Author Topic: BRITISH INDIA ONE ANNA DESIGN 1903-1947  (Read 3393 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Harry

  • Moderator
  • Meritorious Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 884
  • Collect British India, Straits coins & papermoney.
« on: February 01, 2014, 06:25:55 PM »
This article took me about 6 months to research and write and is published using Google Docs. This version has been specially edited to post on WOC. Special thanks to the following WOC members for their feedback in shaping this article: @josephjk, cranko, brokencompass and cj_fam 

Comments and discussions are welcome.



This article illustrates the design of the British India 1 Anna from 1903 to 1947. Most of the patterns and proofs depicted in this article are from the David Fore collection which was auctioned by A H Baldwin & Son, Auction #82,  on 31 May 2013.


Before 1835, British India was made up of three large regions, also known as Presidencies - the Bengal, Madras and Bombay Presidencies. Each Presidency had its own coinage and standards. 1835 saw the introduction of a uniform coinage across British India. Although the anna was a subunit of the rupee (16 annas = 1 rupee), oddly enough it was not until 72 years later that the first 1 anna coin was introduced. It was one of the most interesting coin series issued by British India. The first coin was designed by Captain A. L. C. McCormick, the Bombay Mint Master. It represented a radical change in design for that period and achieved a number of 'firsts' for British India's circulation coinage: it was the first of its denomination, the first struck in cupro-nickel, the first with a non-circular flan, and the first to carry five languages (English, Urdu, Telugu, Nagari and Bengali). It also was also the only Indian coin issued for Edward VII that depicted the king with a crown. With the exception of some “modernization” changes made by Mr Stephen from the Calcutta mint in 1938, the coin’s design and shape remained largely the same until the end of British rule in India. Its design subsequently influenced Pakistani and Indian coinage after independence in 1947.

Author’s note:
These notes are not intended to be a complete catalog of the 1 anna proofs and patterns. The Pridmore reference numbers marked as “Pr” are from  F. Pridmore, The Coins of the British Commonwealth of Nations, Part 4, vol. 2. Uniform Coinage, East India Company, 1835-58, Imperial Period, 1858-1947 and the Stevens-Weir reference numbers marked as “SW” are taken from Paul Stevens & Randy Weir, The Uniform Coinage of India 1835 to 1947. A Catalogue and Pricelist.

King Edward VII - New coinage

In 1903 the Bombay mint began experimenting with a 1 anna coin and it is clear from the patterns produced that the designers intended to break from the traditional approach in shape, composition and design. As it was to be struck in nickel, they needed to produce a coin that could be differentiated from the other silver coins. At first it was decided to produce a coin with a hole in the centre. The first 1 anna pattern dated 1903 (SW 7.117) was produced in nickel with a hole in the centre, but this meant that the king’s effigy could not be incorporated. In 1904 two different 1 anna patterns were produced.

1904 nickel pattern 1 anna (SW 7.118)
 Copyright © 2013 AH Baldwin & Sons Ltd.

Later that year a number of patterns were produced, some with the king’s bust on them.

1904 nickel pattern 1 anna (SW 7.125)
 Source: Dr Paul Stevens

1905 nickel pattern 1 anna (SW 7.130)
 Source: Dr Paul Stevens

None of these designs were accepted and King Edward VII himself rejected the idea of a coin without his effigy. Attempts were made to create a coin with the king’s portrait with an eccentric hole – i.e. a hole not in the centre of the coin – but these were not successful. 

Captain A. L. C. McCormick later proposed a scalloped edge design using the king’s effigy found on the Straits Settlements coinage. The reverse design was taken from the East Africa 1 pice coin of Queen Victoria. As both the Calcutta and Bombay mints produced coins for the Straits Settlements during this period, the Calcutta mint produce dies for a new 1 anna coin from the matrix for the Straits Settlements ¼ cent.

1903 Straits Settlements ¼ cent
 Source: Heritage Auctions

1898 East Africa 1 pice 
 Copyright © 2013 AH Baldwin & Sons Ltd.

The king’s effigy from the Straits Settlements ¼ cent (obverse) and the design from the East Africa 1 pice (reverse) were used by the Bombay mint to create patterns with 24, 16 and 12-lobed scalloped edges. 

1905 pattern 1 anna – scalloped edge with 24 lobes (SW 7.131)
Copyright © 2013 AH Baldwin & Sons Ltd.

1905 pattern 1 anna – scalloped edge with 16 lobes (SW 7.132)
Copyright © 2013 AH Baldwin & Sons Ltd.

The 24 and 16-lobed edges did not produce a distinctive enough shape and these designs were not accepted. The 12-lobed scalloped design did produce a distinctive shape but the Bombay mint had a difficult time creating tools needed to cut the edge. As seen here on the 1905 pattern with 12 lobes, the edge is uneven and not well defined.

1905 pattern 1 anna – scalloped edge with 12 lobes
Copyright © 2013 AH Baldwin & Sons Ltd.

In 1906 the Calcutta mint produced a pattern with a circular plain edge and raised rim (SW 7.137). The  mint undertook experimental coinage of 200,000 copper-nickel 1 annas. These samples, according to F. Pridmore, were considered “fit for circulation”.   

1906 1 anna (SW 7.140; Pr 925 and 1072)
Copyright © 2013 AH Baldwin & Sons Ltd.

According to Randy Weir, the cataloger of the David Fore collection, “The mint records show that they struck 200,000 of this date but this is very hard to believe because of the rarity of the date in commerce today. We have not seen any circulated examples which would suggest that this was a special coin, appreciated by contemporary numismatists, but only as a date, not as a pattern of proof. We have seen some that are early strikes from fresh dies but not struck to proof standards. Maybe these were used as examples to be given to mint officials.”

Capt A. L. C. McCormick, the Bombay mint master and the designer of the 1 anna, was not happy with the 1906 1 anna, as after the polishing process much of the detailed design on the King’s head was lost. It is possible that these 1906 experimental coins may have been melted, although no documentation of this has been found so far. McCormick asked the Royal Mint in Britain to produce new dies that would improve the king’s head and edges of the coin. The dies and tools were sent in September 1907 and arrived at the Bombay mint. However none of the tools were used as the Bombay mint had produced an improved die and used it for producing the 1907 Anna. The Bombay mint was the only mint that produced the Edward 1 Anna coin.

1907 1 anna regular strike (SW 7.144)
 Source: Dr Paul Stevens

It was the 1906 Coinage Act that authorized nickel-based coins in British India. Prior to the introduction of this Bill, public opinion was found to be favourable to a nickel-based coin; if the 1 anna coin was accepted the introduction of nickel-based ½ and 2 anna coins would be considered. (Ref: The Numismatic Circular no. 152, November 1905, Spink and Sons Ltd.)

In 1908 a ½ anna pattern was produced using the same design and shape. As the 1 anna was still very new, it was decided to postpone the release of the ½ anna until the public became accustomed to the 1 anna coin. As it turned out, no ½ annas of this design were ever produced for circulation and it would take another 32 years before a ½ anna was released into circulation, under King George VI in 1938. Production of the nickel 2 anna coin was also postponed; it was eventually introduced in 1918.

1908 pattern ½ anna (SW 7.154; Pr 1073)
 Source: Dr Paul Stevens

In 1906-07, when the 1 anna coin was introduced, the rupee was equal to 1 shilling and 4 pence sterling. This rate was set by the Indian government in 1893 to fix the Indian currency to the British currency. This meant that the newly introduced 1 anna was equal to 1 British penny.

King George V   

There were no 1 anna coins struck for circulation in 1911, although there was a very interesting 1911 pattern struck, which is thought to be unique. This coin was produced with the modified die of the king’s effigy and not the “pig” variety, which suggests it was produced towards the end of 1911. Besides the king’s bust and legend on the obverse little changed in the design from the Edward VII issue.                                                                                                                                                                                             

1911 pattern 1 anna, possibly unique. (SW 8.274; Pr 1083).
Sold for US$19,530 in May 2013 at auction in London.
Copyright © 2013 AH Baldwin & Sons Ltd.

The Bombay mint issued the 1 anna coin from 1912 to 1922 and since it was the only mint producing the coin it did not include a mint mark. From 1923 the Calcutta mint began issuing the 1 anna without a mint mark and the Bombay mint included a dot under the date as the mint mark.

In 1921 the mints experimented with changing the design of the 1 anna. They chose a shape that was similar to the cupro-nickel 2 annas, but no coins were issued for circulation based on this design.

(SW 8.271, this coin illustrated; Pr 1080)
 Source: Dr Paul Stevens

1921 pattern 1 anna in gold - early restrike (SW 8.273)
 Source: Dr Paul Stevens

In 1929 the Calcutta mint began experimenting with an improved rim design and produced two types of pattern with thicker rims.

1929 1 anna with thicker rims produced by the Calcutta mint (SW 8.274; Pr 1083)
Copyright © 2013 AH Baldwin & Sons Ltd.

Presumably from the lessons learnt while making the 1928 and 1929 patterns, in 1933 the Calcutta mint modified the way it produced the 1 anna coin by creating planchets with thicker rims. Prior to this, the planchets did not have a rim, which was produced during the process of striking the coin. Here is the distinctly thicker rim produced by the Calcutta mint with its modified dies from 1933 to 1936.

The coin on the left is from the Bombay mint and that on the right is from the Calcutta mint, showing the broader rims.
Copyright © 2013 AH Baldwin & Sons Ltd.

King George VI

In 1937 Mr Spencer, Engraver at the Calcutta mint, modified the design of the 1 anna coin for the King George VI coin. Although the basic shape remained the same the reverse design was “modernized”, with changes especially affecting the numeral “1” on the reverse.

1939 1 anna (first head)
Copyright © 2013 Joseph Kunnappally

The composition of the 1 anna changed from cupro-nickel to nickel-brass from 1941 to 1945 as copper was in short supply during World War II. This is why the 1 anna coins from this period look more gold than silver.

1943 1 anna (second head)
Copyright © 2013 Joseph Kunnappally

In 1946 the composition was changed back to cupro-nickel. In 1945 and 1946 1 anna coins dated 1946 were minted at the Lahore mint. However, the Lahore mint did not put any mint mark on the coin and so its not possible to differentiate a 1 anna from the Lahore mint from one minted at Calcutta. Calcutta too did not add a mint mark to the coin. The Bombay mint used a dot (or bead) below the date as its mint mark.

1947 Freedom 

On 14 August 1947 the new independent state of Pakistan (comprising East and West Pakistan) was born and on the following day British rule came to an end in India. It was a period of turmoil and social unrest, but both nations scrambled to establish their own currency. In the meantime British India currency continued to circulate in both nations. In 1948 Pakistan produced its own coinage, keeping the familiar shape of the 1 anna but changing the design.

Copyright © 2013 Joseph Kunnappally

India produced a set of pattern coins in 1949 but these designs were not adopted. Here is the 1949 1 anna from that set:

Copyright © 2013 AH Baldwin & Sons Ltd.

Eventually in 1950 India produced its own set of circulating coins. The bull effigy and legends on the obverse were modified to produce this 1950 1 anna coin for general circulation.

Copyright © 2013 AH Baldwin & Sons Ltd.

Mintages and Rarity

The following scale is used to denote rarity

RRR = Extremely Rare
RR = Very Rare
R = Rare
S = Scarce

The rarity ratings provided below are for mint state / uncirculated coins.

A word of caution when using mintages to determine rarity. The mintage numbers of British India coins do not always reflect the rarity of the coin today. Firstly, the mintage number represents the number of coins produced in that year and not necessarily the number of coins carrying a given date. So for example if 1914 shows a mintage of 48 million 1 anna coins, this does not imply that 48 million coins dated 1914 were produced. Rather, 48 million 1 anna coins were produced in that year, which may also include coins dated 1915. Also coins were often melted to produced new coins and this happened in some years more than others. For example, the 1909 1 anna has a mintage of 24 million but these are very scarce today compared to the others, which may indicate that for some reason many 1909 coins were melted.
1 anna patterns and original proofs

The British India 1 anna patterns and proofs are all extremely rare (RRR). It is believed that fewer than 10 of each pattern type and fewer than 10 original proofs per year were produced, with a few exceptions. The exceptions are the 1907 1 anna original proof, the 1904 pattern (SW 7.125 and 7.126), and the 1908 ½ anna pattern; these all have a mintage of no more than 20 but a number of these are thought to be lost. The silver 1 anna patterns are thought to be almost unique (approx 2-4) and the 1911 (SW 8.276; Pr 241) 1 anna cupro-nickel pattern is thought to be unique.

King Edward VII 1 Anna (1906-1910) business strikes

The following are mintages for Edward VII 1 anna business strikes.

King Edward VII 1906 - 1910 mintage graph (sorted from lowest to highest)

King George V 1 anna (1912-1936) business strikes

King George V 1 anna 1912-1936 mintage graph sorted from lowest to highest mintages

King George VI 1 anna (1938-1947) business strikes

King George VI 1 anna 1938-47 mintage graph sorted from lowest to highest mintages


F. Pridmore, The Coins of the British Commonwealth of Nations, Part 4, vol. 2. Uniform Coinage, East India Company, 1835-58, Imperial Period, 1858-1947.

F. Pridmore, Notes on colonial coins, Mr.A.P.SPENCER, Artist/Engraver, His Majesty's Mint, Calcutta and there-designed Coinages of King George VI British India 1938-1947.

AH Baldwin Auction catalogue 54, The Diana collection of coins of British India, 6 May 2008.

Spink and Sons Ltd The Numismatic Circular no. 152, November 1905.
Dr Paul Stevens & Randy Weir, The Uniform Coinage of India 1835 to 1947. A Catalogue and Pricelist.

Public domain images from Wiki Commons


 I would like to thank the following for allowing me to use their images in this article.

A H Baldwin & Sons, London.

Dr Paul Stevens, UK

Joseph Kunnappally, TX, USA.

J K Coins, WA, USA

I would also like to thank:

Randy Weir, Toronto, Canada, for his input on the 1 anna coinage and especially on mintages and mintages of patterns and original proofs.

Special thanks to the following for their feedback in shaping this article:
Sanjay Gandhi   
Suraj Guptha
Khalid Mohammed
Joseph Kunnappally


This article was created and published on Google Docs and is Copyright © 2013 Haresh Assumal. The full article can be found here:
« Last Edit: February 13, 2014, 05:53:14 PM by FosseWay »
Collector of British India, Straits Settlements, Malaya, East Africa coins and papermoney