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Thursday, 10 January 2013

Did you know Series (15) : ii) Fort St. George Chennai Museum (Part II): i) Setting up of the First English Mint at Fort St. George , Madras in 1640 and its minting activity . ii) Coins of the Arcot Nawabs. iii) Coins of the Bengal and Bombay Presidencies. iv) Coins of the Mughals, Nayaks,Travancore State and Mysore State.

Did you know Series (15) : Fort St. George Chennai Museum (Part II):
i)                    Setting up of the First English Mint at Fort St. George , Madras in 1640 and its minting activity .
ii)  Coins of the Arcot Nawabs.  
iii) Coins of the Bengal and Bombay Presidencies. 
iv) Coins of the Mughals, Nayaks,Travancore State and Mysore State.

    i)      Setting up of the First English Mint at Fort St. George , Madras in 1640 and its minting activity:
-          The “firman” (Royal Charter/Edict) granted to the East India Company by the Nayak Ruler Venkatdri Nayak in 1639 gave the Company the privileges of minting their own coins, in perpetuity. 

-          In 1640 the first English Mint in India was established by Francis Day at Fort St. George. The mint was run on contract by various “Dubashes”, but the gold and other precious metals were imported from England by the East India Company.

-          By the 1650s the Company on finding various irregularities in the mint functioning, decided to take over the running of the Mint itself and English Supervisors were appointed to oversee the process of coin minting.

-          The Madras Mint struck coins for territories in and around the Company’s territories and the Northern Circars for nearly 200 years since its setting up. 

-          The initial coinage issued were dump coins Southern Hindu territories followed by close imitations of the Mughal coins of the Subah of Arcot.

-          In 1692, the Mint obtained permission to mint silver coins (rupees) for the Mughals. 

-          In 1695, to cater to the growing demands on the Fort St. George Mint a bigger facility was built in the Fort.

-          Around 1670, the earliest coins issued for the East India Company were small silver pieces. These coins were undated with two interlinked “C’s” to indicate the reign of King Charles II.

-          During the 18th century, silver coins were minted bearing the East India Company’s  bale mark (an orb and a cross) inscribed C.C.E. (Charter Company of England) and G.C.E. (Governor and Company of Merchants Trading into the East Indies). All these issues were meant for use within the Company’s Factory and surrounding Areas and for exchange with European Traders. They coins were, therefore not meant for circulation in the Territories governed by the Indian Rulers.

-          In 1742, a second mint was established at Chintradipet. In the same year, the Madras Mint was given a contract by Nawab Sadatulla Khan of the Subah of Arcot to strike the Arcot Rupee and Arcot coins of smaller denominations. These coins were poorly struck with Dies bigger than the blanks used. Hence only a part of the inscriptions are seen on these coins. These coins bear the name of Alamgir II with the Sixth year of reign and have a “Lotus Mint Mark”. This undated series continued for about 50 years. Subsequent issues had the Hijri date “1172” equivalent to 1758 A.D. irrespective of the Year of minting.

-          In 1792, the Chintradipet Mint was relocated to Fort St. George and the two mints became the gold and silver mints and were well conversant with minting star pagodas (which replaced the Madras pagoda), Arcot Rupees and Madras and Arcot fanams and doudous (or Doodoos).

-          In 1807, minting machines based on the best available technology of the time, imported from Britain was introduced and began producing silver coins in European style with oblique milling. 

-          One series of coins minted at the Madras Mint was based on Hindu standard coinages consisted of one and two Pagodas in gold, half and quarter pagodas and fanams in silver. The copper coins consisted of Cash denominations.

-          Another series was based on the Mughal Empire coinage with gold mohurs and fractions of mohurs, i.e. half, one-third, and quarter mohurs.

-           Also rupee series including one rupee, half rupee, quarter rupee, one-eighth rupee and one-sixteenth rupee in silver was issued by the Madras Mints which also minted coins in the denomination of two rupees. The copper coins were of lower denominations and included 4, 2 and 1 paise and 4 and 2 pies (the copper coins were also denominated as half and one dub or one-ninety sixth and one-forty eighth of a rupee. 

-          The copper coins also included Faloos (Dub), with inscriptions in Persian on one side and Tamil and Telugu inscriptions on the other side indicating its value in Dub units. 

-  The coins in circulation had unrelated denominational values and their exchange values were briefly as under:
              3360 Cash was equal to 42 Fanam
             42 Fanams were equal to I Pagoda
               1 Pagoda was equal to 3 ½ Rupees
             3 ½ Rupees was equal to 168 Faloos (Dub)
             1 Rupee was equal to 48 Faloos (Dub)
             1 Faloos (Dub) was equal to 20 Cash
             1 Fanam was equal to 4 Faloos (Dub)
             4 Faloos was equal to 80 Cash

-          After 1818, the Rupee was made a Standard coin with a fixed weight of 180 grains and lower denominations being proportionately reduced in weight.
-          From 1812 to 1835, the Madras Mint struck coins with the “Lotus” mint mark and indented cord milling, while Calcutta Mint issued coins with the “Rose” mint mark from 1823 -1835.

-          Interestingly, from 1830 to 1835 (before the introduction of the Standard Coinage, Calcutta mint struck coins with a Rose mint mark but with a small crescent added on the reverse (rupee and half rupee coins) and on obverse (1/4 rupee coins).

The Madras Mints pass into history :
-          The Fort St. George Mints lost their prominence when the two bigger mints were opened at Calcutta and later in Mumbai and the Uniform Coinage was introduced in 1835. Nevertheless, initially the Madras Mints assisted the Mints at Calcutta and Bombay with Uniform Coinage issues, but their coinage output was relatively small and they shut shop in 1869 and closed down.

-          We tried to locate Mint Street where the Mints were established in Fort St. George for taking photos for this post during our visit to Fort St. George Museum, but somehow could not locate it despite several enquiries with the local Secretariat employees.

-          All the coins mentioned above were on display at the Fort St. George Museum coins gallery, but some of the photos taken by us at the gallery could not be fixed, hence have been excluded from the undernoted presentation:  

   Coins of the Madras Presidency:

 A plaque showing the coins issued by the Madras Presidency, through the Mint at Fort St. George.

The Monetary system followed by the Madras Presidency was:

One Pagoda was equal to  three and a half Rupees which was equal to 36 Fanam which was which was equal to 144 Dub which was equal to 288 Dudu which was equal to 2880 Cash. (A Mohur or “Asharfi” was equivalent to 15 Rupees).

The Banner words on later coins issued with the Emblem of The East India Company were :”AUSPICO REGIS & SENATUS ANGLIAE” (meaning "By the Command of the King and Parliament of England”).
The Madras Presidency minted its Coinage at various facilities at Arcot, Masulipatnam (Machilipatnam) and Tegnapatnam (Fort St. David), Chintradipet and Madraspatnam (Fort St. George Madras).

Design of the "Single Swami" Pagoda (or one God Pagoda) issued from 1740 to 1807 by the Madras Presidency.

  Obverse of a "Single Swami Pagoda" issued by the Madras Presidency.
  Reverse of the "Single Swami" Pagoda shown above.
 Obverse of another "Single Swami" Pagoda.

  Design of the "Three Swami" Pagoda (or three Gods Pagoda) issued from 1740 to 1807 and the "Star Pagoda", also issued during the same period.

   Obverse of a "three Swami " Pagoda issued by the Madras Presidency.

Design of the Two Pagoda issued from 1805 to 1815.

 A Two Pagoda coin issued by the Madras Presidency.

Design of the Half Pagoda issued around 1808 A.D.

 Obverse of a Half Pagoda coin.

The other face of the Half Pagoda coin.

Design of the Quarter Pagoda issued around 1807 A.D. 

One face of a Half Pagoda coin.

Designs of the Five Fanam issued around 1808 and Double Fanam issued around 1692 at the Madras Mint.

A Five fanam coin issued by the Madras Presidency.

Another Five Fanam coin exhibiting a variation in Design.

A Five Fanam coin showing a third variation in design.

Designs of the Double Fanam issued around 1808.

A double Fanam coin issued by the Madras Presidency.

 Coins of the Arcot (Arkat Nawabs):

The Arcot Nawabs issued gold, silver and copper coins. The earlier coins had the Mughal Emperor’s name inscribed on them, however, after declaring Independence from the Mughal Empire, the coins were issued in their names. 

Most of the coins bear Persian inscriptions, while a few have inscriptions in Tamil. The coins are beautifully decorated with symbols and motifs of flowers, elephants, fishes,as well as geometric designs. The Nawabs, although Muslims, often portrayed Hindu deities and symbols for eg: Ram, Laxman, Sita and Hanuman as well as, Shiva and Nandi (the Bull – Shiva’s ride), Vishnu etc. in several coins.

Silver coins of the Arcot Nawabs (above and below) showing an "Open Lotus" Mint Mark and the script in Persian.

An "Ain"/"Three Swamis" Gold Pagoda  of the Arcot Nawabs.

 An Ain/"Three Swamis" Gold Pagoda.

A Gold Mohur of the Arcot Nawabs.
Silver  coin of the Arcot Nawabs  showing an "Open Lotus"mint mark.
Silver one rupee (Arkat Rupee) coin of the Arcot Nawabs showing the "Rose" mint mark.

1/8 Rupee. Metal: Silver, minted at Arcot. The Persian legend states “ 1172 Sikka Badshah Alamgir” (Coin/money of the Emperor Alamgir”.  On the reverse are the Mint marks “Open Lotus” or “Rose”. Also, the Persian legend “Zarb Sanat 6” (meaning “struck in His sixth Year – at Arcot”. These coins were minted between 1812 to 1817.
A 1/8 Rupee silver coin showing  a "Closed Lotus" mint mark. Closed Lotus mint mark can be seen on coins struck between 1817 to 1835. Below is a similar coin with a "Rose" mint mark.

Silver coins showing the "Crescent moon" mint mark.

Smaller denomination coins of the Arcot Nawabs.

 Coins of the Bengal and Bombay Presidencies:

The Monetary system followed by the Bengal Presidency was:

 One Rupee was equal to 192 Pie, while a half rupee and a quarter rupee was reduced proportionately. 

Also one Mohur or “Asharfi” was equal to Fifteen Rupees.

The Bengal Presidency had Mints operating at strategic locations viz: Alinagar Kalkanath (Calcutta), Azimabad (Patna), Banaras (Present day Varanasi), Calcutta, Farrukhabad, Jahangirnagar, Muhammadabad, Murshidabad, Patna and Sagar.  

The Monetary system followed by the Bombay Presidency was: 

One Rupee was equal to 64 Pice (Paise), which was equal to 192 Pies which was equal to 256 Reas. In addition, a Mohur (Asharfi) was equal to Fifteen Rupees; An Anglina Rupee was equal to 48 Copperoons or 528 Tinnys (Bujruk).

The Bombay Presidency minted its Coinage at various facilities at Ahmedabad, Bombay, Surat and Tellicherry (Malabar Coast). 

The Banner words on later coins issued with the Emblem of The East India Company were: “AUSP:REG:&SEN.ANG” (meaning “Under the auspices of the King and Senate of England”.

Half anna:(minted by the Bengal Presidency): Copper, with the value mentioned in English, Bengali "Ordho Anna"meaning half anna (on the obverse) and Persian and Devnagri on the reverse). These were all languages spoken at various locations within the Administrative Jurisdiction of the Presidency of Bengal.

The language inscribed on some of the other coins is Persian on the face with other languages (English, Bengali, Hindi being used on the reverse as per usage).

1 ½ pice or 6 Reas, minted around 1791 to 1794 by the Bombay Presidency. The obverse shows the United East India Company Bale mark showing the letters “VEIC”.  (The Bale Mark was used by the East India Company to stamp its Goods. “V” stands for “Vnited”,  “E”stands for “East”, “I” stands for “India” and “C” stands for “Company” which is shown within a heart, crested with a “4”. 

In the earlier Bale Mark, the four letters are placed within a heart tierced by two flaunches, the letters “I” and “C” on the Dexter (left) and Sinister (right) flaunches, the “V” and “C” per Pale (one on top and the other on the bottom). 

On this coin the Bale is represented by a later version with the Heart parted by a cross saltire, and the letters being placed in each quarter.

On the Reverse are balanced scales with the Persian Inscription “Adil” (meaning Justice).

Copper Coin :Obverse shows a large crown divides the G-R at the top, “BOMB” written below indicating that it is a Bombay Presidency issue. On the reverse is the  United East India Company Bale Mark.

Some Coins issued under the Coinage Act 1835:

Some early coins issued under the Standard Coinage act 1835. The coins include silver coins of William IV (mentioned on the coins as William,IIII) and Queen Victoria and are in the denominations of one rupee (first vertical row - obverse face shown), one rupee (second vertical row - reverse face shown), Half Rupee (third vertical row), Quarter Rupee (Fourth vertical Row) and two Annas (fifth vertical Row - first issued during the reign of Queen Victoria).

A chart showing some of the smaller denomination copper coins issued during the period of William IV and Queen Victoria in the denominations of Half Anna (first two vertical rows), Quarter Anna (third vertical row), half pice (fourth vertical row) and 1/12 - one twelfth Anna (fifth vertical row).

An error coin of Empress Victoria, on which the lettering and portrait of the Empress is a mirror image of correctly struck coins. 

The two faces of the error coin of Empress Victoria. 

A chart showing the coins of Tippu Sultan. The coins issued during his reign included Rupee, Paisa, 1/2 Paise and 1/4 Paise.

A chart showing  coins of the Nayaks of Tamil Nadu, coins of Travancore State (1/4 rupee, Chuckram, 1/2 Chuckram, Eight Cash, Four Cash and Cash) and coins of Mysore State ( 20 Cash, 1/4 Cash and 5 Cash).

 A Travancore State Chuckram.

 One face of a Chuckram from Travancore State.

 Mysore State coin.

Travancore State Four Cash.

Other coins:

 (The following three coin scans from Travancore State are from the coin collection of Ajit George):

 The two faces of five Chuckrams in Ajit's collection.

 An Eight Cash coin from Travancore State in Ajit's collection.
 The other face of the Eight Cash coin.

 A map showing important Mints in India at various points of time. The map includes Mughal Mints, Emglish Mints, Danish Mints, French Mints, Portuguese Mints, Mints of Tipu Sultan and Government of India Mints. 

Writing comments in the Visitor's book , with the Caretaker of the Numismatic Gallery at Fort St. George, Chennai Museum.

i) 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. (Please click on the link below):

ii)For Part III of this article which includes "Indo-French, Indo-Portuguese,  Indo-Dutch, exchange values of coins in use in India during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Mints in India during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries 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. Ramchandra Lalingkar has commented on 9.01.2013: "Simply marvelous !! Great job done with minute details !!!"

  2. Thank you so much for your really motivating words. I have been working on this post for almost 3 months . Fort St. George museum gave me a chance to put the coin images together with my narration.

  3. Its a great job to show such valuable history with coins which would inspire generations. Thanks a lot!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind and extremely encouraging words. Much appreciate.