Thursday, 2 July 2015

Presidency Coins – Bengal Presidency

                Marudhar Arts

The East India Company established its first factory in the Bengal region in 1633. Several factories were established in Orissa, Bengal and Bihar, and initially they were all administered from Madras. 

In 1698, the Company received rights over Calcutta, a fort was constructed there (Fort William), and in 1715 the Bengal Presidency was created. In 1756, contrary to the instructions of the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud-Daulah, the Company engaged in a major fortification of the Fort and eventually the Nawab laid siege to it and captured it. 

This was the time when the infamous "Black Hole of Calcutta" incident took place. After the Bengal forces captured the fort, some of the captured prisoners escaped, and the officer in charge placed the remaining 146 prisoners in a small 14 x 18 foot room overnight. A significant number perished (the number is not known exactly) from the heat, lack of water and from being trampled in the overcrowded conditions. 

The Company sent reinforcements commanded by Robert Clive, who recaptured the Fort in January 1757. As part of the peace treaty signed after this event, the Company secured from the Nawab the right to strike coins at their own mint in the style of the local issues from Murshidabad.Coinage began in June 1757 and, within a couple of weeks, the Battle of Plassey marked the beginning of the creation of the British Empire in India. After this battle, the Company acquired property rights over a large part of Bengal and a few years later, in 1764, after the Battle of Buxar, expanded their territory to include much of Bihar and Orissa and even parts of modern Uttar Pradesh. 

The basis for the Raj was firmly in place.The East India Company acquired the mint at Banaras from the Raja of Awadh in 1776, soon after the Battle of Buxar. The coins they issued from this mint showed a double regal year, the fixed RY 17 (the RY of the first British issues) and then the progressive RY until the death of Shah Alam II in his RY 49. Both Pridmore and KM list only the AH date 1197 on coins bearing the RY date of 25. This coin, however, bears the RY 25 along with an AH date of 1198. In the listings of these coins, Some renowned numismatists and connoisseurs raise a question mark on the mintmarks, indicating that they was not able to determine the mintmarks on the RY 27, AH 1200 coins.

This coin shows the mintmarks clearly, and, in particular, shows that the normal leaf sprig on the obverse is replaced by a five dot mintmark. Further, the cross that had been appearing under the fish on the coins of the previous few years has disappeared here.Shah Alam lost Bengal to the East India Company in 1765 and so issues after that time are British issues. This coin carries a star mintmark on the obverse (more or less in the center).

The later coins from Murshidabad replaced the star mintmark on the obverse with a crescent. This coin seems to be an error coin or a mule. Shah Alarm’s regal year 11 spanned AH 1183-1184 and records RY 11 coins with these two AH date. But this coin has an AH date of 1185! Since AH 1185 was already in Shah Alam's RY 12, this is clearly an error coin or a mule.

Although the mint name on this coin is Murshidabad, it is actually a Calcutta issue. A new mint was opened there in 1790, where machine struck coins like this one were issued. The lack of any privy marks proves that this was one of the initial issues from the mint. Some later coins have oblique left milling on the edge. 

In 1793, production of this type was split into four mints. The privy mark on this coin indicates that it is a Calcutta issue. Additional dots in the centers of the rosettes circled in black indicated Dacca, Murshidabad and Patna. This coin continues to have oblique left milling on the edge.The East India Company acquired the mint at Saharanpur in 1803 and operated the mint for only a couple of years, before shutting it down in 1805. These coins are quite rare and an aficionado/connoisseurs delight.

Marudhar Arts is hosting an Exclusive Coinage Auction which is now live on its website – (Auction No 24) 

We have a colossal repertoire of Exotic Presidency  Coins in Impeccable condition 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.

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