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Saturday, 12 January 2013

Did You Know Series (15) : iii) Fort St. George, Chennai Museum (Part III): i) Indo-Danish coins ii) Indo-Dutch coins iii) Indo-French coins iv) Indo-Portuguese coins

Did You Know Series (15) : Fort St. George, Chennai Museum (Part III):
i)   Indo-Danish coins
ii)  Indo-Dutch coins
iii) Indo-French coins
      iv)Indo-Portuguese coins

1) Indo-Danish coins:

-         Denmark had trading interests in India from 1620 onwards through their first Company “Dansk Ostindisk Compagni” (DOC) and their second Company “Dansk Asiatisk Compagni” (DAC). 
-         In 1621, Raghunath Nayak, Ruler of Thanjavur (Tanjore) accorded them permission to build a Fort at Tarangambad (Tranquebar or Trankebar), north of Nagapattinam, which was named “Dansburg”. 
-         Tranquebar continued as the main Trading Post/Danish colony till 1845, when it was sold to the British. In addition, smaller, Danish settlements existed at Porto Novo, Serampore and Ballassore. 
-         Initially, Danish trade with Indian Traders/Authorities was maintained with purchased “Pieces of Eight” which could be exchanged for Indian Silver and Gold coins. The permission accorded by the Nayak Ruler did not give the Danes the right to mint their own coins at Tranquebar. However, it can be said in favour of the Danes, that no permission was required to mint small denomination coins, as long as they were only used within their territory. 
-         During the first 80 years or so, petty payments and trading transactions within the Danish Colony were enabled by minting coins of the value of 1 Cas (or Kas) and in some cases, coins of the value of 2 Cas (or Kas), mainly through Lead coins with very few copper coins being minted, however, after 1689, during the reign of Frederik IV, the first silver coins were minted as well as 2, 4 and 10 Kas coins in copper. Some of the other denominations of Danish coins issued were ½ Kas, 3 Royaliner, 2 Royaliner, 1 Royaliner and Pagoda (Gold). 
-         Danish coins were minted at their only mint at Tranquebar in India. The first coins issued by the Danes in India in 1640 were made of Lead. Later, the Danes issued coins in Copper (1667), Silver (1730) and only once in Gold. Although the Tranquebar Mint was set up in 1640, the earliest coin which bears a date was issued in 1644. 
-         It is a matter of interest, that, Tranquebar was the only place outside Denmark where Danes minted coins extensively for their own local use. 
-         No authentic records exist regarding the history of Mintages of the Danish Mint at Tranquebar, but it is believed that the Danes struck more than 300 varieties of coins in Lead, Copper, Silver and Gold. Only about 80 varieties of minted coins have survived through the painstaking efforts of Numismatists and Museums etc. 
-         Many of the coins have inscriptions with Danish ship names or the name of the Danish Town, Dansburg. From the reign of Fredrik III, many of the coins bear the Danish Coat-of-Arms as inscriptions. 
-         In general, the Indo-Danish coins invariably had the reigning King’s monogram with or without the Crown on the obverse. The monogram was formed with the initials “F” for Frederik and “C” for Christian, followed by their position in the Line of succession in numerals for example : “C7” for “Christian VII” or “F4” for “Frederik IV”. On the reverse is the monogram of the Company “DOC” or “DAC” with the letters interlinked with each other.
-         There are several minted Lead Cas coins during the periods of Christian IV to Christian V, and copper coins during the periods of Frederik III to Christian VIII. Silver coins were minted during the periods of Frederik IV to Frederik VI, while one gold coin was minted during the period of Christian VII.     

-         Coins of Christian IV have the legend “CAS” even though the denominational value of the coins was omitted to be minted on either face of the coins.
-         Some coins exhibit the letters “DB” (standing for Dansburg, the Fort at Tranquebar) or “TB” (standing for Tranquebar) and during the reign of Christian V, the initials of the mint officials were mentioned on the coins for W.H. (Van) etc.
-         During the time of Christian IV (1588-1648), some of the coins have a crowned cipher of the King on the obverse and “CAS” and the year of mintage mentioned on the reverse.
-         Copper coins were struck at the Indo-Danish mint for the first time during the reign of Frederik III, the earliest known copper coin bearing the date 1667 A.D

-        Even on copper coins during the reigns of Frederik III and Christian V, the denominational value of the coin was not mentioned  and the first time the value of the coins was mentioned only, during the reign of Frederik IV(1699-1730), who issued Cas (or Kas coins) in the denominations of 10, 4 and 2 Kas pieces. 
-         The coins issued by the Danes were accepted in villages in and around the Danish Colonies along with the coins of the British East India Company, which ultimately replaced the Danish coins in their colonies.
-         The last Danish coin minted at Tranquebar was a copper 4 Kas in 1845, the same year Tranquebar was sold to the English.

       Lead Coins:

-         Lead was coined into money only in the first three reigns from 1645 to 1699, thus covering the periods of Christian IV(King from 1588 – 1648), Frederik III or “Frederick III” (King between 1648-1670) and Christian V (King between 1670 to 1699). None of the lead issues bear on them the value/denomination of the coin during this period, thus differing from later day copper coin issues. 
-         Lead coins issued during the reign of Christian IV  and early years of Frederik III  were called “Kas” (Tamil “Kasu”) and were not marked with their denominational value. The legend “DANSBURG” was inscribed on the obverse of the coins and the reverse had a few letters derived from the names of ships which called at the Port of Tranquebar. At a later date, the legend “DANSBURG” was replaced by a “three-turreted” symbol representing the Fort on the obverse and the monogram of Christian IV (C4) on the reverse. This too was replaced with the monogram of Frederik III (F3) on the reverse with several types of symbols and Coat-of-Arms on the Obverse.
        Copper and Silver Coins:

-         The introduction of Copper and Silver coins brought in the standardization of designs.The Kas (Tamil “Kasu”) were issued in Copper in 10, 4, 2 and 1 values. The design was standardized with the monogram of the King on the onverse and the value/denomination of the coin on the reverse. 
   The silver coins, issued from the reign  of Frederik IV (1699-1730) were called “Fano” (English “Fanam” and Tamil “Panam”), sometimes Royaliners. They had a fineness of 89.0 to 92.6 and weighed 1.63 gms. for coins minted in 1773.
       Gold Coins:

-         Only about 18000 gold coins (weight:3.40 gms) were minted in 1789. They had the monogram C7 in oval field amidst granulation, standing for the reigning King Christian VII (1766-1808) and the Hindu God Vishnu on the reverse in the fashion of the Pagodas in use during this time.

The reverse of a coin showing the inscription "DOC" standing for the monogram of the first Danish Company to trade in India“Dansk Ostindisk Compagni”.

A two Fano (Fanam) coin issued in 1816.

This is an image of the only gold coin issued at the Danish mint at Tranquebar in 1789. This face (reverse) shows an image of the Hindu God Vishnu and this coin was called the "One Swami" coin. The other face (obverse) had a monogram "C7" standing for the reigning King Christian VII.

A Danish coin issued during the period of Charles VII , with the monogram/initials "C7" inscribed on the reverse.

The other face of the above coin.

The above coin image of a Royaliner shows a crown, below which are the initials/monogram "C7" indicating that this coin was also issued during the reign of Charles VII.

 This side of the above coin mentions "(R)oyaliner" as 
 well as the year of issue "1796".

ii) Indo-Dutch coins:

-         After the Portuguese discovered the Sea – trade route they established Trading Post/settlements in India. The Dutch, on the other hand, set up Trading posts/settlements in the Indonesian Islands, before coming to India.

-         They set up a Factory at Pulicat in 1609 and in Surat in 1616. The Dutch activities expanded rapidly in India and they, further, set up Factories and Trading Posts at Masulipatnam, Nagappattinam, Sadras and several other locations along the Coromandal coast.

-         In addition, they had seven other Factories and Trading Posts along the coast of Kerala, besides having factories and Business interests in Hoogly, Kasimbazaar or KossimBazaar and Dacca (Dhaka) in Bengal. They had a substantial presence in Patna in Bihar and at Surat in Ahmedabad as well as Agra in Northern India.

-         They gained a monopoly over the Indian Trade with Europe in the 17th century through this rapid expansion and putting hurdles in the path of the English.

-         However, the sacking of Chinsura by Robert Clive, in 1759, reduced the monopoly of the Dutch Power. Ultimately, about a century and a half later, unable to counter the English Juggernaut which had succeeded to establish British rule all over India, the Dutch  wound up their Operations in India and handed over their last possessions to the British in 1924.

-         Indo Dutch coinage is divided into two categories:

-         the first category consists of coins minted in Holland, but used in India. These are further subdivided into two distinctive sets: one sub-category, in which the coins are better-minted in mints at Holland with the monogram of the Dutch East India Company. On the obverse, these coins exhibit the monogram letter “V” followed by “O” and “C” (altogether standing for “Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie or translated into English as “Dutch East India Company”. The reverse of these coins show the Coat-of-Arms of the five States – Utrecht, Gelderland, Holland, Zeeland and Friesland. These coins were not meant to be used in the Dutch – India Settlements, but were to be circulated in the Indonesian Dutch Settlements. The other sub-category was the silver Dutch Provincial coins. Both these categories were brought in and circulated in India through Trade practices between various Dutch Settlement.

-         The second category consists of coins of the Dutch Indian settlements which were minted mostly at Pulicat and Nagappattinam, which were the most important Dutch Settlements.

-         These coins, called “Cash” were issued in several denominations in copper. The Pulicat mint coins bore the mint-mark “P”, while the Nagapattinam mint coins bore the inscription “Nagappatnam” (in Tamil) or the “N” mint mark. Similarly, coins being minted at the Colombo mint in Sri Lanka, bore the mint mark “C”. A unique feature of Dutch coins is the practice of stamping large pieces of metals(ingots) and issuing them as coins.

-         The Dutch also issued Pagodas and Fanams, particularly from Cochin where they had considerable influence in the affairs of Travancore State.

A Chart showing Indo Dutch coins of various Denominations issued by the Dutch for their various Settlements:
i) Coins for Dutch Provinces: 6 Stivers, 2 Stivers and 1 Stiver.
ii) Coins for Dutch East India Company: 1/2 stiver, 1/4 stiver, Diot, Half Diot.
iii) Coins for East Asian Settlements: 10 Cash, 8 Cash, 40 cash, 20 Cash, 15 Cash, 2 Cash and Cash. 

 A metal ingot stamped as a stiver coin. The round stamp of "VOC" is visible on the bottom half of the ingot.

This image shows the "VOC" stamp on the right hand side of the ingot on top, and the  stamp of the other face on the left hand side of the ingot. This ingot was stamped in Colombo during the 18th century.

This coin was issued in 1709.

The legend on this coin mentions "HOLLANDIA". This coin was minted in 1700.

Two Stiver coins showing the Royal Arms. The coins below show a crowned Royal Arms.

A worn out Stiver coin.

This coin exhibits the letters "VOC" ,altogether standing for “Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie or translated into English as “Dutch East India Company”. This coin shows the Year of issue as 1745.

The Reverse of this coin shows the Coat-of-Arms of the Five States of Holland.

iii) Indo-Portuguese coins:

-         The discovery of a route around the Cape of Good Hope by Vasco da Gama in 1498 opened up a Trade Route to India and other Eastern countries.

-         The Portuguese landed near Calicut and obtained permission from the Raja of Calicut to trade from within his territory. They captured Goa in 1510. After Goa, the Portuguese established settlements in Diu, Daman, Salsette, Bassain, Chaul and Bombay along the West coast and Santhome, near Madras (present day Chennai) and Hoogly in Bengal. After the British forced them out from other locations with the exponential expansion of the British Raj in India, the Portuguese managed to hold onto the territories of Goa, Daman and Diu till they were expelled by the Indian Armed Forces in 1961 and these territories were liberated and assimilated with Independent India.

-         The Portuguese issued coins from immediately after its Occupation in 1510. In 1611, two mints were started at Bassein and Daman, but these mints after almost 120 years in operation, closed down in 1739. Later, in 1684, a mint was opened in Diu, which continued functioning till 1859. In 1869, the Goa mint too closed down.

-         Interestingly, the British mint, thereafter catered to the Portuguese coining requirements from their mint at Bombay (present day Mumbai).
   In Portugal, the basic unit of currency was the "Real"(Plural - Reaes or Reis) which was a small copper coin. The denomination but not the coin became current in India where only certain gold pieces struck in Europe were in use. These were called "Cruzado" and its multiple was called the "Portuguez". The "Portuguez" was struck during the reigns of D. Manuel (1495-1521) and his successor D. John III (1521-1557). The "Cruzado"  bore the Arms of Portugal with the Royal style Armillary Sphere on the obverse and on the reverse it had the Cross of Christ with the inscription "IN HOC SIGNO VINCES"(pronounced in Latin as "In Hawk Sig-noh Vin-Kace".This is a Latin rendering of the Greek phrase "en touto nika" meaning "By this sign you shall conquer". Interestingly, on the Grand Standard of a Commandery of the Knights Templars these words are inscribed over a blood-red Passion Cross. The "Cruzado" was the equivalent of the "Ducat".
-         Portuguese coins the “Cruzado” or “Manoel” in gold and “Espera” in silver, replaced the Hindu Kingdom “Pagoda” and “Hon”, both having the almost the same size and weight as the coins they replaced.

-         The Portuguese coins had the Cross of the Order of Christ on the obverse and the Armillary Sphere of King D. Manoel on the reverse. In 1549, newly issued Gold and Silver coins had a seated or standing figure of St. Thomas with the letters “S” and “T” on one side and the crowned Arms of Portugal with the initials of the reigning monarch on the other.
Some Portuguese Coin issues:

-         In 1728, Gold coins were issued called “Xerafins” in the denominations of 20, 12, 10, 5 and 2 Xerafins.

-         From 1557 to 1650, silver “Tanga” or "Larin" coins were issued in different denominations for ex. ½ Tanga, ¼ Tanga , 1/8 Tanga etc.

-         In 1650, new coins with the Cross of the Order of Christ were introduced.

-         In 1775, the word “Rupiah” was included in 2 “Xerafins” issues.

-         The Museum has permanently transferred its collection of Portuguese coins to the Archeology Museum at Goa, leaving only a few specimens at Fort St. George Museum. 


 A chart showing various types of early Indo-Portuguese coin issues.

            A 12 Xerafin coin struck in Gold. On the obverse this coin shows the Crowned Arms of Portugal. On the reverse it shows the denomination/value of the coin "12" in the top left hand side of the Cross and the year of issue "1792" at the bottom half of the coin. This coin was issued in the time of D.Maria I (1788-1799).

 A similar 4 Xerafin coin showing the Crowned arms on the Obverse and the Cross with the denomination/value of the coin "4" in the top left hand side of the Cross and the year of issue "1771" at the bottom half of the coin.

Image of a silver "Tanga" coin showing the crowned Arms on the Obverse and the year of issue "1631" on the bottom periphery of the coin.

(For more on the Armillary Sphere of the Portuguese Empire please click on the undernoted link):

iv)           Indo French coins:

-         The French Company, “Companie Des Indes Orientales” set up for trading purposes with the Indian Kingdoms, established their settlements at Surat (in 1668), Masulipatnam (in 1669), Puducheri or Pondicherry (in 1673), Chandernagore (in 1674), Yanam (in 1723), Mahe ( in 1725) and Karaikal ( in 1739).  The French had their biggest and main settlement at Puducherry.

-         Gold and silver coins:

-         The French struck local Gold “Pagodas” and silver “Fanams” with Hindu God motifs, despite objection from the Catholic Church. The French reasoned that introduction of new designs were fraught with the danger of the coins being rejected by the local population, hence, they struck these coins purely for reasons of facilitating trade with local authorities/businessmen and not for any religious considerations.

-         The French also managed to obtain contracts for minting the Mughal design silver rupee or the “Arkat” or “Arcot Rupee” from the Arcot Nawabs which they minted at the Puducheri mint.

-         The French mintages, thus,  initially closely followed the local designs and values of the coins in circulation. The silver coins of the French were called “Fanon” which were equivalent to the local “Fanam” and could be exchanged for 1 Gold Pagoda at the Exchange Rate of 26 Fanon to one Gold Pagoda. Fanons were issued in the denominations of one fanon, two  fanon and half fanon.

-         Indo – French coins were characterized by inscribing the heraldic “fleur-de-lis” motifs on one side (Fleur –de- lis is a flower of the plant of the genus “Iris”. It is used as the Heraldic lily device supposed by some to represent the Iris, by others the top of a scepter or that of a battle-axe, or other weapon. It represents the Royal Arms of France, the French Royal Family, the French Flag and the French Nation). The other face had different designs like double “L”s forming a Cross within a dotted rim etc.

-         Later French coins carried a small crown-like motif ornamented by a floral design on the obverse and on the reverse carried five fleurs-de-lis. Another series of Fanons had the Gaelic cock with its right claw on a globe (representing the French Empire across the Globe) and date of issue of the coin on the obverse and the cron-like motif on the reverse.

Copper coins:

-         The copper coins issued by the French Company in India were called “Doudou(s)” and “Cash”. They carried the inscription “Puducheri” in Tamil on the reverse and a large “fleur – de – lis” on the obverse in the early copper coins.

-         Later coins showed the Gaelic cock and Fleur – de – lis on the reverse which became the standard design.

-         Some coins struck at Karaikal had the inscriptions “Nagapattinam” on one face and “Puducheri” on the other face.

-         The operations at the Puducheri mint stopped during the English occupation of Puducheri between 1736 and 1840 (for over a century). After the possession of Puducheri was regained by the French, the French coins had to match the purchasing power of the English coins, particularly after the standardisation of the British India Monetary system in 1835. Ultimately, the French coinage was discontinued in 1871 and English money replaced French coinage.

   A chart indicating Indo-French coin issues at various points of time for eg: "Three Swami" Pagoda, "Arkat" Rupee, Fanon(2 Royaliner), Two or Double Fanon (4 Royaliner), half Fanon (Royaliner), Doudou, Cache and Biche.

  In this image of the Gaelic cock on this doudou, the cock image is rampant as it flexing its muscles and holding the globe in its right fore-claw indicating the hold of French Power over its possessions across the World.

In this image, the Gaelic cock is standing with its right claw on the Globe, showing French Authority over its possessions across the World.The year of issue is also mentioned "1817".

Two French doudous, one showing the Fleur - de - lis and the other coin showing a Gaelic Cock on the reverse.

For Part I of this article which includes: 
i)The advent and early days of the East India Company in India and the History of Fort St. George at Madras (Chennai) ii) British Raj Medals, Porcelain of East India Company and the Nawabs of Arcot, and selected other memorabilia. (click on the link below):   

ii) For Part II of this article which includes "Coins of the Madras, Bengal and Bombay Presidencies , the Mughals, the Southern Kingdoms - the Nayaks, Travancore State and Mysore Kingdom, Tippu and Nawabs of Arcot etc. , please click on the Link below:

iii) For Ancient coin minting moulds, ancient Chinese, Indian and Islamic coins at Shanghai Museum, please click on the undernoted link:

iv) For an interesting coverage of our recent trip to Chennai, please click on the undernoted link:


  1. I really think you will do much better in the future I appreciate every thing you've added to my information base.
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  2. Many thanks for publishing all this information. I have purchased a very small copper coin some years ago and could not identify it till now. I see that it is an Indo-French Doudou.
    Thanks again,

    1. You are welcome, Jim. Glad to have been of some help to you in identifying your coin. Happy collecting!!

  3. Very nicely developed and well informative.

  4. I am myself a coin collector for the last 40 years or so but this is really commendable. My bows to you and this laudable collection. Thanks !

    1. Thank you, so much for your extremely encouraging and inspiring comment. It really means a lot to me.

  5. Hi, Really nice coins! Could you please post the reverse of the Danish India Pagoda, that has C7? Would love to see :)

    1. Thank you so much for your appreciative comment, Ananth. Unfortunately, these coins are the property of the Fort St. George Museum and are placed under covered thick glass. The curator/caretaker of the coins display section, who was very knowledgeable person, on seeing our interest in Numismatics, took my wife & me around and we discussed each and every coin. The photos have all been taken thru the thick glass protective covering. We could look at one side of the coin only except in those cases where the coins were also displayed on charts.

  6. Needed to compose you a very little word to thank you yet again regarding the nice suggestions you’ve contributed here.
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