The anna, together with the rupee and the paisa, was the foundation of the Indian currency system (1 Rupee = 16 anna = 64 paisa). But remarkably, India did not have a 1 anna coin till 1907. During Edward VII’s reign, the first ever 1 anna coins were designed and minted – not before a lot of to and fro.
The Indian Coinage Act of 1906 provided for a 1 anna nickel coin – a denomination that had not existed up to now. Coins of 2 anna and above were all silver, while smaller values were one-quarter anna (1 paisa), ½ pice and 1/12 anna (1/3 paisa, 1/192 rupee). This was the first step in eliminating the use of high value metals (gold and silver) for coinage.
The final design that was selected for minting was a scalloped coin (similar to the aluminum 10 paisa used post independence), 20.5 mm across weighing 3.9 grams. This was a copper-nickel alloy – 75% copper and 25% nickel. This coin had one notable difference compared to other coins of Edward VII – the King’s effigy was in full royal regalia and was also wearing a crown. Other coins of Edward VII just had the bare head of the king. The Indian population was used to seeing a crowned, regally robed Queen Victoria coins since 1862. So, there was gossip at the time that the person on the coins was not the king, but some minor official, leading some people to reject those coins. Having a crowned/robed effigy was clearly an attempt to avoid that problem. After a small experimental run (200,000) in 1906, these coins were minted from 1907-1910.
After Edward’s death in 1910, George V became the British ruler. 1 anna coins in his reign were minted from 1911 onward, but coins are available only from 1912 and after. This is because the 1911 coins were minted in the infamous ‘pig’ style – the elephant on the King’s robe resembled a pig, leading many people to reject the coins. While other denominations went out into circulation, the 1 anna coins never left the mint and were melted.
George V passed away in 1936, and was succeeded by Edward VIII. No coins were minted in his name. He in turn was succeeded by George VI, who again followed the usual pattern – the 1 anna copper-nickel coin. However, the beginning of the World War II, and Japan’s entry into the war in 1941 (after the Pearl Harbor attack) led to a shortage of nickel. As a result, from 1942 onwards, the composition of the 1 anna coins was changed (see picture). These coins were nickel-brass, 75% copper, 20% zinc and 5% nickel. However, these did not prove to be very popular, and were replaced with the original copper-nickel coins in 1946 – after the war ended.
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