Saudi Arabia’s founder King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman ordered in 1950 the minting of the Saudi guinea, kickstarting the development of the Kingdom’s national currency.
The minting of the guinea was linked to the formation of the Aramco oil company and the aftermath of World War II.
Aramco employees were initially paid their wages in the form of ten pounds of silver, or 4.5 kgs. In 1932, the company issued paper currency known at the time as Aramco coupons.
Saudi currency expert Mohammed Amer al-Harbi told Asharq Al-Awsat that when wages were paid in pounds of silver, Aramco had to transport, store, count and protect around 60 tons of silver a month for its employees. The silver was transported in convoys of trucks, it took a massive amount of manpower to load and then unload the trucks and to count the silver.
In 1933, a Concession Agreement was signed between Saudi Arabia and the Standard Oil Company of California (SOCAL). The Kingdom demanded that its shares of the oil profits be paid strictly in gold coins.
In the 1940s, and due to WWII, the world witnessed a shortage in the English pound, forcing Aramco between 1946 and 1947 to mint currencies in Philadelphia in the United States to pay Saudi Arabia the cost of the oil. The currencies, known as Aramco dollars, matched the pound in quality.
Al-Harbi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Aramco dollars ranged from one to four dollar notes. Years later, King Abdulaziz would develop the currency into the Saudi guinea.
The Aramco coupons would eventually transform into the Kingdom’s currency. Pilgrims' Receipts were printed in 1952 to facilitate the procedures of Hajj pilgrims. They eventually spread throughout the Kingdom and were used as local currency as well.