Silver rupees of Alwar and Bikanir (as it was then spelled) are unique among Indian princely states as they are based on the uniform British India coins, but have some features of the local kingdom as well. The silver rupees of Alwar and Bikanir are the same size, weight and silver content as the British India Rupee. Moreover, the ‘heads’ side featured the regular portrait of Queen Victoria, making them indistinguishable from any other coin. It was the reverse where the name of the state and its ruler featured.
Alwar coins were first minted in Calcutta in 1877 – but due to an error in the mint, the year came out as 1788. This is because the numbers were written in Persian script – which the British employees of the mint could probably not read. The first coins had the title ‘Maharao Raja Sawai Mangal Singh’. In 1887, he was awarded the title of ‘Maharaja’, on occasion of Victoria’s jubilee. Just 1.1 million of these silver rupees were minted from 1877-1891 – including the error coins of 1788 (most of which were recalled). Alwar coins are rare and popular among collectors.
Bikanir got its first silver coins minted in Calcutta in 1892 – 595,000 of them, and then another 111,000 in 1897. These are similar to the Alwar coins – the portrait of Empress Victoria on one side, with the name of state (Bikanir), king (Maharaja Ganga Singh Bahadur), the emblem of Bikanir and the year (in Persian) on the other side. These silver rupees are the same size, weight and silver content as the regular British India silver rupee. Given the low numbers that were minted, these coins are hard to find and popular among collectors. Within the two dates, 1897 commands a premium as fewer coins were minted and these are rarer.