Author Topic: The Channel Islands' limited predecimal range  (Read 1194 times)

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Offline <k>

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The Channel Islands' limited predecimal range
« on: February 06, 2015, 09:22:20 PM »
Prior to decimalisation, Jersey and Guernsey had circulations coins equivalent to a British halfpenny, a penny and three pence. In Jersey they were called 1/24 of a shilling, 1/12 of a shilling, and one fourth of a shilling. In Guernsey they were 4 doubles, 8 doubles, and threepence.

For the rest, British coinage circulated. Since decimalisation, both Jersey and Guernsey have issued a full range of denominations, with the same names as their British counterparts, and British coinage also co-circulates. Does anybody know why the Islands did not issue a full range of predecimal coins?

That was also the case with Jamaica's predecimal coinage. Special Jamaican coins, in denominations of a farthing, a halfpenny and a penny, were produced, first in copper-nickel and later in nickel-brass. This was to do with local superstitions against using copper coinage.
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Offline malj1

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Re: The Channel Islands' limited predecimal range
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2015, 12:33:51 PM »
Does anybody know why the Islands did not issue a full range of predecimal coins?

The only reference I could find that dealt with this question is this page from Guernsey Coinage by W Exley publ. 1968
Malcolm
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Offline <k>

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Re: The Channel Islands' limited predecimal range
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2015, 01:15:02 PM »
"Silver coinage was not introduced due to the fear of complications due to forgery."

Thank you, malj1.  ;)
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Offline <k>

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Re: The Channel Islands' limited predecimal range
« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2020, 12:04:35 PM »
I'm giving a bump to this old but fascinating topic from 2015. I just spent two days searching for it. Malj1 found an intriguing answer to my question.
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Online Figleaf

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Re: The Channel Islands' limited predecimal range
« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2020, 05:02:10 PM »
I don't think it is the right answer, though. Silver coins did circulate in Guernsey and Jersey: British normal circulation coin. They were introduced in 1816. The reason is quite clear.

In the Napoleonic wars, tokens had been introduced to alleviate the shortage of coins. That shortage was no surprise either. The Channel islands did a lively trade with France, circumventing the "continental system" (effectively a French trade boycott of the UK). This was to the British advantage, but created a trade deficit that could be settled only in precious metal. The shortage gave the green light to a wave of privately issued banknotes ranging from 5 pounds to 5 shillings, brass tradesmen's tokens with denominations ranging from a shilling to 1½ pence as well as a short series of light weight copper 1 and ½ pennies in UK style. These were forbidden in 1813 and replaced by an official issue of silver and copper tokens.

After Napoléon learned to find Waterloo on the map, the Channel islands sank back into their previous insignificance. The silver coins were hoarded or used to pay France. Copper coins on the UK standard flowed back to Britain. What remained was small, worn French copper. In 1834, only UK money was declared legal tender, but no effort was made to demonetise the French coins. They remained in circulation and - in a perfect illustration of Gresham's law - drove out UK copper. The islands were in fact using two currencies: UK silver and French copper. The latter was valued at the going rate of 26 sous to the pound in Jersey or 8 double tournois to the penny in Guernsey.

In July 1840, the States of Jersey passed an act to issue £1000 in copper coins in denominations of 1/13th shilling (2 sous), 1/26th shilling (1 sou) and 1/52 shilling (½ sou). They succeeded in replacing what remained of the French copper, by now worn beyond recognition. Yet, it is important to realise that the coppers where denominated in a French standard. There were no equivalent coins of this denomination in the UK, so simply importing UK copper would not have solved the issue, unless the islanders could have turned their French sous in at a rate of 12 to the shilling. There was no issue of silver coins, because it wasn't necessary. UK silver had been circulating since 1816.

The "fear of forgeries" story makes no sense. UK coins could in fact more easily be forged than Jersey silver coins if there had been any. In a small community, the market for forgeries is smaller and the risk of being caught larger. My best guess is that the powers that be were afraid that the islands would be unable to predict demand correctly, leading to periodic coin scarcity and a return of the private issues like those in 1813 (the "forgeries"), while UK coins could be quickly shipped over when needed. It must have helped that from 1824, there was a policy to replace where possible local currencies in dependencies and colonies with British coins.

Peter
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Offline <k>

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Re: The Channel Islands' limited predecimal range
« Reply #5 on: July 04, 2020, 05:16:48 PM »
A complex theory. I'll need to re-read it to absorb it properly.
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Offline mrbadexample

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Re: The Channel Islands' limited predecimal range
« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2020, 07:53:13 PM »

The "fear of forgeries" story makes no sense. UK coins could in fact more easily be forged than Jersey silver coins if there had been any. In a small community, the market for forgeries is smaller and the risk of being caught larger. My best guess is that the powers that be were afraid that the islands would be unable to predict demand correctly, leading to periodic coin scarcity and a return of the private issues like those in 1813 (the "forgeries"), while UK coins could be quickly shipped over when needed. It must have helped that from 1824, there was a policy to replace where possible local currencies in dependencies and colonies with British coins.

Peter

It strikes me that forgeries of almost any quality would have been accepted by islanders that were happy to use "soldiers' buttons, beaten flat".  :D

I can't help wondering how a button was first (and subsequently) accepted as currency:

"Get lost mate, that's a button."
"No, no, it's a coin now, I flattened it."
"I'm not taking that, it's a button I tell you!"
"Everyone's doing it, honest. Just as good as the real thing."
"Well, go on then if you're sure..."  ???

Offline malj1

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Re: The Channel Islands' limited predecimal range
« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2020, 10:22:20 PM »
...These were forbidden in 1813 and replaced by an official issue of silver and copper tokens.
Peter

States of Jersey bank tokens for three shillings and eighteen pence were issued in 1813 but I cannot think of any official copper tokens? ...there were some unofficial tokens issued at this time.
Malcolm
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Offline FosseWay

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Re: The Channel Islands' limited predecimal range
« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2020, 12:58:35 PM »
On the forgery theory:

Occasionally in the last few decades I have seen the argument advanced that it's easier to forge "unusual" coinage (or more accurately, it's easier to utter such forgeries successfully). According to this line of thinking, part of the problem with forgeries of brass £1 coins was down to the large range of official designs, combinations of obverse and reverse and so forth, such that the public is less aware of what the possible range of real coins actually is. Concurrently, a fairly frequently advanced reason for not accepting Scottish or Northern Irish banknotes in England was that the retailer couldn't be sure that they weren't forged because they were not familiar.

Now, I have my doubts about the validity of this argument in both cases, but my doubts are not that relevant. What is relevant is whether the powers that be back in the early 19th century had the same idea as these modern commentators on £1 and banknote forgeries. Did they fear that if the Channel Islands produced shillings etc. to the same specifications as standard UK coin but with different designs, unscrupulous people would find it easier to emit forgeries of them on the UK mainland as a result of the coins' unfamiliarity? Given the longevity of this as an argument, the answer surely has to be at least maybe.

The lack of specific silver issues in the islands is also not particularly odd. I'm actually struggling to think of anywhere in the Empire where local variants of £sd denominations were issued to homeland specifications during most of the 19th century. The only two I can immediately think of are Ireland and the Isle of Man; Ireland stopped in the 1820s and the Isle of Man after the 1839 issue. All the other colonies either had distinct currencies with their own denominations (e.g. Canada, India, the Straits dollar), or they used homeland currency, possibly supplemented by local tokens. It's not until the start of the 20th century that places like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa start issuing their own coins to UK specifications, and Ireland doesn't until after independence. Jamaica is a slight oddity, issuing its own £sd denominations but with notably different specifications.

I would suggest that the question regarding the Channel Islands should be rather "Why did the Channel Islands persist in minting their own "pennies" and smaller coppers when everywhere else in the Empire that used £sd basically used homeland-type coins?" To which the answer is as Peter explained above, that they in fact weren't pennies etc. but multiples/divisions of other currencies, at least at first. The 1/12 etc. issues in Jersey then become the exception - they are £sd pennies etc. of homeland specification but not homeland type, just like the later Aussie etc. issues.