28 Jan

  • By Amanda Ennes
  • In Brazil
  • Comments 1

The Brazilian Real is the official currency of Brazil. It is represented by the sign R$ and ISO 4217 code BRL. Real means ‘royal’ in English. It is a reference to the old currency Brazil used to have during the colonial era.

The Brazilian government implemented the current currency of the country in 1994, after a difficult period of inflation crisis in the country. Since then, the Real had its ups and downs. Nevertheless, the Brazilian economy is among the most important in the world. So, if you are interested in Brazilian history, it is important to learn a bit about the Real, the official currency of Brazil.

Former Currencies in Brazil

Real brasileño moneda de Brasil 1

Throughout history, Brazil had a number of different currencies.

During colonial times, the first currency in Brazil was based on the Portuguese monetary system. At that time, the local currency was already called Real, the same as today. However, after the Proclamation of the Republic, new bills were printed with a new design.

The next Brazilian currency was called Cruzeiro, an hommage to the Cruzeiro do Sul constellation (Crux). It was created in 1942 and it was the first time coins were created in Brazil. After that, the Cruzeiro Novo, established in 1967, used the same notes as Cruzeiro. However, a stamp would show its new value. 

The Brazilian currency would be called Cruzeiro once again three years later, with new banknotes. Over time, the currency depreciated, and the government had to print new banknotes of much greater value.

In 1986, Brazil adopted a new currency, Cruzado. Despite the brand new currency being established, just 3 years later the government created the Cruzado Novo.

After that, a new monetary reform in 1990 brought Cruzeiro back. This would be the third time Brazil adopted Cruzeiro as a currency. Still, the change did not last long and, in 1993, Cruzeiro Real was established.

In July 1994, following nearly two decades of persistently hyperinflation cycles, the Brazilian government finally introduced a new currency to the people, the Brazilian Real. Nowadays, payments in cash are still customary in Brazil and the majority of the population collect their wages in cash.

Banknotes and Coins

real moeda brasileiraThe Central Bank of Brazil is the only institution with the authority to issue banknotes and coins in Brazil.

Since the implementation of the Brazilian real, banknotes and coins had two different series of designs.

The current design went through security enhancements, including size differentiation for banknotes. The new banknotes began to enter circulation in December 2010.

Each banknote in Brazil has a different color. The front of each banknote portrays the effigy of the republic, Brazil’s national personification. At the top right and top left can be seen the note’s denomination. For the back, each note depicts a different native Brazilian animal.

For the coins, the front portrays the effigy of the republic as well, while the back depicts a national hero. The Brazilian coins also have different sizes and colors.

BanknotesNative animal depictedColor
R$1 (no longer produced)Sapphire-spangled emerald hummingbirdGreen
R$2Hawksbill sea turtleBlue
R$5Great egretPurple
R$10Green-winged macawRed
R$20Golden lion tamarinYellow
R$100Dusky grouperCyan
R$200Maned wolfGrey


CoinsNational hero depictedColor
R$0.01 (no longer produced)Pedro Álvares Cabral, Portuguese sea captain and Brazil’s discoverer.Bronze
R$0.05Tiradentes, Brazilian martyr of an early independence movement.Bronze
R$0.10Emperor Pedro I, Brazil’s first monarch.Golden
R$0.25Field Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca, Brazil’s first president.Dark golden
R$0.50Baron of Rio Branco, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs.Silver
R$1The effigy of the republicGolden and silver


If you want to know how your local currency is doing in relation to the Brazilian Real, check the box below.



Join Caminhos Language Centre and learn Brazilian Portuguese in an effective, dynamic, and fun way. We offer you a diverse learning curriculum and cultural immersion in Rio de Janeiro. Small Portuguese group classes facilitate student-teacher interaction.

1 Comment

Leave a Comment