. Clement Isong, who were the first and second indigenous Governors of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The back shows a picture of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s corporate Head Office in Abuja.


One thousand Naira note


So far, only the polymer notes have the three major Nigerian languages, Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba, inscribed on them. They are also the only notes bearing the Nigerian flag.

18. The ‘coins era’:

There was a time when coins were the ‘it’ thing. The Pence were mostly made from Gold, while the Shillings were made from Silver. These days they have become ‘extinct’ and even the Central Bank of Nigeria tried to bring them back into circulation with the introduction of the N2 coin, it didn’t catch on as the value of the Naira has been on a steady decline.



These coins were used in Nigeria, including the shillings and pence


These coins below could be called the ‘big boys’ of the Nigerian coins, as they were introduced much later in 2007. The 50 Kobo coin was made from the Nickel, the N1 coin was made from Brass plated steel, the N2 coins were made with Copper plated Steel.



The ‘new era” coins

How much about these currencies can you remember? With the present economic recession in the country, which of these currencies would you prefer to be using as a Nigerian?

Don’t Forget To Drop Your Answers In The Comment Box Below…


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