The history of Seychelles has always been closely intertwined with the concept of money. Even before the islands were inhabited it was thought that certain nefarious personages were using the archipelago for ‘banking’ purposes. Up until today the idea of finding buried treasure is still alive and well amongst the local population.
The currency of the Seychelles is the rupee and it is not to be confused with the rupee currency of other countries. This one has an international currency code of SCR and it is subdivided into 100 cents but where does it stem from?
According to my secondary school history booklet, there is evidence that the Seychelles were discovered “as far back as 200 -300 AD by Malays” and there is proof in a manuscript from “AD 851 that Arab merchants also knew of the islands” however they did not choose to settle, the islands were more of a “driveby” shopping centre. The booklet explains that the first settlers were actually French colonists who came in 1770, they landed and settled on Ste. Anne Island with their slaves and in total there were twenty-eight people, they consisted of 15 French, 7 slaves, 5 Indians and one woman, a Negress under the command of a Delaunay.
The Central Bank of Seychelles explains that during this time, which is termed the French period, the currency was mostly metal coins. As per usual the coins were made in the name of the French King Louis XVI and they were valued as Louis d’or, demi-Louis d’or, Louis d’argent or Ecu, quart-Ecu, and demi-Ecu. Interestingly though, they also state that the main transactions used the Livre Tournois which was made out of silver, this was later replaced by another coin called the Franc Germinal.
AND THEN THE BRITISH OVERTHREW THE FRENCH (1815 TO 1976)
According to secondary school history the British contested control for the islands between 1794 and 1810. McActeer (1990) tells us that the French administrator of Seychelles during the years of war with the United Kingdom was a Jean Baptiste Quéau de Quincy. One can only assume that he had no desire to have his work destroyed becausehe declined to resist when armed enemy warships arrived. He instead successfully negotiated the status of capitulation to Britain and it came with the added bonus of settlers obtaining the privileged position of neutrality. Even though Britain eventually assumed full control upon the surrender of Mauritius in 1810 it took four years for it to be formalised at the Treaty of Paris.
And that is when paper currency first appeared in the form of Mauritian dollars, rupees or pounds according to the Central Bank however the coins from the French period such as the Piastre Decaen were still in circulation. The Central Bank also states that on 1 January 1826 the sterling monetary system with its unit of the “shilling” was introduced in unity with the other British colonies of the East Africa region.
Interestingly, when the Mauritius Commercial Bank was opened in 1838 because Seychelles was administered from Mauritius, both countries had the same currency.
According to the Central Bank of Seychelles when the Seychelles became a “Crown Colony” in 1903 and administration was transferred to Britain, the Mauritian currency still remained in use up to 1919 when the British Legislative Council authorized the establishment of a Board of Commissioners of Currency through the Paper Currency Ordinance of 1914 which was enacted by C. R. M. O’Brien, the governor of the Colony of the Seychelles on 10 August 1914. This currency had standard issue notes that spanned from 1918, with notes for 50 cents and 1
rupee then in 1928, 5, 10 and 50 rupees notes were issued. In 1951, 50 cents and 1 rupee notes were phased out in favour of coins while 20- and 100-rupee notes were first introduced in 1968, then the 5-rupee note was replaced by a coin in 1972.
The Central Bank of Seychelles tells us that during the Second World War there were no less than twenty nine foreign currencies in circulation in the colony as there was a local currency shortage because in 1939, The Seychelles Coinage Ordinance saw the first silver coins of one rupee and copper-nickel coins of 50 cents, 25 cents and 10 cents but it was not enough. This resulted in that between 1947 and 1970 there was an intense debate on the adoption of the “shilling” as the unit of the currency instead of the “rupee”. The matter was finally shelved in 1970 and the rupee stayed.
THE FIRST PAPER SEYCHELLES CURRENCY
Seychelles issued its first set of complete paper currency in 1968, explains the Central Bank of Seychelles, they had the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II replacing all existing notes and thus it was called the “Elizabeth II” Issue (1968-1975). All the notes featured Queen Elizabeth II along with a symbol of Seychelles, such as, the 5 rupees note featured the Seychelles black parrot, the 10 rupees note featured a Tortoise, the 20 rupees note featured the Bridled tern, the 50 rupees note featured a Schoner, and the 100 rupees note featured Turtles.
THE FIRST REPUBLIC (1976)
Secondary history tells us that the elections were held in 1966 and 1970 and independence was granted in 1976 on the 29th of June and Seychelles became a republic within the Commonwealth. The Central Bank explains that that same year, the Seychelles Monetary Authority took over the issuance of paper money and issued notes for 10, 25, 50 and 100 rupees. They explain that these notes featured the first president of the Seychelles, Sir James R. Mancham and replaced all colonial notes which featured the British queen and they remained in circulation even after the coup d’état of 5 June,1977 until a new set of coins which had the Armorial Bearing of the Republic replacing the President’s effigy, was issued on May 9,1978.
THE SECOND REPUBLIC (1977 TO 1993)
McActeer (1990) explains that in 1977, a coup d’état ousted the first president of the republic, James Mancham and he was replaced by France Albert René. Therefore according to the Central Bank, the Seychelles Monetary Authority took over themanagement of the currency in 1978 on the 1st December and decided to adopt in February 1979 the letters “SR” for identifying the rupee, then the Central Bank of Seychelles replaced the Monetary Authority in 1983 so all the legal tender notes carried its name. In 1979, the Central Bank redesigned the notes to feature a “more socialist and modernized theme which was more representative of the René Regime” however in 1989, there was a need for new security measures and a new series was introduced with better security features and colours.
THE THIRD REPUBLIC
According to the Central Bank, the only changes to the currency in the Third Republic have been in a quest to produce higher standard notes and in 1998, another “more high-tech series was introduced with a more practical, ergonomic design”. This series later had an additional 500-rupee note first seen in 2005.
2011, THE HIGHER SECURITY UPGRADE
On June 7, 2011, the Central Bank of Seychelles issued updated 50, 100 and 500 rupees notes with improved security features. They explained that the advent of technology required that the Seychelles also keep up with the new security measures. The colour schemes of the notes were revised, with the notes being more green, red, and orange, than the notes currently in circulation. The new notes also carried the year of printing, as well as the signature of Pierre Laporte, the bank’s governor at the time. The Central bank explains that the existing notes remain legal tender but they will be removed from circulation as they wear out.
They also state that each of the three banknotes has a holographic patch instead of a foil sailfish and the locations are different for the different notes:
- On the 50-rupee note, the silver holographic sailfish alternates between the number 50 and an image of the Aldabra rail, a flightless bird.
On the 100-rupee note, the gold holographic sailfish alternates between the number 100 and an image of the Seychelles giant tortoise.
On the 500-rupee note, the gold holographic sailfish alternates between the number 500 and an image of the Seychelles scops owl.
CENTRAL BANK OF SEYCHELLES (2006)
On top of that the Central Bank states that there is also additional security upgrades which include a 2.5-mm wide fluorescent security thread on the 50-rupee note, a 2.5-mm wide colour-shifting security thread on the 100-rupee note, and a 3-mm wide colour-shifting security thread on the 500-rupee note. Also on the notes are De La Rue’s unique Gemini technology that fluoresces under ultraviolet light but appears normal in daylight.
ONLY IN SEYCHELLES…STRANGE BUT TRUE.
The Central Bank of Seychelles (2006) brings to light two very bizarre incidents.
- The fifty rupee note of 1968 became a collector’s item with the word “SEX” spelled by the palm fronds!
- The “bank note mystery” tells the story of the country’s original R100 banknote of November 1979.It was withdrawn from circulation on
February 25, 1980 and demonetized when the second consignment of notes, worth 4.5 million pounds sterling went missing after the Greek freighter carrying it sank. Some notes reappeared fifteen years later, in 1994, believed to have been washed ashore and also caught in the fishermen’s nets off the coast of Dorset in England!
I for one am going to look for a 1968 fifty rupee note, this I have to see for myself.
(n.d.). Retrieved december 15, 2014, from virtualseychelles: http://www.virtualseychelles.sc Central Bank of Seychelles. (2006). History of Paper. Victoria.
McActeer, W. (2000). Hard Times in Paradise: The History of the Seychelles,1827-1919. Victoria. Ministry of Education. (1990). History of Seychelles. Victoria: Ministry of Education.
Photos were taken from ‘The History of the Paper Currency’ borrowed from The Central Bank of Seychelles.
Courtesy : Sesel Sa !