British Museum collections, £12.99
Weight: 14.290 g
Coins and Medals
Cupro-nickel 25 cent coin
Jamaica, AD 1969
Issued as part of a decimalization programme
Although Jamaica ceased to be a British colony in 1962, its monetary system and the designs on its coins remained essentially unchanged until 1969. Until that year Jamaican coinage continued to echo the British denominations of pounds, shillings and pence. In 1969, the country changed to the more convenient decimal system. The basic unit became the dollar, and cupro-nickel coins were also produced to the value of 5, 10, 20, 25 and 50 cents, along with a bronze one cent coin.
At the same time the island's coat of arms replaced the portrait of the British monarch on one side of the coin. On the other side, various Jamaican animals and plants were shown. On this 25 cent coin, a hummingbird is represented, retrieving nectar from a flower. This change of imagery represents a shift away from Jamaica's self-image as a former colony to that of an independent state.
Low denomination coins had first been used in Jamaica one hundred years earlier, in 1869. The copper coins introduced by the British earlier in the nineteenth century had proved unpopular, as the population was used to silver coins. Cupro-nickel was closer in appearance to silver, and was therefore accepted. The alloy became popular in other countries in the twentieth century, as economic considerations forced nations to abandon their silver issues and replace them with the cheaper metal. The last silver coins issued for circulation in Britain were minted in 1946, since when cupro-nickel has played a crucial part in the nation's coinage.
J. Cribb, B. Cook and I. Carradice, The coin atlas (London and Sydney, Macdonald Illustrated, 1990)