Presidency Banknotes of India

Pre 1861


Face Value: 250 Rupees
Country: British Raj
Year: 1819
Substrate: Paper
Face Theme: Symbolism
Back Theme: Symbolism
Has Watermark: Yes
Has Signature: Yes
Anniversary Edition: Yes
Out of Circulation: Yes
Catalog Number: World Paper Money: early


Authenticity: Real
Grade: Very Fine
Errors: Folding and Cutting


Bank of Bengal was established as Bank of Calcutta in 1806, and later formed as Bank of Bengal by Charter of 1809 issued by Lord Minto, Governor general in council. Bank of Bengal is attributed to issue governmental currency for the first time in India. The Bank was run by 9 directors out which 3 were servants of Honourable East India Company (HEIC). The first series were uniface series with watermark paper. Bank of Bengal issued notes as early as 1812. The denominations which were issued in this series were; 250 Sicca Rupees(image shared is of 250 Sicca Rupees dated 1819) and 500 Sicca Rupees. As we know that Sicca rupee was current in Bengal Presidency then. The notes were payable on demand and were treated as instrument for carrying money; preventing it from theft. Most of the notes are cut in two halves and were sent part-wise for payment at the bank for safety. The bank used to cut the signature of the Treasurer and stamp CANCELLED on to the centre. All survived notes are cancelled and there is no note in this issue, which is without cancellation. However, we can observe the signature of Henry Tyler on the left bottom under the denomination panel, who was first Accountant of Bank of Bengal between 1806-1820. I saw this note in the RBI Monetary Museum, Mumbai at the first time in the display, and was waiting to collect! And thus collected in 2012! In 1821, the new paper currency act was passed by the bank and hence we see the “Commerce” series issued by the bank after 1821.

Promissory text of Bank of Bengal banknotes

Life Member IBNS-IBCC

Paper money is an instrument which circulates money from place to place. Indian banknotes are known since 1770, but there is no specimen or issued note known before 1812. The earliest banknotes which is seen in Razack et al. (2012) shows notes of Bank of Hindostan, Bank of Bengal, Bank of Bombay and Bank of Madras. There were three presidencies; Bengal, Bombay and Madras where these government and private joint stock banks circulated banknotes in India.  These notes were promissory notes issued on demand and were paid on demand. The below excerpt of Bank of Hindostan banknote shows the promissory note as;

Bank of Hindostan 10 Sicca Rupees banknote’s promissory text:
ON DEMAND I PROMISE to pay to……………….. or bearer Sicca Rupees TEN. 
Image Courtesy: Rezwan Razack
All other issues of bank of Hindostan had same promissory text. The earliest known banknote which has survived is dating to 1812 of Bank of Bengal. The promissory text of note dating to 1813 shows following text:
Bank of Bengal 250 Sicca Rupees banknote’s promissory text:
We Promise to pay to Mr W. Morton or Bearer on Demand Two Hundred and fifty Sicca Rupees. 
The minutes of meeting of Bank of Bengal in 1809 as seen with Victoria Memorial (see below) explains the name in the promissory text. Mr W. Morton was the Treasurer and Secretary of Bank of Bengal in 1809. His name is mentioned, if bearer looses the note then the payment will be done back to the Treasurer?! Please see the copies of the minutes of meeting and a copy of Governor General, Lord Minto was sent notification from the bank (please see below).
Minutes of Meeting Page no.1:
At a meeting of the directors of the Bank of Bengal on Monday the 2nd January 1809,
{ R.W. Cox,
Hon. S.G. Tucker,
W. Egerton, 
A. Colvin,
J.W. Fulton,
G. Tyler,
John Palmer,
John Alexander,
Maharaja Sookmay Rae} Esqrs. 
The directors having received the Charter of Incorporation from the right Honourable  the Governor General in Council and taken the oaths of office before him, resolve that the charter be reach. 
Resolved that Mr. Tucker be appointed President. Resolved that Mr. Morton be appointed Secretary and Treasurer. Mr Henry Tyler Accountant and Ramchander Rae Khazanchy and that the following letter be addressed to the Governor General in Council
Governor General in Council 
& & & 
Communication letter of Bank of Bengal to Lord Minto:
My Lord, We have the honour to report of your Lordship in Council, that We have nominated Henry S. George Tucker, Esq. our President and apointed Mr. W. Morton, Secretary and Treasurer, Mr. Henry Tyler Accountant and Ramchander Rae Khazanchy of the Bank of Bengal, We request that the officers of the Bank may to be the presented Oaths before your Lordship agreeably to the conditions of the Bank. We have the Honour to be, My Lord. 
Later series had some changes in the promissory text. Type 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 have same promissory text but type 7 had different text please see below:
Type 3:
We Promise to pay to Mr W. Morton or Bearer on demand Sixteen Sicca Rupees. 
Type 6: Similar
Type 7:
I Promise to pay Mr W. Morton or Bearer on demand One Hundred Company’s Rupees. 
Between 1853 and 1856 notes had similar promissory text but the later issue had different Promissory text. The last issue is called Britannia series which contained uniform promissory text:
Type 10: Britannia Series 10 Rupees note –
I Promise to pay the Bearer on demand Rupees TEN / 1857 Aug 31st Calcutta 31st Aug 1857.  
In 1861 first currency act was passed in India and all banks were not allowed to issue promissory notes.

The role of Perkins & Company in Indian Early Paper Money

By Nilaish, MBA
Life Member of IBNS-IBCC 

“Earliest Currency notes in India known so far by Bank of Bengal is dated 1812 and is an uniface note. Later issues after 1822 shows the name of the engraver and the printer of the currency notes.” 

A Brief Timeline of Perkins & Bacon Co. London 

  • 1808-1810 Jacob Perkins and Gideon Fairman produce the first known books in the USA to use steel plates.
  • ~1816 Jacob Perkins has “soft steel” plates to engrave on, and a method to harden the plates, and a process.
  • 1818 (April 15), Heath discussed the American bank notes printed by Perkins at the Society of Arts Committee on Forgery.
  • Bank of England was offering a £20,000 prize for unforgeable notes.
  • 1819 (May 31) Perkins sets sail for England after communicating with Charles Heath.
  • 1819 (June 29) Perkins arrives in Liverpool, England.
  • 1819 (July) Sir Joseph Banks met with Perkins.
  • 1819 (December 20) The Heaths join Perkins and Fairman forming Perkins, Fairman and Heath.
  • 1819 George Heath provides some financial backing only.
  • 1820 (Feb) Bank of England chooses another solution, but other business follows, including £1 notes and stamps.
  • 1820 (Feb) Perkins among other ventures, goes into the book publishing business with the Heaths and Fairman.
  • 1820 (summer) Perkins Fairman and Heath move to 69 Fleet Street, London.
  • 1820 (September) Perkins had sold 1,000 plates he had intended to use on the Bank of England project.
  • 1822 Perkins and Heath
  • 1829 Perkins and Bacon. Joshua Butters Bacon ( Perkins’ son in law), buys Heaths interest.
  • 1834-1852 Perkins, Bacon & Petch (Henry Petch was an engraver, who was also made a partner).
  • 1839 Perkins Bacon and Co are asked to make plates and dies for stamps (the Penny Black was their first stamp).

Image Courtesy: Boston Monthly Magazine (1826)

There is an overlap of Perkins, Bacon & Petch and Perkins, Bacon and Co; not all business ventures included all partners and percentage ownership is detailed as changing as shares were bought and sold between partners, and money was loaned to partners from the company. Additionally, Charles Heath had many other individual business ventures, as did Perkins. Heath and Perkins had numerous talents and successes, however, they routinely had financial problems. Fortunately, the accounting was very good. Charles Heath had professional relationships with several people that spanned decades. Jacob Perkins retired in 1843 and died in London on 30 July 1849, at 83 years of age. He was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London.

Modern Engraving & Printing was the key!

England’s currency was being forged at an alarming rate around 1810. The smaller bills were even being forged by people with little skill. They made this a crime punishable by death, but this did nothing to stop the forgery. England had the Royal Society create several reports on the problems, starting about 1818. They looked worldwide at currencies and really liked the American inventor Jacob Perkins’ bills for Massachusetts. The new USA National Bank chose Perkins plates to print the new national currency in the USA. In England, Charles Heath even gave a speech about him to the Royal Society. Jacob Perkins not only invented soft steel plates that could be hardened after being engraved, he also invented a roller which would apply higher pressure, and 64 piece plates (and more: nails, fire equipment, etc.). An expensive lathe technique was employed to make complicated designs for currencies (Asa Spencer invented it and sold the rights, and became an employee).Charles Heath wrote letters asking Jacob Perkins to come to England, as England was offering a £20,000 prize for creating forgery proof notes. Jacob Perkins was paid or loaned £5,000 and went to England with his machines, plates and associates and set up shop confident he would win the award, leaving his brother in charge of his Boston shop. He made presentations, and engraved sample notes. He worked in London for months, until it became clear they were not going to award the contract for national currency to a foreigner. The reports themselves mention Jacob Perkins currency or techniques more than anyone else, and in the end they applied some of his techniques, but did not employ him (at that time). England was currently using copper plates for their currency, and was using 1,500 engraved plates a year. One of the findings of the early reports was that Jacob’s steel plates would cost the Bank half as much to produce bills of much higher quality. They had underestimated the number of impressions from the plates, and the true cost would be less than 1/10 the cost because of the long life of his steel plates.


GB 4400/1819. Machinery and implements applicable to ornamental turning and engraving, transferring engraved or other work from the surface of one to another piece of metal, and forming metallic dies and matrices; construction of plates and presses for printing bank-notes and other papers; making dies and presses for coining money, stamping medals, and for other purposes (11 October 1819).

Indian Early Paper Money (1810-1860): Engraved & Printed by Perkins & Company

Bank of Bengal, 1825, 100 Sicca Rupees.

Engraved & Printed by Perkins & Heath London – Patent Hardened Steel Plate.

Bank of Bombay, 1860, 10 Rupees.

Engraved & Printed by Perkins Bacon & Co. London, Patent Hardened Steel Plate.

Bank of Madras, 3000 Rupees Proof on card,

Engraved & Printed by Perkins, Bacon & Petch, London, Patent Hardened Steel Plate.

On notes Printer names are identified above.

Exercise for collectors?

Bank Notes of India prior to 1822 were printed by whom? This is a disturbing question, as according to me it is pointing to Portals Ltd., for almost 300 years Portals has been widely acclaimed as the leading banknote substrate manufacturer in the world. It has manufactured banknote paper for the Bank of England since 1724. Let us observe and compare the below two notes!

Bank of Bengal, 1819, 250 Sicca Rupees.

Hand molded, Watermarked paper.

Plate Printing

Bank of England, 8 March 1819, Henry Hase, £1.

Hand Molded, Watermarked Paper

Plate Printing.

Portals was taken over by De la Rue in 1995. It can be assumed that directors of the Banks in India imported banknote paper from Portals between 1810 and 1822. This can be also a case that notes were Printed by Perkins & Heath?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A collection of facts about Indian Paper Money by Mr. Rezwan Razack, author of ‘The Revised Standard Reference Guide to Indian Paper Money

Bank of Hindostan, a Private Bank issued the first banknotes of India in 1770. The lowest denomination in early issued banknotes was Rupees Ten and the highest was Rupees Ten Thousand.

Bank of Hindostan – Sixteen Sicca Rupees

The early banknotes were exchanged for silver or gold coins or vice versa.

One Silver Rupee

One Gold Mohur

There were banknotes with denominations of Rupees Four, Rupees Fifteen and Rupees Sixteen.

Sixteen silver coins were equivalent to One Gold Mohur of equal weight. One Gold Mohur weighed 11.59 grams.

The earliest surviving issued banknote is by The Bank of BengalTwo Hundred and Fifty Sicca Rupees note dated 3rd September 1812.

Bank of Bengal – Two Hundred and Fifty Sicca Rupees

OLDEST surviving Indian Bank Note – Serial No.108 dt. 3rd September 1812

Early banknotes had manuscript signature, date and serial number.

Madras Government Bank – Two Star Pagodas

The Government of India took over the issue of banknotes in 1861 from the Private and Presidency Banks.

The Uniface or one-sided notes of Government of India were in circulation from 1861 to 1930.

Government of India – Twenty Rupees – Uniface with Portrait of Queen Victoria

The first Rupees Five notes were Uniface and issued in 1871 by Government of India.

Government of India – Five Rupees – Uniface with Green under print

The only notes to have serial numbers in all four corners were from the Uniface Note series.

Initially the Uniface Notes, notes with the Portrait of King George V & King George VI had theCircle of Issue printed on the notes.

Portrait Note of King George V – One Hundred Rupees – Cawnpore

Circles of Issue Cawnpore and Kurrachee are now spelt Kanpur and Karachi.
The only issued type that does not have a title on the note, either Government of India or Reserve Bank of India.

Portrait Note of King George VI – One Hundred Rupees – Kanpur

The notes of Rupee One were first issued in 1917 with the Portrait of King George V. 25% of these Rupee One notes were issued in a booklet of 25 notes.

Portrait Notes of King George V – One Rupee

Portrait Notes of King George V – A booklet of 25 One Rupee Notes

Portrait Notes of King George V – A bundle of 25 One Rupee Notes

The second issue of Rupee One notes dated 1935 took place in 1940 with the Portrait of King George V, who died in 1936.

The 1935 Rupee One is the only note with Serial Number on the reverse.

Portrait Notes of King George V – One Rupee – Serial Number on Reverse

The One Rupee note had the year inscribed in the image of the coin on the Reverse from 1917-1994.

Government of India – One Rupee – with Coin dated 1917

Government of India – One Rupee – with Coin dated 1990

There was an issue of Rupees Two Annas Eight or Rupees Two and a Half in 1918.

Portrait Notes of King George V – Rupees Two Annas Eight

The Reserve Bank of India was established in 1935 as a central note issuing authority.

The Rupee One notes of Government of India were treated in Government accounts at par with metallic coins.

The Secretary of the Finance Department, Government of India, signed these Rupee One notes.

Government of India – One Rupee

The first Rupees Two notes were issued in 1943 with the Portrait of King George VI.

Reserve Bank of India – Two Rupees – with Portrait of King George VI

Notes issued by Government of India and Reserve Bank of India were overprinted for use in Burma.

Reserve Bank of India – Five Rupees – Burma

Notes issued by Reserve Bank of India were overprinted ‘Government of Pakistan’ in 1947 at the Nasik Press for use in Pakistan until 1948.

Reserve Bank of India – Rupees Five with Government of Pakistan Overprint

Notes of Independent India were first released in 1949 in Rupee One and Rupees Ten and later in all denominations in 1950.

Government of India – One Rupee

Notes of all denominations issued by the Reserve Bank of India after independence have theAshoka Pillar and the Seal of Reserve Bank of India.

Reserve Bank of India – Twenty Rupees

The Mahatma Gandhi Birth Centenary Commemorative Issue in 1969 is the only the commemorative issue by the Reserve Bank of India.

Reserve Bank of India – One Rupee – Mahatma Gandhi Commemorative Issue

Reserve Bank of India – Two Rupees – Mahatma Gandhi Commemorative Issue

Reserve Bank of India – Five Rupees – Mahatma Gandhi Commemorative Issue

Reserve Bank of India – Ten Rupees – Mahatma Gandhi Commemorative Issue

Reserve Bank of India – One Hundred Rupees – Mahatma Gandhi Commemorative Issue

Notes of denominations Rupees One Thousand, Rupees Five Thousand and Rupees Ten Thousandwere demonetized in 1978.

Between 1978-1987, the highest denomination in circulation was Rupees One Hundred.

Reserve Bank of India – One Hundred Rupees

Notes of Rupees Five Hundred were re-introduced on 23rd October 1987 with the Portrait of Mahatma Gandhi.

Reserve Bank of India – Five Hundred Rupees with Portrait of Mahatma Gandhi

There is Braille feature in the Mahatma Gandhi Series notes for the visually challenged.

Reserve Bank of India – Twenty Rupees – Brialle Feature : a Rectangle above the Ashoka Pillar

Reserve Bank of India – Fifty Rupees – Brialle Feature : a Square above the Ashoka Pillar

Reserve Bank of India – One Hundred Rupees – Brialle Feature : a Triangle above the Ashoka Pillar

Reserve Bank of India – Five Hundred Rupees – Brialle Feature : a Circle / Dot above the Ashoka Pillar

After an interval of 22 years, notes of Rupees One Thousand were issued in 2000.

Reserve Bank of India – Rupees One Thousand – with Portrait of Mahatma Gandhi

Rupees One Thousand of Mahatma Gandhi series has Serial Numbers in two different colours.

The denomination in Hindi numeral appears in a Rupees Two note. The only instance in Republic India notes.

Reserve Bank of India – Two Rupees

Denominations of Rupees Five Hundred upwards to Rupees Ten Thousand were demonetized in 1946. The Denomination of Rupees One Thousand, Rupees Five Thousand and Rupees Ten Thousand were re-introduced from 1954 to be demonetized again in 1978.

Star or Replacement notes were issued from 2006.

Reserve Bank of India – Ten Rupees – Star or Replacement Note

The year of issue is printed on the reverse of the notes from 2005 onwards.

Reserve Bank of India – Five Rupees – 2010

Reserve Bank of India – Ten Rupees – 2006

Reserve Bank of India – Fifty Rupees – 2011

The only Governors of the Reserve Bank of India who did not sign a note are Mr. Osborne Smith and Mr. Ambegaonkar. However, Mr. Ambegaonkar signed the Rupee One Note as the Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Government of India.

The vignette of the Sailing Boat or Dhow remained on the reverse of the Ten Rupees for over 40 years.

Reserve Bank of India – Rupees Ten – Sailing Boat on the Reverse

There is only one instance of Republic India notes printed by the American Banknote Company in U.S.A. in 1997-98.

Notes of Government of India and The Reserve Bank of India of the same type that were in circulation in that period were printed in a different colour and issued for use in the Trucial and Gulf States of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Muscat and Oman from 1959-1966.

Government of India – One Rupee – used in Gulf

Reserve Bank of India – Five Rupees – used in Gulf

A special issue of Rupees Ten and Rupees One Hundred were issued in 1959 to Indian Haj Pilgrims for exchange with local currency in Saudi Arabia.

Reserve Bank of India – Ten Rupees – HAJ

Reserve Bank of India – One Hundred Rupees – HAJ

The Nizam of Hyderabad was given the privilege to print and issue their own currency in 1917-1918.

Osmania Notes of Hyderabad – One Rupee

The Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir had issued notes with limited circulatory liabilities in 1877.

The Princely States of Morvi and Dhrangadhra issued currency notes of limited liability known asHavala during the metal shortage experienced in World War I.

Morvi State Havala

Dhrangadhra State currency note

The shortage of metal during World War II necessitated 36 Princely States mostly in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Sind, Baluchistan and central provinces to issue paper tokens instead of coins, some with the value of One Pice or 1/192nd of a Rupee.

Cash Coupon of Princely State of Bundi

Cash Coupon of Princely State of Navalgad

Prisoners of World War I and World War II were issued coupons of denominations Half Anna to Ten Rupees for use within the Prison Camps.

Prisoners of War – Two Annas Coupon

The Colonial Territories of Portugal in Goa used notes issued by the Department of Public Financeinitially and later Banco Nacional Ultramarino.

Governo Geral Do Estado Da India – Five Rupias

Banco Nacional Ultramarino issued notes in odd denominations of Escudos 30, 60, 300 and 600.

Banco Nacional Ultramarino – 60 Escudos

The Indo-French territory of Pondicherry used notes issued by the Banque De L’Indo-Chine for use in their colonial territories in India.

Banque De L’IndoChine – Fifty Rupees

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