Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Coins that Laugh in the Face of Circular Conformity

Paul Kruger 1894 – meant to be circular, but this one is not

The first one confounded me utterly, for two reasons. Firstly, it’s an 1894 shilling, but it doesn’t have Queen Victoria’s face on it. Nor does it have any other identifying feature except a chap I’ve never seen before. Secondly, the shape is immensely unusual. It’s akin to a square with the corners cut deeply away, and a crown protruding from each longer side.

But it shouldn’t be. A helpful chap from Twitter (they do exist) responded to my SOS and rescued me from the shipwreck of ignorance. It’s a Paul Kruger shilling from South Africa. A quick check on Wikipedia suggests he had foolish facial hair, a nice hat, and is (perhaps unsurprisingly) a controversial figure. Why the coin was cut into such an unusual shape remains beyond me, but it’s certainly interesting. Someone spent a lot of time doing it.

Square Indian 2 annas coin 1945

I’ve got a small number of Indian coins, and chose this one for two reasons. It’s square, with rounded corners, and it’s from the rather significant year of 1945. As you’d expect, the Queen’s father, George VI, is on the front, which describes him using the rather magnificent title of King Emperor.

In addition to the English, there is some writing in an Indian language I cannot understand, though the majority is in English (as an aside, the numerals we use originate in India, so technically that’s also an Indian aspect of the coin). It wasn’t too long after this was minted that India got its independence, and the anna itself stopped being used due to decimalisation.

Wavy Hong Kong coin 1988 two dollars

Until quite recently (1997, I think) the British ran Hong Kong, leasing it from the Chinese. Apparently, the Chinese were astonished we didn’t try to extend the agreement and continue governing the place, given its extreme wealth. Of course, as the central government deepens its control, perhaps some of the people there miss the British, just a little.

The coin has a distinctive wavy pattern, which was also seen in some Indian coins (though I don’t possess any). The British coinage has been withdrawn from circulation but remains legal tender in Hong Kong.


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