Long Beard's Blog

18 Dec 2021

Lost To History

Coins | Long Beard

Still here! It's been a while since the last blog, which has been researched and hand written out for far too long. As an admirer of the late, great Charles E. Barber, Chief Engraver of the United States Mint, the preceding subject is one which had been put on hold for a variety of reasons. The Kingdom and coinage of Hawaii. Perhaps it's fitting with the dream of warmer weather as winter sets upon the lower 48 states? Enjoy!

In the span of roughly seventy years, the Kingdom of Hawaii progressed from having no written language to a sophisticated nation complete with it's own government, having a minister of finance, treasury system, currency and banking. Despite it's size and relative isolation in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, the islands were becoming a world trade and destination center.

Since ancient times, the Hawaiian communities were generally independent gifting or trading with one another in a somewhat loose fashion. Salt and fish were sent to the those in the uplands, exchanged for stone and timber. Livestock became the basic form of what we consider "currency". Even as the foreign ships began arriving in the late 18th century, this was the most commonly acceptable form of exchange between the two. With the discovery of Ilihahi (Hawaiian Sandalwood), this highly sought after fragrant timber had been set as 133 1/3 pounds per unit as currency. With the ships arrivals increasing dramatically, from many nations, so also had the currency of each. By 1848, the Hawaiian Kingdom government listed some 150 coins and notes. English shillings, Spanish doubloons, Portuguese cruzados, the Russian imperial and Danish ryksdoler among the many. While all were relatively easily accepted for day to day transactions, U.S. gold and silver were still the preferred form to their counterparts. In fact, the 1846 law of the kingdom established this as the official standard currency. The law also gave legal status to coin and currency of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Beautifully designed paper notes of vivid yellow, green and red were printed by the American Banknote Company depicting national and local imagery. Plantation coinage had been struck, more in the form of tokens, as well as 100,000 Hawaiian copper cents in 1847. All of which were backed in deposits of U.S. gold and silver held by the treasury.

In 1881, King Kalakahua I embarked on a first ever world wide voyage to meet with several heads of state. U.S. President Chester A. Arthur, Queen Victoria,Pope Leo XIII and Japanese Emperor Meiji among several. Kalakahua's travels served two important purposes. First, to remind the world that the Kingdom of Hawaii was a sovereign, self ruling nation amid rumblings of annexation and rumors of political plots. Second, to gain insight first hand at how other government's functioned and the resulting power of national symbolism had upon it's citizens. Surprisingly, his close friend and Minister of Finance was an American by the name of Walter Murray Gibson. It was Gibson, with his own equally strong belief in native rule, who suggested that Hawaii have it's own currency "to inspire the confidence of the people, and add to the prestige of the kingdom.". King Kalakaua's initial idea was a national mint and the striking of 1 million in coin. Again, Gibson suggested that due to the burdensome cost of a mint, that the United States be contracted with to strike their coin. Which the U.S. had already been doing for Venezuela since 1876. Following a meeting with Elisha Allen, the kingdom's Minister to the United States and a few contacts in Washington, a deal was agreed upon. Designed by Chief Engraver, Charles Barber with the assistance of Chief Coiner, Archibald Loudon Snowden at the Philadelphia Mint, the new coins would be struck in San Francisco. On December 9, 1883, the steamship Marisopa entered Honolulu Harbor from San Francisco with $130,000 of the 1 million in coin.

The denominations of the Kingdom of Hawaii were 1 cent, 5 cent, dime, quarter, half and dollar. Each depicted and sourced from the internet, the property of each respective owner.

With all the interest in the subject this blog has generated two additional images were added. An 1882 plantation token and an 1879 Hawaiian Note.


Nice blog!


Level 4

Nice. I thought it was King Kamehameha


Level 4

I learned something new today

AC coin$

Level 6

Woooow ! Beautiful coin collection, well preserved, great history on Hawaii , great blog . Thanks for sharing,,, OMG!!!! You're grabbing away my specialty line: KINGS of the World,,,, ;)


Level 6

Enjoyed the blog


Level 6

Well done. I learned from you today. beautiful coins, very collectible. Thanks.


Level 7

You hit a home run!! Great history!!. Research is great. Which makes the blog great. It's a pleasure to read a blog that was written by you. Some are using cut and paste. They don't learn. I have learned something today. Thanks for that!!


Level 5

Like the Hawaiian history. I have a few coins now because of Hawaiian post. Have the Dollar through dime for 1883. I should work on more Hawaiian coins.


Level 5

really great coins and history.


Level 6

Nice collection! Thanks for an interesting history on Hawaii! : )


Level 5

Thank you for the information. A great read!


Level 5

Great Blog!

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