Coinage of Demerara & Essequibo

Started by Deeman, January 03, 2022, 11:24:06 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


Demerara and Essequibo were two river colonies along the northern coast of South America. Along with a third colony, Berbice, the three combined to form British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1831.

In 1745, Demerara was created as a separate Dutch colony out of a part of Essequibo and quickly became more successful than Essequibo mainly due to the influx of British settlers from the relatively crowded colony of Barbados. They brought knowledge and experience from their own colonies and were the first to introduce water-driven mills to the sugar plantations.

Formal British interest in the colony came as a by-product of the American Revolutionary Wars when Holland threw in their lot with Spain and France. Consequently, in 1781, Britain launched a major attack to seize all three of the River Colonies. Not for long though, as the French captured them the following year on behalf of the Dutch.

The Dutch West India Company's charter was allowed to expire in 1792 and administration came under the direct control of the Dutch government. Demerara and Essequibo were renamed the United Colony of Demerara and Essequibo. Berbice maintained its status as a separate colony.

During the French Revolutionary Wars, Britain retook the colonies in 1796. At the Peace of Amiens in 1802, that temporarily ended hostilities between France and Britain, they were returned to the Batavian Republic (successor state to the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands). But, when the fragile peace collapsed, the British reoccupied the colonies the following year. In 1812, Britain created the colony of Demerara-Essequibo and changed the name of Stabroek, then capital of Demerara, to Georgetown, which became the administrative centre.

As with much of the rest of South America and the Caribbean, the first silver coins in circulation in what is now Guyana were those of the Spanish dollar. Following Dutch colonisation of the area, the Dutch guilder circulated and this unit of currency continued under British control. One guilder was divisible by 20 stuivers (stivers), with 3 bits valued at 15 stuivers. A stiver had a value of 2d; the guilder's value was 1/8.

The first issue of silver coinage for Demerara & Essequibo was noted in the minutes of the Court of Policy for their meeting on 9 Dec 1808, when the governor proposed the piercing and stamping of Spanish dollars (valued at 3 guilders or 12 bits). Those who held dollars would be directed to the authorities who would pierce and stamp them and return the dollars (still valued at 3 guilders) plus an additional payment of one bit. The government would keep the plug from the dollar (valued at 3 bits), stamp and issue them, thus giving a profit of 2 bits for each dollar presented for piercing. The circular hole with 19 crenations was cut from the obverse and an oval counterstamp, added above, was inscribed 'E.&D' over '3,G.L' within a beaded circle. The plug was counterstamped 'E.&D' over '3.Bts' within a beaded circle.

In 1809, regular silver coins, struck by the Royal Mint, were issued for Demerara and Essequibo in denominations of quarter, half, one, two and three guilders. They bore a portrait of George III and had a reverse inscription of COLONIES OF ESSEQUEBO & DEMERARY TOKEN (note the spelling of Essequibo & Demerara). In order to pay expenses, the fineness was reduced to 0.8166. These coins were made a legal tender by the Proclamation of the Governor of 3 Feb 1810. They were augmented by the issue of half and one copper stivers in 1813. The use of the word 'Token' was eliminated from subsequent issues.

In 1816, there was a further supply of quarter, half, one, two and three guilders, but this time the reverse inscription was UNITED COLONY OF DEMERARY & ESSEQUIBO (Essequibo spelt correctly). The obverse inscription also changed.

The issue was repeated in 1832, this time with the portrait of William IV and with the addition of an eighth guilder denomination. A quarter guilder was issued in 1833 and eighth, quarter, half and one guilder in 1835. Some coins of 1835 had an overstamped 1833 date. Though Berbice had been added to Demerara and Essequibo in 1831 to form British Guiana, the coins dated 1833-35 bore the reverse inscription was UNITED COLONY OF DEMERARY & ESSEQUIBO. Coins inscribed British Guiana appeared in 1836.


Authority of 1808

Demerara & Essequibo (1808) 3 guilders (12 bits), host coin 1792 Carlos IIII 8 réales, Mexico City mint, assayer FM, crenated hole and oval counterstamp 'E.&D' over '3.G.L'.

Demerara & Essequibo (1808) 3 guilders (12 bits), host coin 1799 Carlos IIII 8 réales, Peru Lima mint, assayer IJ, crenated hole and oval counterstamp 'E.&D' over '3.G.L'.

Demerara & Essequibo (1808) 3 bits, crenated plug from Spanish 8 réales counterstamped 'E.&D' over '3.Bts'.


Guilder issues of 1809

King George III, reverse inscription COLONIES OF ESSEQUEBO & DEMERARY TOKEN.


Stiver issues of 1813

King George III, reverse inscription COLONIES OF ESSEQUEBO & DEMERARY TOKEN.


Guilder issues of 1816

King George III, reverse inscription UNITED COLONY OF DEMERARY & ESSEQUIBO.


Guilder issues of 1832

King William IV, reverse inscription UNITED COLONY OF DEMERARY & ESSEQUIBO.

Mister T

Does anyone have any of these coins handy?

Looking at a 2 guilder is meant to be: 28mm wide, 2mm thick, 15.5g, .816 silver
Looking at a florin is meant to be: 28.3mm wide, 2.3mm thick, 11.31g, .925 silver

To me this doesn't seem right - the slightly smaller coin is noticeably heavier. I know the alloys are slightly different, but presumably the balance is made up of copper, and copper has a lower atomic weight than silver.


I believe the diameter of the 2 guilder coin was 34mm. Agree with 15.5 gm weight.


The 3 guilder is 37.2mm, weight 23.3gm.