Queen Victoria’s bun in Jamaica

jamaica and the uk obverse

jamaica and uk reverse

I’ve previously written about the heads used on Queen Victoria’s coins, and how there had been an abortive attempt to introduce a common currency throughout the British Empire.

One place where it didn’t work was Jamaica, where the local Afro Caribbean population didn’t like bronze pennies or half pennies. One explanation, which may be apocryphal, is that people did not like to be seen putting bronze coins in the offering plate at church services, bronze coins being associated with poverty and slavery.

To counteract this, the colonial government minted pennies and half pennies of the same size and weight as the British originals, but in cupro nickel rather than bronze, and with quite a different design.

If you look at the side by side images above you can see that apart from being the same size and weight, the coins differ markedly in design. In fact the only common element seems to be the use of the Leonard Wyon bun head – and that’s only because the coin is worn. In fact they used a different head by Wyon  in which Queen Victoria compliments her bun head hairstyle with a diadem. The same design turns up on Channel Island coins as well as other places.

jamaica half penny

I’m afraid that the example in my collection is pretty worn, making it difficult to spot the diadem.

jamaica diadem head

The diadem is rather clearer in this 1871 example from ebay.

Note also that Victoria is simply styled Victoria Queen, just as she was on pre 1877 Indian coinage before Disraeli created her Empress of India.

I’m guessing that the logic was that the coins were for use in Jamaica and other associated Caribbean islands and as Victoria was Queen of Jamaica. (Equally, British coins did not acquire IND.IMP until the introduction of the veiled head coins in the late 1890’s.)

Later coins such as those of Edward VII and George V used the robustly imperial title King and Emperor, while of course British coins stuck with IND.IMP until 1947 …

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About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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