Thursday, June 13, 2013

Straits Settlements Dollar Year 1904 (4 Die Variety at the Year Inscription)

This blog post was created out of my curiosity.
Recently a  prominent retailer put up a whole lots of 1904 Straits Settlements Dollar on internet site. (a total of >10 coins) and i made the survey to see through if i can find the date variety as stated in catalogue.

Year 1904 Straits Settlements Dollar has total mintage of over 20 millions copies.
4 varieties in the date inscription is known to date.

The Observe are all the same

This is my amateur attempt to describe the difference via pictorial.
(i apologize for the slight rotated pics as the initial loaded pics were rotated as well.)

Variety One: Close 4 in date variety
1. The gap between <0 and 4> is closer than <9 and 0>
2. The height of 4 is parallel with 0

Variety Two: Close high 4 in date variety
1. The gap is closer as the first variety example
2. The height of 4 is higher than 0
Variety Three : Very close 4 in date variety
The gap between the <0 and 4> is even smaller if compared with close 4 varieties above

Variety Four: Wide High 4 in date variety
1. The <0 and 4> gap is wider compared to the above 3 varieties. (almost same space like the <9 and 0> gap)
2. The 4 is higher than the 0

As i stated in the mintage table, not many collectors take note of the varieties here.
However if you have a huge collections for 1904 Straits Dollars, why not search and see if you have all those in your collections.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A High Grade MS65 British Trade Dollar Year 1902 !!??!!

This listing was found on ebay. (when link broken means listing has ended)

It is a NGC graded MS65 British trade dollar.
It is verifyable at NGC coin verification site.

The price quote is standard price for a MS65 coins.
Though NGC must have their reasons for giving a MS65 grade.
Would you be buying this coin??

It may be a MS65 coins, but personally i think the coin is lacking the eye appeals.
I would rather keep a nice lusters coin then this "superbly toned coin."
Nevertheless, i admit that I do have personal liking to a coloured and rainbow toned coin, but not of this type.
This remains a personal opinion.

What you think??

Monday, June 10, 2013

British Trade Dollars as ornamental belt

Have you ever wondered how come there is a little hook attached to some of these silver coins ?

They are mostly for ornamental purpose.

In the land of Borneo Island, the traditional tribes there likes to use these big silver coins as belt. It is used in their traditional dance.

A fine example is like this:

Note of thanks to Mr BK Lau for use of this image.
In the example above, the hook is at the sides --> joined into a belt.

In the example below, the hook is attached at 12 o clock; this type is usually attached to a chain for use as pendent.

And... How about this piece:  An original nice pendent.
Special thanks to Mr Bk Lau (used with consent)

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Origins of Straits Settlements Dollar (Part 1 of 3)

Violent fluctuation of  gold and silver between 1893 to 1896 has raised the necessity to stabilize the value of local dollar (British Trade Dollar) at that time. From 1895-1903, British trade dollar is accepted as the standard silver dollar in Straits settlements as stipulated in the Ordinance 1895.

A committee was appointed by Singapore Chamber of Commerce to enquire into local currency and question of a Gold Standard. The committee however did not enforce any change due to criticism from the Federated Malay States, which was formed in 1895.

The evolution of Malaysia. Source: Wikipedia.
As silver price continue to fall, on 1902, a commission was appointed to consider changing from a Silver Standard to Gold Standard, with the objective of stabilizing the rate of exchange of the silver dollar in London.

The commission noticed that there are NO STANDARD COIN peculiar to the Colony and the neighboring Malay States. Hence, the commission made the following recommendations:
  1. A straits settlements dollar should be introduced of the same weight and fineness as the existing British trade dollar
  2. British, Mexican and other dollars should be demonetized as soon as adequate supply of the new coins was available.
  3. Coinage of the new dollar should cease as soon as sufficient supply was in circulation and its exchange value had reached the value in relation to the gold sovereign that should be settled as the future value of the straits dollar.
The report was made on 17th May 1903, and immediate actions was taken to carry out the recommendations concerning the issue of a straits settlements dollar and eventual plan of bringing the colony to a gold standard.

This marked the birth of the straits settlements dollar. Between 1903 and 1904, a total of 35 million new straits settlements dollars were minted. (Refer mintage table page above)

With regards to the British Trade Dollar
  1. It ceased to be the silver dollar for straits settlements and British Malay colonies from 1903 onwards.
  2. It essentially became the Hong Kong trade dollar only from then onwards.
  3. It also explains the low mintage of 1904 British Trade Dollars of only 690,000 + as the Bombay mint capacity is now focused on minting the new straits settlements dollars
End of part 1.... Continue part 2(specifications of Straits settlements dollars)

British Trade Dollar Year 1907 (A Scarce Year and a few known 1907/7B)

British trade dollar 1907 is a straight forward year.
It has a total mintage of 1,945,726.
This relative low mintage amount makes this a better date / scarce date coin.

It has only two variant - 1907B and 1907/7 B (retooled die according to NGC)

Variety 1 - British Trade Dollar 1907B
Minted by Bombay Mint.
I was quite lucky to have collected few nice pieces of 1907B BTD.
They are among the best coins in the collection.

Nice details overall.
Most UNC normal regular strike silver coins will have grainy surfaces
One way to differentiate these remnants is original or bagmark / surface hairlines is looking at this grains to see if it is incused or raised. (Raised = from the mint, Incused = bagmark / hairlines)

Variety 2 - relatively unknown 1907/7B British trade Dollar
If you go to the British trade dollar mintage table, the lower section table from NGC.
There is a variety from 1907/7B British Trade Dollar
It is most likely a retooled die.

It came up in Mavin auction in Singapore earlier this year (2013). NGC graded.
This picture is taken from Live auctioner covering the auction.
I do not have this coin yet.

It is quite difficult to see the 7 retooled from this pic though.
However a closer examination from NGC pics, showed that the upper bridge of the 7 seems to be broken on the beginning part to the left.
Compare with the sample above, the "7"upper bridge in this retooled coin is shorter than the normal one.
And the normal 7 has a little curve at the head, the retooled one seems to have lost that curve at the beginning.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

British Trade Dollar Year 1904 (Rare and Unique Years with Multiple Variants)

British trade dollar for year 1904 across the all varieties are RARE.
It has a combined mintage of only 648,847 pieces.
Its rarity makes this coin the either 4th or 5th most expensive trade dollar year to own.

It existed in 4 different varieties.
One normal BTD and 3 are overdates varieties.
And all are from Bombay Mint, hence the B mint mark can be seen at the center of the prong.

Variety One: Normal British Trade Dollar 1904 B
This is the normal variety.

This coin is NGC certified XF details.
Higher grade coins then this can be very expensiove due to its rarity

Variety Two: British Trade Dollar 1904 over 3 B
This Variety has the "4" struck over the "3" and can be seen at the 4th digit.
It is retooled from the 1903 die. 
This variety is rare.

This is also NGC graded XF details 1904/03B overdate.
This coin overdate "3" shadow can still be seen very clearly on the shadow

Variety Three: British Trade Dollar 1904 over 0 B
This variety has the "4" struck over the "0" 
This is retooled from a 1900 die
My copy showed the "0" very faintly and can easily miss.
This variety is even rarer.
This is 1904/0 B However, the 0 can only be faintly seen.
There are only a little bit of remnants left.
This is among my collections that needs upgrading to clearer overdate sample piece.

Variety Four: British Trade Dollar 1904 over "898" B
This is the most unique of all the 4 variants.
It is retooled from a old year 1898 die.
Hence due to the cross of a century. It resulted in an overdate over 3 digits.
This variety is extremely rare.
This is NGC graded AU details 1904/898B
The AU grading is quite generous by NGC
8 is seen behind the 9 and 4
The 9 tail can be seen sticking out from the 0

In my next post, will give my hypotheses why 1904 British trade dollar recorded such a low mintage.

Thanks for vieiwng

Sunday, June 2, 2013

British Empire Ordinance Year 1895 on Silver Dollars and Its implications (PART 1)

Indian Currency Committee was formed in 1893 by appointment by the Secretary of State for the colonies to consider the currency in the British Far Eastern  possessions. It made no recommendations regarding the standard currency in the Straights Settlements; however, it did advocate the issue of British dollar for circulation in the Settlements and to other eastern possessions.

In 1894, one year later, The Hong kong Chamber of Coomerce brought up this matter again due to the scarcity of Mexican dollars which has threathened the British trading in the east. It received widespread support from the bankers and others with commercial relations with the Straits Settlements, Hong Kong and including chamber of commerce in London.

Hence by Order in Council dated 2nd February 1895, a new coinned British Trade Dollar became legal tender in Hong Kong, Straits Settlements and Labuan. The opportunity was also taken to review the existing laws regulating the coinages of these british colonies.

By the same Order in Council, also dated 2nd February 1895, all previous monetary laws of the Straits Settlements were repealed and new regulations introduced.

The essences in the Ordinance are:

1. Mexican Dollar still remained the standard coin for trading

Additional dollars were given equal LEGAL TENDER status. These coins were;

A. British Trade Dollar (newly coined from 1895)

B. Hong Kong Dollar coined between 1865-1868

C. Japanese Yen dollars

3. The new order omitted the United States trade dollar, which was previously sanctioned by the Governor's regulation of 1874.  Minting of the US trade dollar had ceased on 19th February 1887, and by this time 1895, it is rarely seen in Far East.

Coins and Coinages of the Straits Settlements and British Malaya 1786 to 1951 by Major F. Pridmore, pg 46-47Spink & Son LTD, London 1968.

British Empire Ordinance Year 1895 on Silver Dollars and Its implications (PART 2)

The Full article on Order of Her Majesty Queen in Council of 2nd February 1895
Page 1
Page 2

The schedule on silver dollars parameters as in the Ordinance

Additional Schedule on other denominations:

Coins and Coinages of the Straits Settlements and British Malaya 1786 to 1951 by Major F. Pridmore, Appendix XXIV; Spink & Son LTD, London 1968.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The History of Trade Dollars in late 1800 and the Birth of British Trade Dollars

Trading in the Late 1800 to Early 1900

The silver British Dollar (commonly called the trade dollar) was born out of commercial necessity. It was issued at a time when the burgeoning trade in the East needed a medium of payment.

At the end of the 19th centuries,  an over-production of silver caused an upset in the goldsilver ratio, an extremely serious situation because many countries in the East used silver to back their currencies. As the price of silver plummeted the shortage of minted dollars became worse. Moreover, it became evident that trade was being dislocated as a result.

Silver price drop in between 1880s to 1910s affected trading

By the time the British dollar made its appearance there were already several other "trade dollars" on the market. The most common of them was the Mexican silver dollar-the famous eight reale,0.900 fine silver coin which was minted as early as 1824. This was followed by the United States trade dollar of 420 grains of 0.900 fine silver minted between 1873 and 1883, the Japanese trade dollar of similar weight and fineness minted between 1875 and 1877, and the French "Piastre de Commerce" which came in two weights, i.e. 27.215 grams (minted between 1885 and 1895) and 27 grams (minted between 1895 and 1928).

The Expansion of British Empire

By the middle of the nineteenth century the British presence in the East was being keenly felt. The Straits Settlements, established to link the now-defunct British East India Company's outposts of Penang, Malacca and Singapore, were beginning to flourish as important centres of trade in the Malay Archipelago. 

In 1842, with the signing of the Treaty of Nanking, China, having lost the Opium War, ceded the "barren" island of Hong Kong to the British in perpetuity and opened up five coastal cities (subsequently called the "Treaty Ports") to foreign trade. In 1859, the Suez Canal was opened, thereby shortening the sea between Europe and Asia by several months. In 1869, Japan was launched in to the golden age of the Meiji period which saw the lifting of restrictions on foreign trade.

It is therefore spawned the problem of finding a suitable currency for the heightened commercial activities. It began to occupy the urgent attention of local authorities who were urged on by merchants-particularly those in the Straits Settlements and Hong Kong- who began sending petition after petition for the introduction of an acceptable coin that would circulate easily in the silver-using countries of the East.It the end, to overcome the real threat of a currency famine, the British government, on the suggestion of the Colonial Currency Committee, approved the minting of a special British dollar for use in the Eastern trade.

The British Trade Dollar

In concept and purpose the British dollar-which came in only one denomination-was exactly the same as the Portcullis money of the early 1600s and was even issued by the same authority, i.e. the Royal Prerogative of the English sovereign.  

The coins was grain-edged, had a diameter of 39 cm and was struck in 26.95 grams (416 grains) of 0.900 fine silver. The dies were prepared by London Royal Mint engraver G W De Saulles. Three mints participated in the minting of the coins - the Indian Government Mints at Bombay and Calcutta as well as the Royal Mint in London.

But unlike the coinage of the realm, the dollar was not given a fixed sterling value; its value fluctuated according to the prices of silver at any given date.

The British dollar was declared legal tender on February 2, 1895 by an Order of Council in the Straits Settlements, Hong Kong and Labuan (off the north-west coast of British North Borneo). Although it was minted till 1935, the British dollar was quite quickly demonetised, fist in the Straits Settlements in 1904 and then in Labuan in 1905. But it continued to remain as legal tender in Hong Kong until 1937, at the outbreak of the second Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45.

After that it lost its legal circulation status and was merchandised. Anyway, the coins struck in 1934 and 1935 were generally not released for circulation.

Original Source : Coin Digest.Ng L.K. Ewe.
Modified with approval from Mr Dickson at