Two Shillings, Silver, Coin Type from British West Africa - detailed information

Two Shillings, Silver, Coin Type from British West Africa (issued 1913 - 1920)
Coin TypeTwo Shillings, Silver

The Two Shillings coin was the largest circulating denomination of the British West African Pound. As with its British counterpart (called a Florin), two shillings were equal to 24 pence, or to one tenth of a one pound.

In the 19th century, the (pre-decimal) pound sterling became the currency of the British West African territories and standard issue United Kingdom coinage circulated for a while. The West African territories in question were Nigeria, the Gold Coast (now Ghana), Sierra Leone and The Gambia.

In 1912, the authorities in London set up the West African Currency Board and issued a distinctive set of sterling coinage for use in British West Africa. The circumstance prompting this move was a tendency for existing UK coins used in the West African territories to leave the region and return to the UK, hence causing a local dearth of coinage. A unique British West African variety of the sterling coinage would not be accepted in the shops of Britain and so would remain in circulation locally.

Consequently, the British West African two shillings were made very different from their Imperial counterparts. Apart from changing to base metals earlier than the Imperial coinage, two visible differences were the local reverse and the fact that the monarch's effigy on the obverse was crowned - to signify the status of the coinage as being colonial. The monarch's legend though was the same as on standard British coinage (in Latin).

There were three types issued:
- silver coins - 1913 - 1920 (first sterling, then debased in 1920), for King George V
- tin brass coins - 1920 - 1936, for King George V
- nickel brass coins - 1938 - 1952, for King George VI

No 2 shilling coins were issued for King Edward VIII or Queen Elizabeth II in British West Africa.

The British West African pound was also adopted by Liberia in 1907, replacing the Liberian dollar, although it was not served by the West African Currency Board. Liberia changed to the U.S. dollar in 1943. Togo and Cameroon adopted the West African currency in 1914 and 1916 respectively when British and French troops took over those colonies from Germany as part of World War I.

After decolonisation, the coins were replaced by the various new countries as they introduced their own independent currencies:
- Nigeria introduced the Nigerian Pound in 1958
- Ghana introduced in Ghanaian Pound in 1958
- British Cameroon (on unification with Cameroon) adopted the Central African CFA Franc in 1961
- Sierra Leone introduced the Leone in 1964
- Gambia introduced the Gambian Pound in 1965

In some places, British West African coins circulated in parallel with the new coinage until 1968.

British West Africa / Two Shillings, Silver - obverse photo

Crowned and draped bust of King George V facing left (crowned effigy by Sir Bertram Mackennal); the King is wearing the Imperial Crown and the ermine Robe of State, the Collar of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and the Badge of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath. The artist's initials BM are on the bust truncation.

Around, the monarch's legend ยท GEORGIVS V D. G. BRITT: OMN: REX F. D. IND: IMP:. Translated from Latin: George the Fifth, by the Grace of God, King of all the Britains, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.

Obverse Inscription GEORGIVS V D. G. BRITT: OMN: REX F. D. IND: IMP:
British West Africa / Two Shillings, Silver - reverse photo

At centre, dividing the date [year], is a palm tree. Around above, outside a circle broken by decorative extensions adjacent to the date, the legend BRITISH WEST AFRICA; around below, the value and denomination TWO SHILLINGS.

EdgeMilledEdge InscriptionNone

In 1912 a West African Currency Board was established to arrange for the production and supply of coins (small denomination coins had already been issued starting 1907).

The first issue of silver, in the denominations 3 pence, 6 pence, shilling and 2 shillings, was struck at the Royal Mint, London in 1913, and made legal tender in Nigeria, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Gambia by a local Currency Act dated 26 June 1913.

1913 was also a year when a large crop of cocoa valued at almost 2 1/2 million pounds saw a great demand for silver coins. In addition to 889,000 pounds of West African silver (all the Royal Mint could strike) an additional 539,700 pounds of Imperial silver coin was needed. Such fluctuation in demand made the provision of a silver coinage very difficult.

During World War I 530,000 pound of silver coin was returned to Britain for sale as bullion to raise internationally accepted forms of money.

Interest in the production of a silver coinage led to the request for the provision of proof and specimen sets for official commemorative gifts. Sets containing two coins of each denomination were struck in proof quality while single coin sets were made out of selected uncirculated specimens.

References to additional information:

[Book] Remick, Jerome. 1971. The Guide Book and Catalogue of British Commonwealth Coins, pp 87-95.
[Book] Vice, David. 1983. The Coinage of British West Africa & St. Helena 1684 - 1958.

Royal Mint
Royal Mint
Two Shillings, Silver: Details
CountryBritish West Africa
CurrencyBritish West African Pound
Sub-type ofTwo Shillings
Face Value2 (x Shilling)
CurrentNo (demonetised 1968)
Material0.925 Silver
TechnologyMilled (machine-made)
OrientationMedal Alignment (Axis 0)
Size28.3000 mm
Mass11.3100 g
Two Shillings, Silver: Photos
Two Shillings, Silver: Photo Coin - 2 Shillings, British West Africa, 1919 Coin - 2 Shillings, British West Africa, 1919
Copyright: Museums Victoria / CC BY
Two Shillings, Silver: Photo Coin - 2 Shillings, British West Africa, 1919 Coin - 2 Shillings, British West Africa, 1919
Copyright: Museums Victoria / CC BY