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Some of the earliest Cambodia coins belong to the Colonial period. These were followed by the Dark Age and contemporary period. Cambodia did not issue its own currency until 1953 which is after its independence. However, coins from Cambodia were circulated for more than 2000 years – even before the rise of the Angkor Empire in the 9th century.
These old Cambodian coins were found at excavation sites and archaeologists believe many more have yet to be uncovered. The unearthed Cambodian coins are made from several types of metal – copper, tin, silver and gold. Deities, animals (both mythical and real), sun or moon rising and Hindu symbols were depicted on them.
A monetary system in Cambodia was implemented between 1863 and 1953 under the French Protectorate. This system was shared with Laos and Vietnam and three countries together were so-called French Indochina. It was not until after King Norodom Sihanouk achieved full independence from France that Cambodia had its own currency. On December 23, 1954 the National Bank of Cambodia was established who successfully launched the new Cambodian riel. This was in use until 1975 after which the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia, eliminating all money. After the Vietnamese invasion in 1978, the Cambodian riel was re-established as the Cambodian currency in April 1980. Because there was no money for it to replace and a severely disrupted economy, the central government gave away the new Cambodia coins to the populace in order to encourage its use.