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Monday, 25 April 2011

5 ) George VI: The last of the British India Emperors

George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George) was King  of the  United Kingdom and the British Dominions and  was the last British Emperor of India from 11th  December 1936 till 15th August 1947 (Date of Independence for India).

He came to the throne by chance when his elder brother Edward VIII who had ascended the throne on the death of their father George V in 1936 had to  abdicate the throne  for political and religious reasons , when he married an American socialite Wallis Simpson , a divorcee.
Thus, while some coins were proposed to be issued in the name of Edward VIII, none were actually minted during his short reign of less than a year , on account of this controversy.
Coins were therefore issued in the name of George VI only in 1938 after his coronation in 1936.   Coins were issued in his name from 1938 to 1947 (year of Indian Independence).

You will notice that the coins of both George V and George VI have the King facing left. This is against the tradition from the times of Oliver Cromwell in 1653, of successive British Kings/Queens facing in  opposite directions. This aberation happened because, when Edward VIII ascended the throne tradition required that he should face right, because his father was facing left, but he insisted on facing left because he thought that it was his best profile. While some viewed this break from tradition as a disconcerting sign, these coins primarily remained uncirculated issues till the time of his abdication. George VI , on coronation, carried the tradition forward, because his brother’s portrait was technically supposed to be facing right, therefore, he assumed that as next in line , he should face left. Imagine, if some of Edward VIII’s coins had been circulated too, some lucky Collectors may have had three British Kings facing left in succession, till Elizabeth II faced right in 1952, in keeping with tradition.

The following coins were minted during his reign:

Silver – One rupee , half rupee , and quarter rupee ( English and Persian were the languages used)

Copper/Bronze – 1 pice (three versions of the crown –round crown, high crown and  flat crown and a hole in the middle – this coin was used as a “washer” and is still found in very old tool-kits discovered in attics and stores), half pice, two annas, one anna, half anna, quarter anna and 1/12 anna.

Calcutta mint had no mint marks, Mumbai mint coins exhibited a small dot under the lotus flower on the reverse side while the Lahore mint had an “L” below the Lotus flower at the same place.

The price of silver went up during World War II which started in 1939. People started accumulating silver coins as a hedge  against war-induced  pricing risks. Accordingly, in 1940, the silver content in the one rupee, half rupee and quarter rupee coins was reduced from 0.917 silver to 0.500 silver. Nevertheless on account of some overlaps, a few quarter rupee coins were minted in 0.917 silver in 1940 , one of which I have got and is shown somewhere below. 

In 1947, the composition was changed to nickel . I discovered quite a few of these 1947 coins in my mother-in-law’s collection. She had saved them thinking that these had silver content. Nevertheless, these coins are the last of British India issues and have a pride of place in my collection now.

Specimens from my collection of silver coins:
 Bombay mint:

 I am giving  one  obverse side image only because, it is similar in all the coins.

 This coin is one of the first issues in 1940 under the Quaternary alloy compositions and had only 0.500 silver content. The languages used on this coin were English and Persian. The Quaternary alloy coins were withdrawn from circulation in 1968 by Reserve Bank Of India.
Notice the small dot under the bottom flower and just above the circle on the edge indicating that the coin is a Bombay mint issue. This will become clearer from the picture below:
 This is a specimen of a  quarternary alloy one rupee coin issued from the Bombay mint  in 1941.

The above two half rupee coins from 1939 and 1940 from my collection are examples of 0.917 silver for the first coin and 0.500 silver for the second. Both exhibit the Bombay mint mark and show two languages (Persian and English only).

 This is a specimen of a quarter rupee coin issued in 1940 , which has 0.917 silver instead of 0.500 silver whose production was started in this year, indicating that this coin was a part of an overlapping minting. Don't miss the Bombay mint dot mark below the lotus on the bottom side.

I do not have any Calcutta mint issues in these categories. However, as I was uploading these coins, I was pleasantly surprised to notice that I was carrying a Lahore mint coin in my collection. Here, in these coins, the letter "L" appears at the same place where the Bombay mint shows the dot.

Notice the "L" below the lotus flower ? The following image will make it clearer:

As an interesting bit of information, the Lahore mint functioned under the Reserve Bank of India, upto 30th June 1948. On this date, the Reserve Bank of India ceased to function as the Central Bank of Pakistan. (State Bank of Pakistan commenced operations wef 01.07.1948).

Copper/ Bronze issues:

Two annas 1940. Notice that Four Indian languages are shown here apart from English.

Half pice 1940. This has only English as the language.

 This is a 1944 issue (Reverse side) of a one pice coin given for my collection by my sister, Raka. As the cost of minting coins during World War II became, this design nicknamed "the washer" (used in water taps) was introduced shortly after the 1940 issues. Notice that the centre has a hole in it to save on the metal used in coin blanks at the time of minting to keep minting costs down.

 The obverse of the above one pice coin showing a "Crown" (indicating that this coin has been issued in the name of the British King George VI) .  Notice the Lahore mint mark "L" on this coin. There are three languages on this coin, English, Hindi and Persian. This coin is one of the last few one pice issues by the Lahore mint for the Reserve bank of India under the British crown.

This is a 1947 issue (Reverse side) of a one pice coin ("the washer") given for my collection by my sister, Raka.

The obverse of the above one pice coin showing a "Crown" (indicating that this coin has been issued in the name of the British King George VI) . There are three languages on this coin, English, Hindi and Persian. This coin is one of the last few one pice issues by the Crown.

One quarter anna 1941 , again with no other language than English mentioned on this coin.

Two annas 1942 with four Indian languages apart from English.

Half Anna 1944 with four languages other than English.

One anna 1943.

One anna 1944.

One Anna 1946.

Quarter rupee 1946. 
Notice that the tiger has made it's debut on this coin, indicating in part that this is very much a Reserve Bank of India issue.Also notice that the "dot" mint mark of Bombay mint has now been replaced by a diamond which is still carried by all present day coins issued by Bombay mint. 

 Half anna 1946. 

With the profusion of five languages, perhaps, there is no place for the mint mark?

 One rupee 1947. One of the first nickel issues.  Also the "diamond" Bombay mint mark is prominent below the year.

Half rupee 1947 with similar features like the Rupee above.

Quarter rupee 1947. Notice that for the first time the Bombay mint has managed to squeeze in the Hindi language in the above denominations . The coins probably indicate that independence for the country was round the corner.

Two annas 1947.


  1. i have 1 half rupees coin 1947.are you intersted and you can bye-contact me my mail id is

  2. a great little blog. great pics and very interesting. it has definitely sparked my interest in collecting some Indian silver. Andy, uk

    1. I also have some coins dating british rule including ones shown above.

  3. Thank you,Andy for your very encouraging comment.