Historical Calcutta Mint - Colonial period

Old Silver Mint, Calcutta, India.www.flickr.co

Silver Two Annas Coin of Victoria Queen of Calcutta Mint of 1875. www.ebay.in
 A mint is an industrial facility which produces coins that can be used in currency. The origin of the word "mint" is attributed to the manufacture of silver coin in  Rome in 269 BC at the temple of Juno Monet.

The first mint was likely founded in Lydia in the 7th century BC, for coining gold, silver and electrum. The Lydian innovation gradually spread to neighboring Greece. Greek Isles  such as Crete; a mint existed at the ancient city of Cydonia on Crete at least as early as the fifth century BC. Production of coins in the Roman Empire, dating from about the 4th century BC, to a large extent gave a stimulus  to later development of coin minting in Europe.

The East India Company settlement at Calcutta was established on 24 August, 1690, its factory fortified in 1696. The fort, named after King William III, began its trading activities  in 1700. In 1715 the Company's operations and its  lands came under an independent Presidency of the Company and was responsible directly to London. Though the  Company's rights to trade in the region of Bengal  were granted by the  Emperor at Delhi, they had to make trade agreement with the local Nawob (Original Governor). So the company had no right to mint  on its own  and, therefore to obtain current coin, it had to send its silver and gold to the regional mint and pay the standard duties and mint charges.  The East India Company, prior to 1757  had to depend on the Murshidabad Mint from where it got the coins minted from the gold and silver supplied by them under the authority of the Nawob of Bengal.Further, the company relied on the  Seths (Hindu business people) at Murshidabad and consequently such  arrangement  had some holes and caused them anxiety because of delay in delivering coins on time and,  the business men at Murshidabad,  made the best of their predicament by taking business advantage over the Company’s deal with the  mint there. 
1757 British first struck coins in Calcutta mint. 1765 Clive took Bengal, Bihar and Orissa from Badsha Alam II ( Delhi) amaderkolkatashohor.blogspot.com
After some skirmishes between the local Nawob and  the East India company under Robert Clive over non payment of duty fees as stipulated in the trade agreement, particularly after recapture of  Ft. Williams  on 2 January, 1757,  a compromise was made. As per the treaty,  the company got the right to  have its own mint where gold and silver coins  could be struck on
The first East India Company's mint was located in a building next to the Black Hole in the old fort –Fort William...puronokolkata.com
the standard of the Murshidabad mint and could be circulated in that region with out additional charges.

Rupee 1849 proof- East India Company.jindalbullion.blogspot.com
Soon after the Battle of Plassey (23 June, 1757) and later Buxer (22 October, 1764), the East India company got the Diwani rights (Allahabad treaty of 16 August, 1765) from Emperor Shah Alamgir II (1759-1806). It enabled the company to mint  its own coins  and  it was in the old Fort William adjacent to Black Hole (incident happened on June 20, 1756) in Calcutta (Kolkata),  the first mint was  established.

The Calcutta mint  carried out  changes to the Mint’s name struck on its coins.  Its first issues,  released in April 1757, bore the mint name A’linagar  Kalkatta; then from July in the same year changed to simply Kalkutta. Upon  the East India Company becoming the  appointed Diwan of Bengal in 1765,  their mint at Calcutta began to use the name of the capital, Murshidabad, making its coins very much similar in every respect to those from Murshidabad itself.  Real identity of  a coin  caused some confusion  over the  mint that produced that particular coin. Confusion over the identity of mint  lasted till 1777 when the mint at Murshidabad was closed, and for a time the Calcutta mint was the only mint in operation.

The second Mint  located at the Bankshall, opposite to the western entrance of St. John’s Church was opened with better machinery brought in 1790 from England.  The site chosen was part  of Gillet Ship building Establishment, one of the docks from which several cargo ships were launched.The Governor General engaged on 21 July, 1790 the services of two Bengal Army engineers, Lieutenants Golding and Humphries, to oversee the construction of the machinery for the Calcutta mint and other  ensuing mints to be established. It is believed the new minting machinery, cast at the  local Arsenal  was still based on the hand operated screw principle. The Calcutta website states that the new machinery came from England and might have been mistaken for the nineteen presses purchased from Boulton in 1796.

The advantage of the new machinery was  the new presses allowed for the first time a complete impression of the die on each coin. The fixed AH year 1202 (AD 1787-1788) was used on the new first issues of the new coins but  later AH date  was omitted altogether.

Few years later, the Calcutta Mint on  the Gillet’s dockyard in 1829 began its operation in a new mint   built on the Strand street and, as for old Mint,  Messrs. Moran & Co., Indigo brokers took its control.

The new coin  production that began in 1835, had the head of King William IV - an important change from the traditional Indian coin with Persian legends on both sides. Calcutta began striking silver in September, then gold and copper from December. The other major mints at Bombay (gold and silver only) and Madras (copper only) did not begin production until 1837. The application of a frozen date, 1835, on the new coins was retained.
Copper one quarter Anna Coin of King Edward VII OF Calcutta Mint ....www.ebay.in
 In 1860 new  buildings  came up for mints  in the north of the Calcutta Mint grounds. Known as the Copper Mint, it began operation in April, 1865. Because of insufficient demand for copper coins, it was in cold storage between 1866 to 1878.  The Calcutta Copper Mint   from 1889 until 1923 provided all copper and bronze coins for India. The coinage production capacity then was  3,00,000 to 6,00,000 pieces per day. The silver and copper mints both used to function and produce coins of bronze, silver and gold. An interesting fact is  between 1916 and 1918, on account of World War I, the Calcutta mint was entrusted with the job of producing   bronze penny and ½ penny coins for Australia, a job done in England before.  Kolkata Mint was also producing  medals and decorations during the British regime and the production of medals continues to this day.

Prior to that these denominations had been struck in Britain. At the end of the war the master tools from Calcutta were sent to the Melbourne Branch of the Royal Mint where they were used to produce the first bronze coin struck in Australia in 1919.

After the opening of Government of India Mint at Alipore  on 19 March 1952, the building of the Old Silver Mint fell into neglect and was in a poor state. It is quite pathetic the historical and heritage value of not only Calcutta mint buildings, but also scores of monuments across India  is not given due credit.  There are currently plans afoot to  restore the building and open it as a museum. 


Pridmore, F 1980, The coins of the British Commonwealth of Nations to the end of the reign of 

George VI, 1952. Part 4: India. Vol.2, Uniform coinage East India Company, 1835-58, Imperial period, 1858-1947, Spink & Son, London

Thurston, Edgar 1893, Note on the history of the East India Company coinage from... 

 British https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India_Government_Mint,_Kolkata