The Dutch name gulden was a Middle Dutch adjective meaning "golden", and the name indicates the metal the coin was originally made of gold. The symbol ƒ or fl. for the Dutch guilder was derived from another old currency, the florijn.
The exact exchange rate, still relevant for old contracts and for exchange of the legacy currency for euros at the central bank, is 2.20371 Dutch guilders (NLG) for 1 euro (EUR). Inverted, this gives EUR 0.453780 for NLG 1.
Between 1810 and 1814, the Netherlands was annexed to France and the franc circulated. Following the Napoleonic wars, the Netherlands readopted the guilder and, in 1817, decimalised, with one guilder equal to 100 cents. However, it was not until the 1840s that the last pre-decimal coins (many of which dated back to the 17th century) were withdrawn from circulation, whilst some of the new, decimal coins continued to bear nicknames based on their values in the older currency system through to the 21st century. Until 1948, the plural of cent used on coins was cents, after that it was cent.
The Netherlands was initially on a bimetallic standard, with the guilder equal to 605.61 milligrams of fine gold or 9.615 grams of fine silver. In 1840, the silver standard was adjusted to 9.45 grams, with the gold standard suspended in 1848. In 1875, the Netherlands adopted a gold standard with 1 guilder equal to 604.8 milligrams of fine gold. The gold standard was suspended between 1914 and 1925 and was abandoned in 1936.
Following the German occupation, on 10 May 1940, the guilder was pegged to the Reichsmark at a rate of 1 guilder = 1.5 Reichsmark. This rate was reduced to 1.327 on 17 July of the same year. The liberating Allied forces set an exchange rate of 2.652 guilders = 1 U.S. dollar, which became the peg for the guilder within the Bretton Woods system. In 1949, the peg was changed to 3.8 guilders = 1 dollar, approximately matching the devaluation of the British pound. In 1961, the guilder was revalued to 3.62 guilders = 1 dollar, a change approximately in line with that of the Deutsche Mark.
In 2002 the guilder was replaced by the euro. Coins remained exchangeable for euros at branches of the Netherlands Central Bank until 1 January 2007. Banknotes valid at the time of conversion to the euro may still be exchanged there until 1 January 2032.
The Gold 1 and 2 Ducat and Silver Ducat (rijksdaalder) are still minted today as bullion coins.
In 1817, the first coins of the decimal currency were issued, the copper 1 cent and silver 3 guilder. The remaining denominations were introduced in 1818. These were copper ½ cent, silver 5, 10 and 25 cents, ½ and 1 guilder, and gold 10 guilder. In 1826, gold 5 guilder coins were introduced.
In 1840, the silver content of the coinage was reduced (see above) and this was marked by the replacement of the 3 guilder coin by a 2½ guilder piece. The gold coinage was completely suspended in 1853, five years after the suspension of the gold standard. By 1874, production of silver coins greater in value than 10 cents had ceased, to be only fully resumed in the 1890s. Gold 10 guilder coins were struck again from 1875. In 1877, bronze 2½ cent coins were introduced. In 1907, silver 5 cent coins were replaced by cupro-nickel pieces. In 1912, gold 5 guilder coins were reintroduced but the gold coinage was ended in 1933.
In 1941, following the German occupation, production of all earlier coin types ceased and zinc coins were introduced for 1, 2½, 5, 10 and 25 cents. Large quantities of pre-war type, silver 10 and 25 cents and 1 guilder coins were minted in the United States between 1943 and 1945 for use following liberation.
In 1948, bronze 1 and 5 cents and nickel 10 and 25 cents were introduced. These were followed by reduced size, silver 1 and 2½ guilders in 1954. Nickel 1 and 2½ guilder coins were introduced in 1967 and 1969, respectively. In 1983, the 1 cent coin was demonetised whilst bronze clad nickel 5 guilder coins were introduced in 1987.
At the time of withdrawal, the following denominations of coins were circulating:
All the coins carried a profile image of the Queen on the obverse and a simple grid on the other side. The 1 guilder, 2½ gilder, and 5 guilder coins had 'God zij met ons' ('God be with us') inscribed on the edge.
Between 1814 and 1838, the Netherlands Bank issued notes in denominations of 25, 40, 60, 80, 100, 200, 300, 500 and 1000 guilders. These were followed, from 1846 by state notes (muntbiljetten) in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 guilders, with the 10 and 50 guilders issued until 1914.
In 1904, the Netherlands Bank recommenced the issuance of paper money. By 1911, it was issuing notes for 10, 25, 40, 60, 100, 200, 300 and 1000 guilders. In 1914, the government introduced silver notes (zilverbonnen) for 1, 2½ and 5 guilder. Although the 5 guilder were only issued that year, the 1 guilder notes continued until 1920 and the 2½ guilder until 1927.
In 1926, the Netherlands Bank introduced 20 guilder notes, followed by 50 guilder in 1929 and 500 guilder in 1930. These introductions followed the cessation of production of the unusual 40, 60 and 300 guilder notes during the 1920s.
In 1938, silver notes were reintroduced for 1 and 2½ guilders. During the Second World War, the Netherlands Bank continued to issue paper money, although there were some design changes, most notably, the replacement of a portrait of Queen Emma by a Rembrant portrait on the 10 guilder note. The Allies printed state notes dated 1943 for use following liberation. These were in denominations of 1, 2½, 10, 25, 50 and 100 guilders. More state notes were issued for 1 and 2½ guilders in 1945 and 1949.
Following the war, the Netherlands Bank introduced notes for 10, 20, 25, 50, 100 and 1000 guilders. The last 20 guilder notes were dated 1955, whilst 5 guilder notes were introduced in 1966 (replaced by coins in 1987) and 250 guilder in 1985.
At the time of withdrawal, the following denominations of banknotes were circulating:
At the time of withdrawal, all but the 50 and 250 guilder notes had been issued in a new series that was the same colour as the older, long-serving notes but with a mostly abstract pattern, featuring a different bird for each denomination.
Persons depicted on older banknotes were:
These 1970s "face"-notes and the 80's ƒ50 (sunflower), ƒ100 (snipe) and ƒ250 (lighthouse) were designed by R.D.E. Oxenaar. Eventually all faces were to be replaced by abstracts, designed by Jaap Drupsteen, (see above).
The Chinese translation for "florin" and consequently "guilder" is "盾" (literally shield). It originated from the translation referring to the British florin with its four shields in the 1849 design. This translation was then borrowed to refer similarly to the Dutch florin and guilder. As a result, currencies in the guilder-based Aruba and Netherlands Antilles are still referred to as "盾".