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Silver pagoda of the East India Company


Diameter: 37.000 mm
Weight: 21.250 g

CM A24a [?]

Coins and Medals

    Silver pagoda of the East India Company

    Madras Presidency, south India, AD 1807

    A Spanish piece of eight transformed

    Following the successful introduction of a European-style milled coinage in Bengal in 1790 the East India Company decided to do the same in Madras. The new coinage was based on the Indian standards of the rupee and the pagoda. A proclamation of 15 July 1807 ordered that the silver issues should be coined direct from imported Spanish dollars. At this time these dollars (also known as 'pieces of eight') were the international trade currency, and widely available. This coin still shows traces of its origins as a dollar of the Spanish king, Charles IV (1788-1808). It was probably originally minted at Potosi, in the Spanish colony of Peru.

    The design on the obverse (front) of the coin shows a temple surrounded by stars. The value of the coin is given in English and Persian on a ribbon around the edge. The design of the reverse is derived from local coinage and shows Vishnu, the Hindu god of creation, within a broad circle of repeated dots. The value is given in the languages of Tamil and Telugu in the outer border. The background of stars on the obverse is linked to the legends in the three local languages, which say that this coin is worth 'half a flower [or star] pagoda'.

    F. Pridmore, The Coins of the British Com-1, Part 4: India. Vol.1: East India Company Presidency Series (London, Spink, 1975)


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