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Brazilian real

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Brazilian real

Brazilian real
real brasileiro  (Portuguese)
100 reais banknote of the latest series,
announced February 2010. Issued on December 13, 2010.[1][2]
ISO 4217 code BRL
Central bank Central Bank of Brazil
User(s)  Brazil
Inflation 5.91%
 Source Central Bank of Brazil, 2013
 Method CPI
 1/100 centavo
Symbol R$
Plural Reais
 Freq. used 5, 10, 25, 50 centavos, R$1
 Rarely used 1 centavo (discontinued in 2006)
 Freq. used R$2, R$5, R$10, R$20, R$50, R$100
 Rarely used R$1 (discontinued in 2006)
Printer Casa da Moeda do Brasil
Mint Casa da Moeda do Brasil

The real (; Brazilian Portuguese: ; pl. reais) is the present-day currency of Brazil. Its sign is R$ and its ISO code is BRL. It is subdivided into 100 centavos ("hundredths"). In Portuguese the word real means both "royal" and "real".

The modern real was introduced in 1994, when it replaced the old currency, the cruzeiro real, as part of the Plano Real, a substantial monetary reform package that aimed to put an end to three decades of rampant inflation. At the time it was meant to have approximately fixed 1:1 exchange rate with the United States dollar. It suffered a sudden devaluation to a rate of about 2:1 in 1999, reached almost 4:1 in 2002, then partly recovered and has been approximately 2:1 since 2006. The exchange rate as of 16 November 2014 is BRL 2.60 to USD 1.00.

The dollar-like sign (cifrão) in the currency's symbol (both historic and modern), and in all the other past Brazilian currencies, is officially written with two vertical strokes (\mathrm{S}\!\!\!\Vert) rather than one.[3] However Unicode considers the difference to be only a matter of font design, and does not have a separate code for the two-stroked version.[4]


The modern real (plural reais) was introduced on July 1, 1994, during the presidency of Itamar Franco, when Ruben Ricupero was the Minister of Finance, as part of a broader plan to stabilize the Brazilian economy, known as the Plano Real. The new currency replaced the short-lived cruzeiro real (CR$). The reform included the demonetisation of the cruzeiro real and required a massive banknote replacement.

At its introduction, the real was defined to be equal to 1 unidade real de valor (URV, "real value unit") a non-circulating currency unit. At the same time the URV was defined to be worth 2750 cruzeiros reais, which was the average exchange rate of the U.S. dollar to the cruzeiro real on that day. As a consequence, the real was worth exactly one U.S. dollar as it was introduced. Combined with all previous currency changes in the country's history, this reform made the new real equal to 2.75 x 1018 (2.75 quintillions) of Brazil's original "réis".

Soon after its introduction, the real unexpectedly gained value against the U.S. dollar, due to large capital inflows in late 1994 and 1995. During that period it attained its maximum dollar value ever, about US$1.20. Between 1996 and 1998 the exchange rate was tightly controlled by the Central Bank, so that the real depreciated slowly and smoothly in relation to the dollar, dropping from near 1:1 to about 1.2:1 by the end of 1998. In January 1999 the deterioration of the international markets, disrupted by the Russian default, forced the Central Bank, under its new president Arminio Fraga, to float the exchange rate. This decision produced a major devaluation, to a rate of almost R$2 : US$1.[5]

In the following years, the currency's value against the dollar followed an erratic but mostly downwards path from 1999 until late 2002, when the prospect of the election of leftist candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, considered a radical populist by sectors of the financial markets, prompted another currency crisis and a spike in inflation. Many Brazilians feared another default on government debts or a resumption of heterodox economic policies, and rushed to exchange their reais into tangible assets or foreign currencies. In October 2002 the exchange rate reached its historic low of almost R$4 per US$1. The crisis subsided once Lula took office, after he, his finance minister Antonio Palocci, and Arminio Fraga reaffirmed their intention to continue the orthodox macroeconomic policies of his predecessor (including inflation-targeting, primary fiscal surplus and floating exchange rate, as well as continued payments of the public debt). The value of the real in dollars continued to fluctuate but generally upwards, so that by 2005 the exchange was a little over R$2 : US$1. In May 2007, for the first time since 1999, the real became worth more than US$ 0.50 — even though the Central Bank, concerned about its effect on the Brazilian economy, had tried to keep it below that symbolic threshold.

Historical exchange rate (BRL:USD)

Date Rate
1994-07-01 1.00
1994-10-14 0.83
1995-02-15 0.88
1995-12-29 0.97
1996-06-11 1.00
1996-12-31 1.04
1997-12-31 1.12
1998-12-31 1.20
1999-01-12 1.21
1999-01-13 1.31
1999-01-29 1.98
1999-03-03 2.16
1999-04-30 1.66
1999-12-31 1.78
2000-12-31 1.96
2001-05-02 2.23
2001-10-15 2.78
2002-01-25 2.38
2002-04-12 2.27
2002-06-27 2.83
2002-09-30 3.87
2002-10-12 3.93
2002-10-22 3.96
2002-12-27 3.53
2003-02-18 3.61
2003-06-28 2.87
2003-09-30 2.93
2003-12-28 2.93
2004-03-31 2.91
2004-05-23 3.18
2004-06-28 3.10
2004-09-30 2.85
2004-12-28 2.69
2005-02-19 2.56
2005-03-26 2.73
2005-06-28 2.38
2005-09-25 2.26
2005-11-11 2.17
2005-12-28 2.36
2006-03-27 2.15
2006-05-07 2.05
2006-12-29 2.13
2007-11-07 1.73
2008-08-01 1.56
2009-03-03 2.42
2009-10-14 1.71
2010-12-30 1.66
2011-07-23 1.53
2012-03-18 1.79
2012-08-19 2.01
2013-03-31 2.01
2013-07-13 2.26
2013-11-01 2.23
2014-01-23 2.40
2014-02-06 2.40
2014-10-23 2.50


Brazil, and sometimes used in bordering countries, especially Brazil-Uruguay and Brazil-Paraguay borders in which every year millions of Brazilians go shopping at the duty-free stores etc.


First series (1994–1997)

Along with the first series of currency, coins were introduced in denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 50 centavos and 1 real; the 25 centavos piece soon followed. All were struck in stainless steel. The original 1-real coins dated 1994-1997 have been withdrawn from circulation since December 31, 1997; all other coins remain legal tender.

Second series (1998–)

In 1998, a second series of coins was introduced. It featured copper-plated steel coins of 1 and 5 centavos, brass-plated steel coins of 10 and 25 centavos, a cupronickel 50 centavos coin, and a bi-coloured brass and cupronickel coin of 1 real. However, from 2002 onwards, steel was used for the 50 centavos coin and the central part of the 1 real coin.

In November 2005, the Central Bank discontinued the production of 1 centavo coins, but the existing ones continue to be legal tender. Retailers now generally round their prices to the next 5 or 10 centavos.

Second series
Value Design
1 centavo Obverse: The Southern Cross in right upper side.
Reverse: Depicts Pedro Álvares Cabral, Portuguese sea captain and Brazil's discoverer. 16th-century Portuguese ship in the background.
5 centavos Obverse: The Southern Cross in right upper side.
Reverse: Depicts Joaquim José da Silva Xavier (also known as Tiradentes), martyr of early independence movement known as Inconfidência Mineira. In the background, a triangle, symbol of the movement, and a dove, symbol of peace and freedom.
10 centavos Obverse: The Southern Cross in right upper side.
Reverse: Depicts Emperor Pedro I, Brazil's first monarch. In the background, the Emperor on a horse: a scene alluding to the proclamation of independence.
25 centavos Obverse: The Southern Cross in right upper side.
Reverse: Depicts Field Marshal Manuel Deodoro da Fonseca, Brazil's first Republican president. The Republic's coat of arms is in the background.
50 centavos Obverse: The Southern Cross in right upper side.
Reverse: Depicts José Maria da Silva Paranhos Júnior (also known as Baron of Rio Branco), the country's most distinguished Minister of Foreign Affairs. In the background, image of the country with ripples expanding outwards, representing the development of Brazil's foreign policy and the expansion and demarcation of the national borders.
1 real Obverse: The Southern Cross in right upper side.
Reverse: Outer ring depicts sample of marajoara art pattern. In the inner ring, the Efígie da República, symbol of the Republic.

Commemorative coins

The Brazilian Central Bank has also issued special commemorative versions of the 1 real coin on special occasions. These coins are legal tender and differ from the standard ones only on the reverse side.

Value Details
1 real Release date: December 10, 1998
Occasion: The 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Units produced: 600 thousand
Reverse: The official logo of the commemorations; in bas-relief, a human figure. In the outer ring, the inscriptions "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" and "50th anniversary"
1 real Release date: September 12, 2002
Occasion: The 100th birth anniversary of Brazilian ex-president Juscelino Kubitschek
Units produced: 50 million
Reverse: A face portrait of Kubitschek. Vertically, the inscription "Juscelino Kubitschek's Centenary". In the outer ring, images alluding to the columns of the Alvorada Palace, the Presidential residence in Brasília, the city that he decided would be built.
1 real Release date: September 23, 2005
Occasion: The 40th anniversary of the foundation of the Brazilian Central Bank
Units produced: 40 million
Reverse: Image of the trademark Central Bank building, inspired in the official logo developed for the commemorations. In the outer ring, the inscriptions "Brazilian Central Bank" and "1965 40 YEARS 2005"
1 real Release date: August 11, 2012
Occasion: The Olympic Flag Handover for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics
Units produced: 2 million
Reverse: The Olympic Flag in a pole above the official logo of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. In the outer ring, the inscriptions "Olympic Flag Handover" and "London 2012 * Rio 2016"[6]


Original series

In 1994, banknotes were introduced in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 reais. These were followed by 2 reais in 2000 and 20 reais in 2001. On December 31, 2005, BCB discontinued the production of the 1 real banknote, but it remains legal tender.

Real Series [1]
Value Dimensions Description
Obverse Reverse
1 real 140 × 65 mm The Republic's Effigy,
portrayed as a bust
Sapphire-spangled Emerald Hummingbird (Amazilia lactea)
2 reais Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
5 reais Great Egret (Casmerodius albus)
10 reais Green-winged Macaw (Ara chlorepterus)
20 reais Golden lion tamarin (Mico-Leão dourado, Leontopithecus rosalia)
50 reais Jaguar (Onça pintada, Panthera onca)
100 reais Grouper (Garoupa)

Polymer 10 real note

In April 2000, in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Portuguese arrival on Brazilian shores, the Brazilian Central Bank released a polymer 10 real banknote that circulates along with the other banknotes above. The Brazilian Mint printed 250 million of these notes, which at the time accounted for about half of the 10 real banknotes in circulation.

This note contains a more complex design, as follows: Obverse:

  • Image of Pedro Álvares Cabral, the Portuguese sea captain;
  • A representation of the map "Terra Brasilis", one of the earliest drawings of the land;
  • A passage from Pero Vaz de Caminha's letter to King Manuel I of Portugal, the first known description of Brazil;
  • A 16th-century Portuguese Rose of Winds;
  • To the right of the map, five ships from Cabral's expedition appear;
  • In the background, decorative elements from Portuguese tiles can be seen;
  • The white area around the red dot is actually transparent (the red dot is translucent);
  • Finally, also in the background, the Cross from the Order of Christ, which was present in all Portuguese ships of the time, appears.

Reverse: A stylized map of Brazil with photographs depicting the ethnic variety of the Brazilian people (white, black, and amerindian).

New series

Banknotes in the new series

On February 3, 2010, the Central Bank of Brazil announced a new series of the real banknotes which would begin to be released in April 2010. The new design added security enhancements in an attempt to reduce counterfeiting. The notes have different sizes according to their values to help vision-impaired people. The changes were made reflecting the growth of the Brazilian economy and the need for a stronger and safer currency. The new banknotes began to enter circulation in December 2010, coexisting with the older ones.[7][8]

2010, 2011, and 2012 Series
Image Value Dimensions Main Color Description Date of issue Date of first issue Watermark
Obverse Reverse
[2] 2 reais 121 x 65 mm blue Wave pattern; head of República Sea turtle 2010 July 29, 2013 Sea turtle and electrotype 2
[3] 5 reais 128 x 65 mm purple Plants; head of República Great egret 2010 July 29, 2013 Great egret and electrotype 5
[4] 10 reais 135 x 65mm Red Plants; head of República Arara (macaw) 2010 July 23, 2012 Macaw and electrotype 10
[5] 20 reais 142 x 65mm Orange Plants; head of República Mico-Leão-Dourado (golden lion tamarin, Leontopithecus rosalia) 2010 July 23, 2012 Golden lion tamarin and electrotype 20
[6] 50 reais 149 x 70mm Brown Jungle plants; head of República Onça pintada (jaguar, Panthera onca) 2010 December 13, 2010 Jaguar and electrotype 50
[7] 100 reais 156 x 70mm Blue Underwater plants and starfish; head of República; coral Garoupa (grouper) fish; coral 2010 December 13, 2010 Grouper and electrotype 100

"God Be Praised" controversy

Since 1986, Brazilian bank notes contain the words “Deus Seja Louvado” (God Be Praised). In 2012, a federal prosecutor from São Paulo sought a court order to force the central bank to replace the nation’s entire supply of paper currency with bills that do not display these words, arguing that Brazil is a secular state and that this phrase violates the rights of non-Christians and nonbelievers. The Bank responded by stating that the preamble to the Brazilian constitution explicitly states that the democracy was formed “under the protection of God”, and that the state, “not being atheist, anticlerical or antireligious, can legitimately make a reference to the existence of a higher being, a divinity, as long as, in doing so, it does not make an allusion to a specific religious doctrine.”[9]

Current Real exchange rates

See also


  1. ^ Brazil new 50- and 100-real notes confirmed Retrieved 2011-10-20.
  2. ^ Rodrigues, Lorenna (February 3, 2010). "BC lança nova família de notas do real em tamanhos diferentes" [Central Bank to launch new banknote series].  
  3. ^ "Origem do Cifrão". Casa de Moeda do Brasil. 
  4. ^ "C0 Controls and Basic Latin Range: 0000–007F". The Unicode Standard, Version 6.2. The Unicode Consortium. Retrieved 19 September 2013. Unicode 0024 DOLLAR SIGN= milréis, escudo, used for many peso currencies in Latin America and elsewhere, glyph may have one or two vertical bars
  6. ^
  7. ^ Cucolo, Eduardo (December 13, 2010). "Novas cédulas do real devem chegar a todas as capitais em até 48 horas" [New Real banknotes should arrive within 48 hours in all capitals].  
  8. ^ Brazil introduces new 10- and 20-real banknotes on 23 July 2012 Retrieved 2012-07-24.
  9. ^ "Brazil’s Banknotes Still Praise God, for Now", International Herald Tribune, 13 November 2012, see:

External links

  • Brazil's Currency War
  • Images of historic and modern Brazilian bank notes
  • The Invention of the Real (This American Life)
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