The Hong Kong Mint, 1866-1868

Hugh Farmer: When Hong Kong was established as a free trading port in 1841, there was no local currency available for daily circulation. Foreign currencies such as Indian rupees, Spanish and Mexican 8 Reales, Chinese cash coins and British currency were used instead. Coins specially issued for Hong Kong did not appear until 1863 when the first regal coins of Hong Kong, i.e. coins bearing the portrait or Royal Cypher of the reigning monarch, were issued. They were produced by the Royal Mint, London and comprised the silver ten cent, the bronze one cent and one mil, the last being one-tenth of a cent.

A front view of the Hong Kong Mint from a coloured engraving

A front view of the Hong Kong Mint from a coloured engraving Courtesy: HK Museum of Art

For a brief period in the late 1860s coins were minted at a factory in Sugar Street, Causeway Bay.

The Mint was established by ordinance on 26th February 1864 and opened on 7th May 1866 under the direction of Thomas William Kinder with the purpose of producing Hong Kong silver dollars and half dollar coins.

Hong Kong Mint one mil coin 2

After two years having incurred a huge loss to the government it closed on 25th April 1868.

The mint machinery was sold first to Jardine Matheson in 1868 and in turn to the Japan Mint in Osaka, Japan where it was used to make the first yen coins in 1870.

The fullest account of the HK Mint I have found is in a HKBRAS article The Hong Kong Mint 1864-1868: The History of an Early Engineering Experiment  by P Kevin MacKeown linked below.

The article covers:

The background to the rather chaotic monetary system of the mid-1850s in HK
Proposals for a HK Mint
Personnel to be appointed
The design of the building
The purchase of coining presses
The appointment of the Mint’s Master – Thomas William Kinder
The site for the Mint in Causeway Bay
Its opening on 7th May 1866 by the Governor
Engineering production problems
Details of the coins produced
Difficulties fulfilling expected quantities of coins
Unanticipated competition – stolen coin dies and forgery
An October 1866 Commission to investigate the Mint’s future
Closure of the Mint, the fate of the staff and the sale of plant to Japan
The Inquest
The Final Judgement

This article was first posted on 1st September 2014.

For a detailed account of The Mint:
The Hong Kong Mint, 1864-1868: The History of an Early Engineering Experiment by P Kevin MacKeown,HKBRAS Journals Vol 47 2007

See also:

  1. Hong Kong Mint – ground floor plan
  2. The Hong Kong Mint – Wikipedia
  4. Hamsom, Ray “Regal Coinage of Hong Kong” Hong Kong Museum of History, 1966, revised 1975
  6. Hong Kong Currency Local History Unit, Hong Kong Museum of History 1993  
  7. The Hong Kong Early Currency and the Unsuccessful Hong Kong Mint in Chinese
  8. How China and Hong Kong’s currencies were shaped by Spanish, Mexican silver dollars SCMP 7th February 2018
  9. What is the currency of Hong Kong? How a city’s money came to be, from fresh bills to going cashless SCMP 10th November 2018
  10. Hong Kong history captured in old HSBC banknotes SCMP 23rd January 2019

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Thomas William Kinder – Master of the Hong Kong Mint, 1817-1884
  2. Oriental Bank Corporation – HK’s first note issuing institution, 1847
  3. Thomas De La Rue plc, – HK banknote printing plant, Tai Po 1984 to 1996
  4. Thomas De La Rue and Co, UK – Hong Kong banknote manufacturer, 1984-1996
  5. Hong Kong Note Printing Ltd – over 320 million HK banknotes printed annually

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