In our last Jamaica @ 50 Reflection post we looked at the national motto, “Out of many One People.” So it seemed only natural to look next at Jamaica’s national currency, another significant tool of our nation’s identity. Remember, the $2 note, which is no longer in circulation, featured the head of Paul Bogle on the front, and “a photograph of a group of Jamaican children, exemplifying the national motto, “Out of Many, One People” (The Daily Gleaner, Saturday, September 6, 1969, p. 1).
You might think that Jamaica changed its currency to reflect its new independent state on Monday, August 6, 1962, the same day that the Union Jack was lowered and the Jamaican flag took its place. This was not the case. This was how it happened: Jamaica changed to a decimal system of currency in September 1969. This move led to the opportunity to create a completely Jamaican currency that reflected the ideals of our country’s new sovereignty.
In today’s Jamaica @ 50 Reflection, we will take a pictorial tour of the development of Jamaica’s post-independence coins and bank notes up to the present day $5000, popularly called “the Shearer,” introduced on May 18, 2009.
As mentioned above, Jamaica officially changed to a decimal system of currency in 1969. This move was based on recommendations from the report of the Select Committee on the Decimalization of Jamaica’s Currency. According to Ministry Paper No. 55 – Decimalization of the Jamaican Currency, “the decision has been taken that Jamaica should change over to the decimal system of the currency in September 1969” (Edward Seaga November 7, 1967).
The House of Representatives unanimously approved the Select Committee’s report. The following were the Committee’s chief recommendations:
- The currency should be decimalized on the basis of the 10/- unit, divided into 100 cents.
- The names of the major and minor units should be ‘dollar’ and ‘cent’ respectively.
- The change should take place some time in September/October 1969.
- The new coins should be the same size and weight as the denominations in the pounds, shillings and pence, which the public was already accustomed.
- The portrait of the ruling British monarch, which had appeared on the obverse of all coins, would be replaced by the Jamaican coat of arms, with national symbols on the reverse.
- The portraits of national heroes should replace the portrait of the Queen on the bank notes.
- The nation’s motto should be incorporated into the design of the new notes.
The following were the denominations decided on:
The newly minted Jamaican coins and bank notes were released into circulation throughout the country on Monday, September 8, 1969, a day that was referred to as C-Day.
Another bank note, the $5, was introduced in 1970 bearing the head of former Prime Minister and National Hero, Norman Washington Manley, on the front and a picture of the Old Parliament Building on the back.
- Jamaican $5 bank note
A review of the country’s currency was conducted in 1974 and the decision was made to issue a $20 note and to replace the 50 cent note with a coin.
In June 1976, the new $20 bank note was issued, bearing a portrait of Noel Nethersole, who was widely regarded as the founder of the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ). On the back is a picture of the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ).
The 50 cent bank note was eventually replaced by the 50 cent coin in November 1976.
In October 1978 the colours of the $10 note was changed to a lighter blue and grey, and the $20 note was changed to orange. The old $10 and $20 notes were then demonetized.
On December 1, 1986 a $100 bank note was introduced, featuring the head of Sir Donald Sangster, the second Prime Minister of Jamaica, on the front, and a picture of Dunn’s River Falls, St. Ann on the back.
A $50 note was later introduced in 1988, featuring the head of National Hero, Sam Sharpe, on the front, and the famous Doctor’s Cave Beach in Montego Bay, St. James, on the back.
Following a review of the currency structure in 1989, it was decided to replace the $1 note with a coin. The new $1 coin was put into circulation on September 28, 1990.
- The $1 coin replaced the $1 bank note in 1990.
The review also advised abandoning the 20 and 50 cent coins and the $2 note over a period of time.
On October 7, 1991 new 10 and 25 cent coins were released.
A new currency structure was introduced in June 1994. It was announced that the 5 cents should be abandoned, and the 10 and 25 cents and the $1 would have a new look. These were released in April 1995 and the coins with the old designs were demonetized in January 1997.
In December 1994, a $5 coin replaced the $5 note.
A new bank note was also issued in June 1994, the $500 bank note, featuring national heroine, Nanny of the Maroons on the front, and on the back an old map of Jamaica highlighting Port Royal.
So in 1995 the new currency structure was as follows:
- 1 cents
- 10 cents
- 25 cents
- $1 coin
- $5 coin
In March 1999, the $10 note was replaced with a coin.
In March 2000 the $1000 note was added to the currency structure featuring former Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Honourable Michael Manley, and on the back a picture of Jamaica House.
In July 2000 the $20 note was replaced with a coin.
- The Jamaican $20 coin replaces the $20 bank note in 2000
On Monday, May 18, 2009, the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) launched a new bank note into the currency system: the $5000 note. This note features the portrait of former Prime Minister Hugh Lawson Shearer on the front and the blossoms of the Frangipani (Plumeria rubra) and an aerial view of Highway 2000 on the back.
There you have it folks, a very detailed pictorial stroll down Jamaica’s truly national currency. We have come a long way and now, as of May 23, 2010, this is Jamaica’s currency structure:
- 1 cent
- 10 cent
- 25 cent
- $1 coin
- $5 coin
- $10 con
- $20 coin
Until next time…
Bank of Jamaica (2010) Currency Timeline
Bank of Jamaica (2010) Bank Notes
Banknotes.com, Currency Gallery: Jamaica
The Daily Gleaner, Wednesday, January 31, 1968
The Daily Gleaner, Saturday, September 6, 1969
The Daily Gleaner, Tuesday, September 9, 1969
Edward Seaga (1967) Ministry Paper No. 55 – Decimalization of the Jamaican Currency
JamaicanCurrency.com (2009) Jamaican Currency Pictures
Omnicoin.com (2010) Coins from Jamaica