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ISO Currency codes

About abbreviations

There are a lot of currencies in the world. A few have special symbols to represent them but most use the first letter of the currency name - currency code. Although the first letter of the currency describing a local currency, in an international context it leads to confusion. Does P20 mean 20 Pesetas, Pesos, Pounds, Pataca, Pa'anga or something else? And if it means 20 Pesos, are they Argentinian Pesos, Bolivian Pesos, Chilean Pesos, Colombian Pesos, or some other variety of Peso? For this reason there is an standardized way of referring to each currency.

Although there are special symbols for some currencies. Sometimes it is difficult to use them in e-mail, news postings or on web pages. For this reason we need a method of representation that passes unchanged and without difficulty in all of these media.The solution, long used by the international banking community, is the ISO 4217 set of currency abbreviations.

ISO 4217

ISO 4217 (Codes for the Representation of Currencies and Funds) defines three-letter abbreviations for each world currency. The general principle used to construct these abbreviations is to take the two-letter abbreviations defined in ISO 3166 (Codes for the Representation of Names of Countries) and append the first letter of the currency name (e.g., USD for the United States Dollar).

In the case of currencies defined by supra-national entities, ISO 4217 assigns two-letter entity codes starting with "X" to use in place of country codes (e.g., XCD for the Central Caribbean Dollar). Codes beginning with "X", among others, are reserved for special purposes. For example, XAU is used to indicate the "exchange rate" for gold (usually USD per ounce), and XPD, XPT and XAG correspond to palladium, platinum and silver, respectively (the pattern here being that the last two letters correspond to the atomic symbol of the chemical element). XDR refers to the International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Rights. Other codes are used, for example, for specific currency trading purposes, such as USN for United States dollar (next day), and USS for United States dollar (same day).

Using of Currency Abbreviations

Depending upon whether you are using e-mail, news or the web, some currency symbols may be used but many others should not be used. The long answer is rather complicated. The short answer is: In e-mail and news, the only currency symbol that may safely be used is $ (the dollar symbol). To express a value in any other currency you should use the ISO 4217 three-letter currency abbreviation (e.g., GBP 10 for ?10).

Common Currency Abbreviations

The currency abbreviations that are most commonly seen, and required in E-mail and news, are those which have symbols in the ISO 8859/1 (Latin 1) character set.These are:

USD - United States Dollar ($). The only currency symbol that can safely be used in E-mail and news.

GBP - Pound Sterling [United Kingdom Pound]. The use of "GB" for "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" surprises some people. However, the United Kingdom and the Ukraine both wanted "UK" so rather than start World War III over the matter, the United Kingdom was assigned "GB" and the Ukraine was assigned "UA."

UKP - An incorrect abbreviation for the Pound Sterling (use GBP instead)

ITL - Italian Lira (?)

JPY - Japanese Yen (?)

Changing Countries and Currencies

The world is in constant flux.Countries change their names or split into two or more smaller countries or merge with another country. Some "countries" given country codes by ISO 3166 are colonies or dependencies of other countries.

Currencies are revalued without a change of name or revalued with a change of name or change name without being revalued. Countries may adopt the currency of another country or stop using the currency of another country and create their own currency. In some countries other currencies, besides the official currency, circulate and are accepted.

Some countries (mainly colonies and dependencies of other countries) have currencies which are theoretically different from their parent country but which are actually pegged at a 1:1 exchange ratio. All that really changes is the wording and pictures on the banknotes. E.g., the Falkland Pound (FKP) is theoretically a different currency to the Pound Sterling (GBP) but in practice is pegged at a 1:1 exchange ratio.

In these pages, currencies are listed against a particular country where they circulate, whether those currencies are the official currency of a country or whether they are unofficially acceptable. Because of transitions from one currency to another, currencies are also listed against a particular country if they have circulated in that country in the recent past.

The following European Union countries adopted the Euro at the start of 2002: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Other countries which were previously using one of the superseded currencies also adopted the Euro.

Thus here you can find the list of currency names, the ISO 4217 alphabetc and numeric codes, the symbol and the subdivision for most countries and territories. The list is not official, and the fact that a currency is listed as being used in a certain region does not mean that the currency is an official currency for that country (although it usually is). Some currencies circulate and are acceptable in some countries even though they are not the official currencies of those countries.