Trade Dollar, Coin Type from United Kingdom - detailed information

Trade Dollar, Coin Type from United Kingdom (issued 1894 - 1935)
Coin TypeTrade Dollar

The British Trade Dollar was a form of bullion coinage issued by the United Kingdom and intended to facilitate foreign trade in East Asia.

During the 19th century, the Mexican Dollar had replaced the Spanish Dollar as the chief coin in circulation in Asia. With the extension of British trading interests in the East, especially after the founding of Singapore in 1819 and Hong Kong in 1842, it became necessary to produce a special Dollar so as to remove the reliance of British colonies upon the various foreign coins then in circulation. As early as 1842 the suggestion had been made to issue a special Anglo-Chinese Dollar with value of 1,000 Cash, for general trade with China.

In 1845 copper coinage for the Straits Settlements was sanctioned by the East India Company, and in 1863 Hong Kong also obtained subsidiary silver and copper coinage, all based on the Dollar system.

These so-called "China trade silver dollars", issued much later, were a direct result of the First (1839 - 1842) and then Second Opium War (1856 - 1860), which broke out when Chinese authorities tried to stop Britain from smuggling opium into the country. The loser, China, had to open up a number of ports to British trade and residence, and cede Hong Kong to Britain. In the decades that followed, merchants and adventurers flocked to these areas, and international trade flourished. Foreign banks were established and large silver coins from all over the world began arriving to pay for tea, silk and Chinese porcelain to be shipped abroad. These .900 fine silver trade dollars were then circulated throughout China, where they were readily accepted as a medium of exchange. In 1866 a branch of the Royal Mint was established in Hong Kong and for the next two years struck dollars, half dollars and subsidiary coins. The Hong Kong Mint subsequently failed, but for a short while the Hong Kong dollar satisfied the need for a British trade dollar in the Straits Settlements and Hong Kong.

The years between 1875 and 1895 saw a rapid fall in the price of silver, which apart from disrupting trade also resulted in a serious shortage of minted dollars. To overcome this shortage, approval was given in 1894 for the minting of these British Trade Dollars, for general use in the Far East.

The coins were designed by designed by George William de Saulles and depict on their obverse a the figure of Britannia standing on shore, holding a trident in one hand and balancing a British shield in the other, with a merchant ship under full sail in the background; this is instead of the British monarch as would normally be the case on British coinage, in order to make them acceptable outside the British Empire. On the reverse is an arabesque design with the Chinese symbol for longevity in the centre, and the denomination in two languages - Chinese and Jawi Malay.

In 1895, the British Trade Dollar was given legal status in the British colonies of Straits Settlements, Hong Kong and Labuan. Its circulation in the Straits Settlements and Labuan was of short duration; after the Straits Settlements introduced their own Straits Dollar in 1903, the British Trade dollar was demonetised there in 1904 and 1905 respectively. It became exclusively a Hong Kong coin produced until 1935. Thus, it was known as a Hong Kong Dollar for most of its existence, and was only legal tender in that colony for most of the time; however, most coin catalogues list the coin type either under Great Britain or Malaysia.

The coins were for the most part struck in India, mainly by the Bombay Mint (with mint mark "B") and for three years only by the Calcutta Mint (with mint mark "C"); both were branches of the Royal Mint at the time. The Royal Mint itself also produced some coins in London between 1925 and 1930, with no mint mark. Coins with other dates which have no mint mark were struck in India, and the absence of a mint mark is due to worn dies. The mint mark "C" can be found in the ground between the left foot of Britannia and the base of the shield, while the mint mark "B" is located in the centre prong of the trident.

Note that mintages do not match how available or scarce a coin actually is, for a number of reasons. Prior to 1912, the accounting year of the Indian mints was from the 1st of April until the 31st March of the next year, so the mintages in their reports to not correspond exactly to the dates struck on the coins. The Royal Mint started striking coins dated 1925 and continued to use the same dies until they were replaced halfway through 1930. The 1921-B dollar was struck but never released for circulation, and only a limited number of 1934-B and 1935-B coins were released. A great many coins were melted in China.

In some cases, the date on an already manufactured coin die was altered. As this could not be done without leaving a trace of the former date, some coins show traces of an older date below the clearly visible date (so-called "overdate" varieties). Many of the genuine dollars are found with "chop marks" - small Chinese ideographic marks punched by local banks and counting houses to signify a coin was checked by them and they guarantee its authenticity. The practice was prohibited in Hong Kong and eventually fell into disuse. These marks are considered to not detract from the value of the coin; on the contrary - many collectors appreciate them as a piece of history.

The British Trade Dollar was finally demonetised in Hong Kong on 1 August 1937.

Obverse
United Kingdom / Trade Dollar - obverse photo

Surrounded by an "Oriental"-style border with a "key" pattern, the obverse of the coin shows the standing figure of Britannia - the female personification of Great Britain, holding a trident in one hand and balancing a shield with the British Union Jack flag in the other, her cloak billowing in the wind behind. She wears a crested Corinthian helmet pushed back to reveal her face.

Britannia is standing on a sea shore, with a merchant ship under full sail in the background.

Around left and right, the value of the coin: · ONE DOLLAR ·. In the field beneath Britannia's bare feet, the date of issue: [year].

Obverse Inscription · ONE DOLLAR · [year]
Reverse
United Kingdom / Trade Dollar - reverse photo

Surrounded by an "Oriental"-style border with a "key" pattern, the reverse of the coin depicts a scroll design divided into four compartments containing, in the upper and lower, the Chinese characters 壹 圓 (transcribed as "yat yuen" or "yi yuan"), and in the left and right compartment ساتو رڠڬية - transcribed as "satu ringgit" from Jawi (Malay language written in a modified Arabic script). Both inscriptions are translated as "one dollar".

At centre, the Chinese labyrinth symbol representing longevity.

Reverse Inscription 壹 圓 ساتو رڠڬية
EdgeMilledEdge InscriptionNone
Notes

Note that for a time after the Second World War, the Bombay Mint had a practice of re-striking some of these coins to satisfy collector demand; dates believed to have been re-struck include 1898 and 1925.

These are not the only "trade coins" used in Asia. Others that were used at various time were the Spanish Dollar (known as "a Piece of Eight" - on which the modern American Dollar is based), the Mexican Dollar, the United States Trade Dollar and the Japanese Trade Dollar or Yen; the latter two were issued for a short time only.

References to additional information:

[Book] Kavanagh, Kevin. 1969. The Coins of Malaysia, 1845-1967, including Straits Settlements, Malaya, British North Borneo, Sarawak, Brunei, Singapore, British Trade Dollars. Adelaide, Australia. pp83-87
[Book] Remick, Jerome. 1971. The Guide Book and Catalogue to British Commonwealth Coins., pp85-87

Coin Type: Trade Dollar - (23) Coins
Coin NameReverseObverseDetails
One Dollar 1895 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1895 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1895 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 3,316,063
One Dollar 1896 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1896 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1896 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 6,135,617
One Dollar 1897 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1897 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1897 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 21,286,427
One Dollar 1898 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1898 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1898 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 21,545,564
One Dollar 1899 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1899 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1899 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 30,743,159
One Dollar 1900 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1900 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1900 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mints:
- Bombay Mint: 9,106,619
- Calcutta Mint: 363,372
Total Mintage: 9,469,991
One Dollar 1901 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1901 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1901 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mints:
- Bombay Mint: 25,684,971
- Calcutta Mint: 1,513,685
Total Mintage: 27,198,656
One Dollar 1902 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1902 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1902 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mints:
- Bombay Mint: 30,404,499
- Calcutta Mint: 1,266,618
Total Mintage: 31,671,117
One Dollar 1903 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1903 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1903 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 3,955,647
One Dollar 1904 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1904 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1904 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 648,847
One Dollar 1907 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1907 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1907 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 1,945,726
One Dollar 1908 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1908 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1908 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 6,870,741
One Dollar 1909 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1909 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1909 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 5,954,218
One Dollar 1910 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1910 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1910 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 5,552,910
One Dollar 1911 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1911 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1911 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 37,470,509
One Dollar 1912 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1912 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1912 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 5,672,075
One Dollar 1913 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1913 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1913 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 1,566,693
One Dollar 1921 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1921 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1921 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 50,211
One Dollar 1925 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1925 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1925 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Royal Mint
Mintage: 6,869,853
One Dollar 1929 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1929 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1929 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 5,100,036
One Dollar 1930 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1930 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1930 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mints:
- Royal Mint: 10,401,032
- Bombay Mint: 6,664,865
Total Mintage: 17,065,897
One Dollar 1934 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1934 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1934 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 17,335,205
One Dollar 1935 United Kingdom / One Dollar 1935 - reverse photo United Kingdom / One Dollar 1935 - obverse photo Material: 0.900 silver
Mint: Bombay Mint
Mintage: 6,811,995
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Trade Dollar: Details
CountryUnited Kingdom
CurrencyPound Sterling (pre-decimal)
From1894
To1935
Face Value1 (x Pound)
CurrentNo (demonetised 1937)
Material0.900 silver
DesignerGeorge William de Saulles
TechnologyMilled (machine-made)
ShapeRound
OrientationMedal Alignment (Axis 0)
Size39.000 mm
Thickness2.700 mm
Mass29.957 g