Queen Victoria Hong-Kong
1891 Silver Half Dollar
Weight: 13.4 grams Size: 31 mm Material: Silver 900
Obv: VICTORIA QUEEN Queen's head left.
Rev: HALF DOLLAR HONG KONG 1891
Silver Hong Kong Dollar
When Hong Kong was established as a free trading port in 1841, there was no local currency in everyday circulation. Foreign currencies such as Indian rupees, Spanish and Mexican 8 reales, and Chinese cash coins circulated. Since 1825, it had been the policy of the British government to introduce sterling silver coinage to all of its colonies, and to this end, in 1845, the Spanish and Mexican 8 reales coins were set at a legal tender value of 4 shillings 2 pence sterling. But just as in the case of the British North American colonies, the attempts to introduce the sterling coinage failed to overcome the strong local adherence to the silver Spanish dollar system.
By 1858, London gave up all attempts to influence the currency situation in Canada, and, by the 1860s, it came to the same realisation in Hong Kong: that there was no point in trying to displace an already existing currency system. In 1863, the Royal Mint in London began issuing special subsidiary coinage for use in Hong Kong within the dollar system. In 1866, a local mint was established at Sugar Street in Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island for the purpose of minting Hong Kong silver dollar and half dollar coins of the same value and similar likeness to their Mexican counterparts.
The Chinese did not however receive these new Hong Kong dollars well, and in 1868 the Hong Kong mint was closed down with a loss of $440,000. The machinery at the Hong Kong mint was sold first to Jardine Matheson and in turn to the Japanese and used to make the first Yen coins in 1870. In the 1860s, banknotes of the new British colonial banks, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China, denominated in dollars, also began to circulate in both Hong Kong and the wider region.
In 1873, the international silver crisis resulted in a devaluation of silver against gold-based currencies. Since the silver dollars in the USA and Canada were attached to a gold exchange standard, this meant that the silver dollars circulating along the China coast dropped in value as compared to the US dollar and the Canadian dollar.
By 1895, the circumstances had changed to the extent that there was now a dearth of Mexican dollars and the authorities in both Hong Kong and the Straits Settlements were putting pressure on the authorities in London to take measures to have a regular supply of silver dollar coins. London eventually acquiesced and legislation was enacted in attempts to regulate the coinage. New British trade dollars were coined at the mints in Calcutta and Bombay for use in both Hong Kong and the Straits Settlements.
In 1906, the Straits Settlements issued their own silver dollar coin and attached it to a gold sterling exchange standard at a fixed value of 2 shillings and 4 pence. This was the point of departure as between the Hong Kong unit and the Straits unit.
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