Coin from Pahang state.
Collecting and buying Malaysian coins generally includes collecting coins from the various states and areas that make up modern Malaysia but were separate in the past. Most collections begin no earlier than the 18th century, or 17th at the very
earliest; the coins before the 1600s are just too rare for most to add to their collection.
Individual Malaysian state coinage
Most of the states that make up modern Malaysia were at one time separate entities with their own coinage. A brief history of each:
Johore (a.k.a. Johor)
Early Johore coins from the 17th century (going as far back as 1615) were generally octagonal with Arabic inscriptions, and date from the time when Johore was under the rule of nearby Aceh, Sumatra.
Kedah coins from the 17th and 18th centuries exist but are quite rare; in fact, specific information as to the years of first issue of these coins is sketchy even to experts; the first known dates are in the very early years of the 18th century; these 1705 coins in the real
denomination are sometimes priced in the budget of most collectors (under $100).
In 1821 the Kingdom of Siam took control of Kedah and hammered out its own coins for the state, all rather crude issues with center holes.
The state of Kelantan issued its first dated coins in about 1840, when it was a subject of the Kingdom of Siam. These usually have a round or square center hole and Arabic inscriptions on the coin. Kelantan issued its own coins until the first decade of the 20th century.
Coins were used in Port Malacca several hundred years ago by the Portuguese. After that, the first coins from Malacca are somewhat controversial, since identifying them as Malaccan
isn't cut and dried. In the 18th or 19th century, coins were struck in England for use by Singaporean merchants, and had a picture of a rooster on them but no mention of Malacca specifically. Collectors of Singaporean coins are often interested in these rooster coins, but they can usually be found described as "Malacca" in sales and auction listings.
Pahang's first coins were very interesting pieces featuring Arabic on one side and Chinese on the other; these early sultanate coins are from the early 1800s and were made throughout the 19th century.
This island was part of the British East India Company, and began issuing its own coins in the 1780s, using the Spanish denominations of dollars and pice (a.k.a. cents). In 1826 Penang began using rupees as its monetary unit. The earliest coins can sometimes be found for under $20 in fair condition — most any collector can own a real piece of Malaysian history.
The first coin for use in Perak was a keping
token used by a Singaporean merchant in the 1830s.
Occupying part of the island of Borneo, Sarawak issued as its earliest coins British-minted pieces inscribed SARAWAK
, and of generally high quality, in 1863. These featured the profiles of Rajahs on the obverse. (Tokens featuring Arabic inscriptions were minted, however, back in 1841.) Sarawak used its own coins until 1941; the Japanese occupation beginning in 1942 spelled the end of the rajah era.
Like Perak, the first Selangor coins was a merchant-used token from the 1830s.
This state issued its first coins in the waning years of the 18th century. These early coins were simple, hammered pieces inscribed in Arabic and usually made of tin or gold; many are affordable for collectors who are not overly picky about condition. Throughout the 19th century Trengganu issued coins, some with center holes, and all featuring Arabic inscriptions. Trengganu's final coins were in the early years of the 20th century, and the last few coins featured some really nice designs.
North Borneo coin
The section of Borneo Island called North Borneo and, under the administration of Britain (and now called Sabah) issued its first coins in the 1880s. These coins were inscribed BRITISH NORTH BORNEO
as well as Chinese and Arabic characters. (This inscription was sometimes rendered STATE OF NORTH BORNEO
.) The last British North Borneo coins were minted in 1941.
In 1952, Malaya was added to North Borneo to create the colony called Malaya and British Borneo. Coins were issued with that unwieldy inscription from 1953 until 1961.
Straits Settlements coin
One of the more significant entities in the Malay peninsula's history, the Straits Settlements coins (first issued in 1845) were popular enough to be used even outside of the Settlements in later years. The first issues reflected the fact that the Straits Settlements were part of the British East India Company, and were inscribed with the latter. Coins inscribed STRAITS
came in 1858, and finally STRAITS SETTLEMENTS
coins in 1872.
Made up of eleven states, Malaya issued its own coins beginning in 1940, shortly before it was occupied by Japan from 1942 — 1945. The final year of Malaya coins was 1950. All were inscribed COMMISSIONERS OF CURRENCY MALAYA
. The colony was incorporated into Malaya and British Borneo in 1952 and used that entity's coins.
Malaysia minted its first coins in 1967, and since that time has become a fully modern coin-issuing country, with uncirculated and mint sets that appeal to collectors as well as regular issues. These modern coins are inscribed in Bahasa Malay and/or English.
About collecting Malaysian coins today
Since the history of Malaysia is so varied, with so many different sultanates, colonies, and other states coming and going through various federations and unions, there are an almost endless number of approaches to creating a collection of Malaysian coins.
Some collectors concentrate on a certain geographical area — say, the southern peninsula, or Borneo. Some concentrate on coins with Arabic, or Chinese, or both, inscriptions. Some collect only those coins issued to British Malaysian colonies. There are countless other ways to do it to; there is no wrong way, so just pick whatever concept you want for your own collection and have fun