On July 15, 2015, the Spink London sale of Ancient, British & Foreign Coins and Commemorative Medals will be showcasing some exceptional lots from the height of British Colonialism in 19th-century India.

A contemporary described the British Empire in the 1900’s as so vast that “the sun never set” on it. India at this point was considered the crown jewel of this sprawling territory, mainly for its resources and economic potential. To fully exploit this potential, the British administration put multiple pecuniary changes into effect, one of which was to organise a new coinage system. However, the coins that were intended to be issued had a compelling and mysterious way of confounding the whole process.

A new mint at Bombay started striking copper coins on November 22, 1830. Although the Court of Directors had authorised the minting of Half-Annas along with Quarter-Annas and Pies, none were produced for circulation. A die for the Half-Anna had been produced by a local engraver, however, and proof specimens bearing the date 1832 were submitted to the Mint Committee by J. Farish, the mint master, on July 23, 1833. These proofs must have been unsatisfactory as the Mint Committee subsequently requested a new matrix die for Half-Rupees to be engraved at the Calcutta mint and sent to Bombay. It is from these later dies that the copper coins of Bombay mint dated 1834 were struck.

This Half-Anna was found in the cabinet of a British collector. It had obviously seen some circulation, but the story of its journey from Bombay to England has yet to be discovered. It is truly a unique mystery.

British East India Company, Bombay Presidency (1830-33), AE proof Half-Anna, 1832, arms of the East India Company, rev. scales of justice with legend half anna above and ‘adl with hijri date below, extremely fine and rare.
Estimate £2500 – 3500 (US$3900 – 5460)

In the second half of the 19th century, ­L. C. Wyon designed new Rupee dies that were sanctioned by the Royal Mint. These were shipped out to Calcutta in 1861. Correspondence reveals that Wyon’s matrices did not meet the technical requirements of the Indian mints, and new ones had to be prepared at the Calcutta mint that used Wyon’s punches but were partially re-engraved. This may account for the very faint traces of the signature that are just visible under the bust of this coin (below).

All Rupees dated 1861 are patterns and none were issued for circulation.

British India, Queen Victoria, Silver Pattern Rupee, 1861.REVERSE - British India, Queen Victoria, Silver Pattern Rupee, 1861. Lot 156, British India, Queen Victoria, Silver Pattern Rupee, 1861, Calcutta, crowned bust left with single arches to crown and traces of signature L C WYON below bust, rev. ONE RUPEE – INDIA 1861 within floral wreath, top flower rising from two bracts, good extremely fine, rare.
Estimate £3500 – 4500 ($5460 – 7020)


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