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Indian subcontinent and coins have a close relation. Be it those beautifully engraved golden coins or the modern bitcoins, India’s monetary transformation is indeed phenomenal. But have you ever wondered how exchanges took place when the Britishers entered the finance arena?
Happened on 5th October 1676
The story of money has been an integral part of the glorious history of India. From a generation when the barter system existed to a generation where bitcoins and digital currency have taken people by surprise, the journey of money is quite a tedious one. You must have heard your grandma describing those days when one rupee would buy you groceries that lasts for a month. You must have seen those old coins hiding under the old table cloth with engravings that are quite different from what we see today.
When talking about the coins minted in India, we cannot forget the foreign currencies that entered the Indian subcontinent during the era of the British Raj. The saga of British coinage started in 1601 when huge vessels set their sail towards the east with heavy cargoes and silver minted coins worth £6,000, with the Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth I. Once these coins were in circulation, the EIC easily traded with different countries in the east.
When the EIC finally entered the Indian financial arena, it had already acquired the rights to mint its currency and circulate it for trading purposes, and interestingly, these currencies were in circulation until 1947. The beautiful designs engraved in the coins tell a lot about the journey of a band of merchants who initially landed in India as traders but ended up controlling the entire country.
These coins have a unique design that makes them look more regal, and perhaps this is the reason why numismatists and collectors all over the world collect these coins for their research and display purposes. Intricate designs, crafted by the world’s leading experts, the EIC coins amalgamates inspiration from the past and fresh, modern twists from the present.
These coins have a strong connection with India when the East India Company established around 14 mints across the country including Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras. In the early 17th century, small trading posts were initially established in different parts of the country, but gradually they developed into colonies, covering larger parts of the subcontinent. Early settlements included Masulipatnam, Madras, Surat, Kolkata, and these, in turn, gave rise to Madras Presidency, Bombay Presidency, and Bengal Presidency. Though these presidencies initially had different monetary systems, with time the Britishers established a unified system throughout India.
In 1601, Queen Elizabeth instructed The Royal Mint to make silver coins worth £6,000, which was solely meant for trade. Monikered as Portcullis Money, these coins found their way into company ships and started their journey towards India. When the EIC finally landed in the Indian subcontinent, they started their trading activities, and finally, in the year 1640, the King of Chandragiri allowed them to mint coins in local style. It was then when the first mint at Fort St. George in Madras Presidency was set up.
Bombay Presidency was the first in India to get its mint in the year 1672. The EIC’s Governor Gerald Aungier allowed the coinage of rupees, pies, and bajruks. Today, the Bombay Mint stands aloof as the India Government Mint, Mumbai. Emperor Farrikhsiyar granted the company to mint coins in Mughal style and these coins were started in 1717 in Bombay Mint.
The famous Battle of Plassey gave the company a chance to establish Calcutta Mint, thus, securing the authority of the Nawab of Bengal to mint gold and silver coins in the local style of Murshidabad from 1757.
The year 1765 brought with it the era of siccas and mohurs. Emperor Shah Alam II appointed the EIC as the Diwani of Bengal, Orissa, and Bihar. They were given the right to collect revenues and settle civil judicial cases. Taking the opportunity, the Calcutta Mint started minting coins under its authority.
Though these coins had elaborate engravings and used expensive metals such as gold and silver, it was soon realised that it was not possible to circulate these coins at large. Sometimes, due to the unavailability of metals and the enormous time that it took to stylise every coin. Finally, local coins were produced that came into use by the local population for their day-to-day lives. These coins featured King William IV.
Upon his death in 1837, Queen Victoria came to power and by 1840, all the mohurs, copper annas, pice, and rupees had the effigy of the queen.
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