Thursday, 25 June 2015

British India Coins

                        Marudhar Arts

British trading posts in India were first established by the East India Company (EIC) early in the seventeenth century, which quickly evolved into larger colonies covering a significant part of the subcontinent. Early settlements or factories included Masulipatnam (1611) and Madras (1640) in the south, Surat (1612) in the west, and modern-day Kolkata (1698–99) in the east. These colonies gave rise to Madras Presidency, Bombay Presidency, and Bengal Presidency, and each Presidency had a separate coinage and monetary system. In 1835, the EIC adopted a unified system of coinage throughout all British possessions in India and the older Presidency system was discontinued.

Coinage issued after 1857 were under the authority of monarch as India became part of the British Empire. There was a transition period after India gained independence on 15 August 1947, and the first set of republic India coins were issued in 1950.

Coinage under the British can be divided into two periods:
East India Company (EIC) Prior to 1858
Imperial issues struck under direct authority of the crown.
The EIC issues can be further subdivided into two subcategories: the Presidency issues, which comprise separate Madras Presidency, Bombay Presidency, and Bengal Presidency issues
 Imperial issues bear obverse portraits of Queen Victoria (dated 1862–1901), Edward VII (dated 1903–1910), George V (dated 1911–1936), and George VI (dated 1938–1947)


The English East India Company was granted a royal charter by Queen Elizabeth I which allowed trade monopoly with eastern countries including Sumatra, Java, and India. The territories governed by the East India Company were divided into three major administrative regions: Madras Presidency in the south, Bombay Presidency in the west, and Bengal Presidency in the east. Most of the north, however, for a long time continued to remain under the control of the Mughal emperor, and later, local rulers including the Marathas and Rajputs. Each of the three presidencies under East India Company governance issued their own coins until a unified coinage throughout all territories was introduced in 1835. Early presidency issues often imitated local issues and the Mughal design in order to gain wider acceptance by the native population.

Early European style coins were not popular outside jurisdiction of their respective settlements. In spite of having their own mints, the EIC either sent its bullion to the Mughal mints or forged the common coins of the contemporary Mughal Emperor. In 1717, the EIC obtained rights to strike coins in the name of the Mughal emperor Farrukhsiyar on the island of Bombay.


Early gold coinage with Queen Victoria's crowned bust consisted of one mohur coins dated 1862. These coins were of the same weight (11.66 grams = one Tola) and fineness (0.9167) as the EIC issued mohurs. These coins, probably minted between 1866 to 1869, were trade coinage and not recognized as legal tender. A number of varieties (including proofs) are known with minor variations in the reverse and obverse decoration details. 'Victoria Queen' mohurs were also struck with the year 1875, as well as 1870 proof issues with a mature bust of Victoria.

In 1876, Victoria assumed the title of 'Empress of India' and, from 1877, the legend on the obverse of all coins was changed to 'Victoria Empress'. Gold mohurs with the new obverse legend were issued between 1877 and 1891. The mintage of these mohurs for any given date is relatively low, making them considerably scarce. Fractional values of the mohur (nominally valued at fifteen silver rupees) were also struck in denominations of ten and five rupees between 1870 and 1879. Except for a small number of ten and five rupees dated 1870, most of the fractional mohurs were proof issues. Varieties with both the younger and mature busts exist.


Currency and proof issues of the 1862 dated rupee coins have a number of different obverse and reverse die varieties, which are helpful in identification of the mint. The design of the coin, however, remained largely unchanged. From 1863 till 1875, the Bombay mint introduced an unusual system of dots to date the coins. These dots occur on the reverse below the date, above the word 'ONE', or in both positions. From 1874, this practice was halted and coins began to be dated continuously. From this development, it may be inferred that by this time the 'batta' system must have all but disappeared. As with all other Victoria coinage, the title on the obverse was changed from 'Victoria Queen' to 'Victoria Empress' in 1877. Calcutta mint coins usually carry no mint mark or an incused 'C' at the bottom of the reverse. Bombay mint issues are usually marked by a raised bead below the date, or a raised/incused 'B' in the top or bottom flower, with some exceptions. Rupee coins with Victoria's bust were minted until her death in 1901.

Fractional denominations of half rupee, quarter rupee, and two annas were also issued under Victoria's reign. The dot-dating system was not used for these denominations, and is unique to the 1862 dated Bombay rupees. Similar to the rupee coins, the title of Queen was changed to Empress in 1877. The Bombay and Calcutta issues have mint identification marks similar to the rupee issues (no mark or 'C' incused for Calcutta, bead or raised/incused 'B' for Bombay). Different reverse and obverse die varieties are known for each denomination.

Coins of the following denominations were issued:

1/12 Anna
1/2 Pice
1/4 Anna

1/2 Anna

2 Annas
1/4 Rupee
4 Annas
8 Annas
1/2 Rupee
One Rupee
5 Rupees (1/3 Mohur)
10 Rupees (2/3 Mohur)
15 Rupees (Mohur)
30 Rupees (2 Mohur)
British Gold Sovereign, as an emergency war issue, in 1918.

There are many rare coins of this period which interests the coin collectors. The 1939 Rupee is the most expensive rupee, as after 1939 all silver coins effectively became less pure, due to the shortage of silver during the world war. The 1947 Rupee, half rupee, quarter rupee and Anna coins are also of special interest to collectors, since that was the last year British issued coins was circulated in India.

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We have a vast repertoire of exotic and rare British India coins that are featured on the website and are in our possession. To know more about these cisterns of opulent legacies, please visit our website or call us at 080-65329800.