The piastre de commerce was the currency of French Indochina between 1885 and 1952. It was subdivided into 100 cent, each of 5 sapèque.
The name ˈˈpiastreˈˈ, from Spanish pieces of eight (pesos), dates to the 16th century and has been used as the name of many different historical units of currency.
Prior to the arrival of the French in Indo-China in the second half of the 19th century, cash coins similar to those used in the provinces of China circulated in the area that is nowadays known as Vietnam. There was also a silver milled dragon coin and associated subsidiary coinage in circulation. The dragon coin is believed to have been in imitation of the Spanish and Mexican silver dollars which also circulated widely in the region at that time, however the dragon dollars were worth less because the fineness of the silver was less than that in the Spanish and Mexican dollars. In the region that is nowadays Cambodia and Laos, the Siamese coinage circulated and Cambodia had its own regional varieties of the Siamese Tical (Thai Baht).
In 1885, the French introduced a new silver piastre de commerce and associated subsidiary coinage throughout the entire Indo-Chinese colonies in order to increase monetary stability. The piastre was initially equivalent to the Mexican peso. The piastre was therefore a direct lineal descendent of the Spanish pieces of eight that had been brought to the Orient from Mexico on the Manila Galleons. It was initially on a silver standard of 1 piastre = 24.4935 grams pure silver. This was reduced to 24.3 grams in 1895.
In 1946, the North Vietnamese đồng was introduced, which replaced the piastre at par. In 1952/1953, the Lao kip (1952), Cambodian riel (1953), and South Vietnamese đồng (1953) were introduced at par with the piastre. Initially, the paper money bore denominations both in the local currency and the piastre, but coins were denominated in the national units since the beginning. These initially circulated alongside the old piastre currency. The peg of 1 piastre = 10 francs was restored in 1953. The dual denominated notes circulated until 1955 in South Vietnam and Cambodia, and 1957 in Laos.