Hong Kong & Singapore Rare Coins | British Silver Trade Dollars

Posted on 05 March 2019

Hong Kong & Singapore Coins – British Silver Trade Dollar

 As a direct result of the Opium Wars and with the expansion of Britain’s influence in the Far East, especially after the founding of Singapore and Hong Kong in the 19th Century, traders and explorers needed a means to pay for goods from the Far East such as tea and silk.

Despite the name, however, British Trade Dollars were solely intended for use in the Far East and designated as legal tender in Singapore, Hong Kong and Labuan (now part of Malaysia).

These chunky silver coins were minted in 0.999 fine silver in Bombay, Calcutta and London (although a few very rare and savagely expansive examples are also known to exist in gold!).

British Trade Dollars were minted between 1895 -1935, designed by George William de Saulles and bear the famous design depicting Britannia standing on the shore with a merchant ship sailing behind her on the front of the coin. The reverse of coin has a rather exotic look with the domination written in Malay and Chinese characters.

Use of the Silver Dollars decreased with the creation of a Hong Kong specific currency. A specific Straits Settlements Silver Dollar was also introduced in Singapore which further decreased reliance on the British Trade Dollar. British Trade Dollars were finally officially demonetized in 1937.

As the race for trade in the Far East intensified, several other countries also produced trade dollar to support similar trade efforts including France with the French Indochinese Piastre, Japan with the Japanese Trade Dollar and the US with the United States Trade Dollar.

Top 5 Rare British Silver Trade Dollars

Good condition British trade dollars are increasingly hard to find but the below are already exceedingly rare:

  1. British Trade Dollar 1921 Bombay Mint (only 6 known to exist)
  2. British Trade Dollar 1935 Bombay Mint (only 35 known to exist)
  3. British Trade Dollar 1900
  4. British Trade Dollar 1934 Bombay Mint
  5. British Trade Dollar 1900 Calcutta Mint

In addition to scarcity, there is a significant price premium for high grade examples. However, ungraded examples are heavily forged today and before investing in high priced silver dollars, we would recommend buying ungraded coins from a reputable dealer or ideally a graded example from the grading companies, PCGS and NGC. It is easy to check the rarity of each graded coin by looking at the NGC and PCGS population for British trade dollars


All in all, British Trade Dollar are a beautiful historical coin.

Happy exploring!

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