The first local coins were introduced to St. Helena in 1821 by the East India Trading Company. 700,000 St. Helena copper halfpennies dated 1821 were intended for use by the local population, greatly increased by the military garrison, who were guarding Napoleon Bonaparte in exile. But by the time the coins arrived, Napoleon had died and most of the garrison had left.
At around the same time, Saul Solomon, through his company Solomon, Dickson & Taylor, also issued tokens worth one halfpenny. Although officially for use only in the Solomon’s shops, these actually circulated alongside the official East India Company coins.
After the crown took control of St. Helena in 1834 the island used British coinage, though some non-circulating commemorative coins were issued.
In 1984 circulating coins were first introduced in the names of St. Helena and Ascension in denominations of 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 50p and £1, each coin depicting flora and fauna that are special to the islands. All of the coins were the same size and composition as the corresponding British coins and valued with the British Pound at par. However British coins (and notes) continued to circulate on the island, and remain in circulation today.
Changes have been made to our coins since that first 1984 issue:
The five pence pieces originally issued showed the Wirebird, which is the national bird of St. Helena, whilst the ten pence coins showed Arum Lilies. These were changed to the current designs in 1998.
Queen Elizabeth’s effigy was redesigned on most of the denominations between 1991 and 1998.
Seven sided 20 pence coins were first introduced in 1998.
As with British coinage, older 5 and 10 pence pieces were resized in 1998 and the 50 pence was resized 2003, though older coins remain in circulation.
In 2002 nickel-brass £2 coins were introduced, followed by bimetallic £2 coins the following year.
The same size, shape and weight as their British Equivalents and with a similar face (obverse), differing only in the text. The text on a St. Helena coin’s obverse reads “QUEEN ELIZABETH II ST. HELENA + ASCENSION”. The £1 coin has the text “Colony of St. Helena” engraved around the rim; the £2 coins have “Loyal and Faithful”. The reverse that is more interesting and reflective of St Helena.
These are the current banknotes used on the island.
St Helena also produces commemorative coins through the local Currency Commissioners issues both commemorative and circulation coins. All circulation coins are produced by the Royal Mint, UK.
Commemorative coin series are currently proposed and struck by the Royal Mint, UK or KMCC ltd, Austria. All coin series are reviewed and approved by the Currency Commissioners prior to being produced. Commemorative coin series to date are struck in the following metals: Cupro-Nickel , Silver , Gold and Platinum