East India Company, Bengal Presidency, Pulta mint: Prinsep’s coinage, copper Madosies or Half-Annas (3), in the name of ‘Shah ‘Alam II (1173-1221h/1759-1806), all 1195h, yr 22 [December 1780-April 1781], shah alam badshah 1195 [Shah Alam emperor 1195], rev. sanah 22 julus [in the 22nd year of his reign], two stars below widely spaced, large flan, 29mm, 15.66g/6h (Prid. 191 [Sale, lot 626]; Stevens 3.13; KM. 126); similar, 28mm, 13.07g/6h (Prid. 191 var. [Sale, lot 626]; Stevens 3.14; KM. 126); similar but stars closer together, 28mm, 13.85g/12h (Prid. 191 var. [Sale, lot 626]; cf. Stevens 3.15; KM. 126) . First good very fine, second about extremely fine, last good fine and off-centre, the smaller reverse die probably intended for a Quarter-Anna £100-£150 --- Provenance: First K. O’Brien Collection, Part II, Noble Numismatics Auction 46 (Sydney), 16-17 November 1994, lot 2422 (part); R.A. Climpson Collection, Noble Numismatics Auction 85B (Melbourne), 25 July 2007, lot 2156 (part) Second bt R. Weir (Unionville, ONT) February 1999 Third Robert Senior (Glastonbury, UK) FPL 4, Winter 1982 (369); bt R.C. Senior February 1983. Owner’s tickets. John Prinsep (1748-1830), son of an Oxfordshire vicar, entered the cotton trade of the EIC in London as a young man and arrived in India in 1771 intending to join the army, but shortly afterwards resigned his commission. Taken under the wing of Warren Hastings, Prinsep introduced the cultivation of indigo, with which he was to make his fortune as shipments from the previous source of this textile dye for England, South Carolina, were seriously disrupted by the American wars of independence. In 1780 he discovered copper mines at Rohtas and Moghyr in Bihar and, having been granted permission by the authorities to mine the metal and given a 3-year contract to produce a new copper coinage for Bengal in April of that year (with an option to extend it for the next 27 years), started to produce coins in early 1781. Struck on blanks rolled by machinery and in fly presses, these pieces were superior to any copper coin that had been minted in India up to that time, but Prinsep had overestimated the amount of copper in his mines and was forced to mix it with imported sheet and Japan copper. The coins, which unusually do not bear any mark of value, were released into circulation in September 1781 and Alexander Cunningham, Prinsep’s business partner, had met with the Company’s directors in London to appraise them of a situation that he thought would be beneficial to the cowrie-using population in Bengal, but they obviously were not fully aware of. In January 1782 London advised Calcutta to terminate Prinsep’s contract, for a number of reasons but principally because they had not sanctioned it, but the letter informing Calcutta of this decision arrived 12 days too late to cancel it. Prinsep invoked the 27-year extension, but eventually the dispute was settled with the grant of a large financial payment to Prinsep and, in return, Prinsep surrendered his minting equipment at the end of 1784
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