Information on Exchange Rates of Africa, Asia, and Australasia

Explanation of Exchange Rate

You have asked for the exchange rate between the United States dollar and a currency of Africa, Asia, or Australasia for a given year or years. The exchange rate is the price of the U.S. dollar in terms of the foreign currency: the number of units of foreign currency that it took to buy one dollar, or that one obtains in exchange for one dollar. A higher exchange rate denotes a stronger dollar; the dollar has appreciated (gained value) compared to the foreign currency. For example, considering Australia, the dollar appreciates from A£ 0.22 (0.22 Australian pounds) in 1930 to A£ 0.28 in 1931. A lower exchange rate denotes a weaker dollar; the dollar has depreciated (lost value) relative to the foreign currency. Again considering Australia, the dollar depreciates from A$ 1.47 (1.47 Australian dollars) in 1993 to A£ 1.37 in 1994.

The importance of the exchange rate is that it enables conversion of a foreign price or value into dollars, and also a dollar price or value into the foreign currency. The foreign magnitude is divided by the exchange rate to obtain the dollar equivalent; because the inverse of the exchange rate is the number of dollars per unit of foreign currency. For example, for Australia in 1930, the inverse exchange rate, 1/( A£ 0.22) = $4.5455, is the number of dollars per Australian pound. An Australian good that cost A£ 100 in that year would also be worth A£ 100 x $4.5455 = $454.55. Similarly, a dollar price or value can be expressed in Austrian currency by multiplying the dollar magnitude by the exchange rate.

Foreign Currencies

Dollar exchange rates from 1913 (subject to data availability) are provided for all African, Asian, and Australasian currencies for which Federal Reserve publications provide at least one annual exchange-rate observation in the 1946-1999 period, except that Iran is excluded. The criterion is fulfilled by 16 countries: one African country (South Africa), one Middle Eastern (Israel), two Australasian (Australia, New Zealand), the three Asian giants (China, India, Japan), the four Asian “tigers” (Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan) and five other Asian (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand). The data are annual averages of daily exchange rates. Federal Reserve publications are the primary data source; but their coverage is insufficient. Therefore the International Monetary Fund is used as a secondary source.

There are two important respects in which the Fund exchange-rate data differ from those of the Federal Reserve. First, the market of quotation is New York for the Federal Reserve but the major financial center of the foreign country (for example, Tokyo for Japan) for the Fund. Second, while the Federal Reserve data are always market rates, the Fund data are unambiguously market rates only since 1974. Prior to that year, the data are the fixed exchange rate (par value or central rate) if such a rate has been agreed with the Fund, a market exchange rate otherwise.

Changes in Currency Units

Of the 16 countries, five--Australia, China, Israel, New Zealand, and South Africa -- underwent substantive changes in currency unit during the period spanning the observations for the country (the changes for Malaysia were purely nominal). The currency unit for the exchange rate in a given year is the unit in existence for that year. When a new currency unit is instituted at any time other than January 1, the exchange rate is expressed in the unit ruling during the greater part of the year; the full-year exchange rate experience is incorporated (data permitting), via conversion of the unit pertaining to the lesser part of the year. For example, the Australian monetary unit switched from the Australian pound to the Australian dollar on February 14, 1966. For most of 1966, the Australian dollar was the monetary unit; therefore the exchange rate is expressed as the number of Australian dollars per (U.S.) dollar. Specific changes in currency units for each country are as follows.

Australia: On February 14, 1966 the Australian dollar replaced the Australian pound as the monetary unit, where 2 Australian dollars = 1 Australian pound. The exchange rate is expressed as Australian pounds per dollar in 1928-1965 and Australian dollars per (U.S.) dollar in 1966‑1999.

China: Federal Reserve quotations for old yuan ended on April 8, 1933; quotations for "new"  yuan began on April 10, 1933. On August 19, 1948 the Kuomintang government changed its currency unit to the new gold yuan, at the rate 1 new gold yuan = 3,000,000 "new" yuan. As the Communists captured cities from the Kuomintang in 1949, they offered to convert gold yuan notes to People's Currency for limited periods. The most important conversion was in Shanghai, May 30 - June 5, during which probably over half the total gold yuan notes outstanding were exchanged for People's Currency, at the rate 1 yuan People's Currency = 100,000 new gold yuan. On March 1, 1955 the new People's Currency succeeded the (old) People's Currency as the currency unit of China at the rate 1 yuan new People's Currency = 10,000 yuan (old) People's Currency. The exchange rate is expressed as old yuan per dollar in 1922-1932, "new" yuan per dollar in 1933-1941, and (new People's Currency)-yuan per dollar in 1981-1999.

Israel: On February 22, 1980 the shekel replaced the Israel pound as the monetary unit, where 1 shekel = 10 pounds. On September 4, 1985 the (old) shekel was succeeded by the new shekel, where 1 new shekel = 1000 old sheqalim. The exchange rate is expressed as pounds per dollar in 1948-1979, old sheqalim per dollar in 1980-1985, and new sheqalim per dollar in 1986‑1999.

Malaysia: On August 27, 1951 quotations switched from the Straits Settlements dollar to the Malayan dollar, where 1 Malayan dollar = 1 Straits Settlements dollar. On June 12, 1967 the name of the Malaysian currency was changed to the Malaysian dollar and on August 21, 1975 to the ringgit. The exchange rate is expressed as Straits Settlements dollars per US dollar in 1921‑1951, Malayan dollars per US dollar in 1952-1966, Malaysian dollars per US dollar in 1967-1975, and ringgit per dollar in 1976-1999.

New Zealand: On July 10, 1967 the New Zealand dollar replaced the New Zealand pound as the monetary unit, where 2 New Zealand dollars = 1 New Zealand pound. The exchange rate is expressed as New Zealand pounds per dollar in 1928-1967 and New Zealand dollars per (U.S.) dollar in 1968-1999.

South Africa: On February 14, 1961 the rand replaced the South African pound as the South African monetary unit, where 2 rand = 1 South African pound. The exchange rate is expressed as South African pounds per dollar in 1928-1960 and rand per dollar in 1961-1999.

Other Information

In some cases averages were calculated from data for only a portion of the year, or there was a change in the nature of the exchange rate (for example, between the official and free rate). For details, please see the source publications below.


The source for the exchange-rate series of Africa, Asia, and Australasia is Lawrence H. Officer, “Exchange Rates,” in Susan B. Carter, Scott S. Gartner, Michael Haines, Alan Olmstead, Richard Sutch, and Gavin Wright, eds., Historical Statistics of the United States, Millenial Edition, vol. 5 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006). International Monetary Fund data are used for Indonesia, Israel, and the Philippines; Federal Reserve data for all other countries.

Detailed information on the source data is in (1) publications of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System: Banking and Monetary Statistics 1914-1941 (Washington, DC, 1943), Banking and Monetary Statistics 1941-1970 (Washington, DC, 1976), Annual Statistical Digest 1970-1979 (Washington, DC, 1981), Federal Reserve Bulletin, various issues; and in (2) publications of the International Monetary Fund: International Financial Statistics, Yearbook, monthly, and CD‑ROM, various issues; and International Financial Statistics: Supplement on Exchange Rates, Supplement Series No. 9, 1985.

Information on changes in currency units is taken from the above Federal Reserve publications; International Monetary Fund, International Financial Statistics, various Yearbook and monthly issues, and Twenty‑Seventh Annual Report on Exchange Restrictions, 1976, p. 305; B. R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics: Africa and Asia (New York: New York University Press, 1982), p. xv; and Tadao Miyashita, The Currency and Financial System of Mainland China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1966), pp. 57, 65-68.

Lawrence H. Officer
Professor of Economics
University of Illinois at Chicago


Lawrence H. Officer, "Exchange Rates Between the United States Dollar and Forty-one Currencies",, 2007.

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