St. Lucia – Cut, Pierced & Counterstamped Coins

Started by Deeman, December 24, 2021, 05:41:17 PM

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Explored by Spain and then France, St. Lucia alternated between France and Britain from 1762 until Britain finally gained control in 1803, with St. Lucia becoming a British territory in 1814 having been ceded by France following the Treaty of Paris.

St. Lucia used cut and counterstamped silver pieces from 1798 until 1851 when they were replaced by sterling. Although the island was under British rule, the coins were denominated in French currency. The livre was the currency of St. Lucia (until 1814), divisible by 20 sous. The Spanish 8 réales equated to 9 livres (or 12 escalins). One livre was divisible by 20 sous, making 15 sous equate to 1 escalin. (The écu was worth 6 livres.)

The escalin was worth 1 bit (9d) in 1798 when coins were issued for 2, 3, 4 and 6 escalins. These were made from sixths, quarters, thirds and halves of 8 réales coins, respectively, onto which the 'SL' monogram was counterstamped. The 6 and 2 escalin pieces were counterstamped twice with the monogram. The 3 and 4 escalin pieces were counterstamped thrice (at each corner) with the monogram. Cut coins that did not meet the minimum respective weight standard were counterstamped with an annulet indicating their worth to be two-thirds of those with the equivalent 'SL' monogram.

The Act of 1811 officially accepted the coins in circulation and also ordered the issue of 3 stampees, 1, 1½ and 2 escalins coins. The first two were made from quarters and thirds of 2 réales coins, whilst the higher two denominations were made from quarters and thirds of 4 réales coins. The 3 stampees was counterstamped with a crenated circle, whilst the 1, 1½ and 2 escalins were counterstamped with one, two and three annulets, respectively. In addition, a 2 sous copper coin (1¼d) with no counterstamp was provided.

The Order of 18 Aug 1812 was enacted to address the issue of lightweight 'mocos' (3 escalins) in circulation and authorised cut quarter segments of 8 réales to be countermarked with the 'SL' monogram in the three corners, provided the segments met the minimum weight standard of 90 grains. Different style to the 1798 monogram, thicker letters.

Until 1813, 12 escalins were equal to 8 réales, after which 15 escalins equalled 8 réales. The final issue of French currency, from 1813, consisted of 3 and 9 escalins (2 livre 5 sous & 6 livre 15 sous). These coins were produced by cutting 8 réales coins into three parts, with the two outer parts, each consisting of 20% of the coin, making the 3 escalins and a central 60% piece making the 9 escalins. They were all counterstamped with 'S:Lucie'. The instruction was to cut as close as possible to the pillars so that they remain on the side pieces. In addition, a considerable quantity of so-called mocos, which were forgeries from Martinique, were no longer legal. Consequently, all importation of cut money was prohibited.


St. Lucia (1798) 6 escalins, half cut Carlos III 8 réales, counterstamped 'SL' monogram twice.

St. Lucia (1798) 4 escalins, lightweight half cut Carlos III 8 réales, annulet counterstamp.

St. Lucia (1798) 3 escalins, quarter cut 8 réales, countermarked 'SL' monogram thrice.

St. Lucia (1811) 1 escalin, third cut 1775 Carlos III 2 réales, annulet counterstamp.

St. Lucia (1812) 3 escalins, quarter cut 8 réales, countermarked 'SL' monogram thrice.

St. Lucia (1813) 9 escalins, middle cut 1799 Carlos IV 8 réales, countermarked S:Lucie.

St. Lucia (1813) 3 escalins, cut side segment Spanish 8 réales, counterstamped S:Lucie.


Dual island issue

A hybrid half cut 8 réales coin with three 'SV' monograms on the obverse and a St. Lucia annulet on the reverse. By an Act of 8 Dec 1797, half cut Spanish dollars on St. Vincent were ordered to have three 'SV' monograms along the cut edge to indicate that they met the authorised weight (168 grain) for 6 bits (4/6). Most pieces so marked were the already in circulation without counterstamps and lightweight pieces were plugged to increase their weight accordingly prior to stamping. The coin has not been plugged so presumably met the minimum weight standard. As previously mentioned, annulets were added to lightweight coins of St. Lucia which, in the case of a half-cut dollar, indicated a reduced value of 4 bits. If the annulet was added after the monograms, then it would indicate that the coin had probably been subsequently clipped and become lightweight for use on St. Lucia. If the annulet was added before the monograms, then it would indicate that someone on St Vincent had added to monograms to fraudulently inflate the value of the coin to 6 bits. I have opted for the former.

St. Vincent-St. Lucia (1797), half cut 8 réales, Mexico City mint, 'SV' monogram counterstamped thrice on obverse, annulet on reverse.


On St. Lucy also, the subsequent tariffs worked to devalue small coins as the dollar (Spanish colonial pieces of eight) appreciated against the domestically circulating coins. Socially, this meant that the trading coins in the hands of plantation owners, the military and officials constantly became worth more against the cut and counterstamped pieces, mostly owned by workers and slaves.

The "complication" (in the eyes of the rich, the opposite as seen by the poor) of counting in French coins had a perhaps unintended effect. In the words of Chalmers (p. 88) The act of 1st April 1823, which gave currency in St. Lucia to the British "Anchor money" (...) rated the quarter dollar at 2 livres 10 sols, i.e. 10 livres to the (Anchor) dollar. Thus, as a livre was identical with a "shilling currency," St. Lucia had established by 1823 the final Windward Islands rating of the dollar at 10s. This was not just a large simplification in that it decimalised the Anchor dollar with a money of account that could claim to be French as well as English, it also maintained the gross overvaluation of the uncut Spanish dollar coins in terms of sterling (a piece of eight was worth 4 to 5 shillings) so beneficial to the plantation owners.

One more note on the escalin. This is the name of a traditional coin of the Southern Netherlands (now Belgium), not a French coin. However, in the pre-decimal French system, coins of 6 sols were struck. In France, 20 sols/sous were equal to a livre, in the Southern Netherlands there were 20 sols in an Austrian florin. I can imagine, especially with wars with Spain on the Northern French border, that the word escalin had penetrated into the French language as the equivalent of 6 sols.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.