The 1 Pie Tarazu coin
Figure 1: 1 Pie: Calcutta Presidency
The smallest unit of currency in widespread use during the British era was 1/12 anna, which was 1/192 of a rupee. This unit was also called the ‘pie’ and was equal to 1/3 of a paisa – explaining Hindi sayings such as ‘पाई पाई का हिसाब’ (pie pie ka hisaab). Upto 1835, the British minted 1 Pie coins, which after 1835 became 1/12th Anna – which continued to be minted right up to the 1940s.
Figure 2: 1 Pie: Bombay Presidency
Before the Revolt of 1857, India was governed by the East India Company. The three principal trading posts of the company were at Madras, Calcutta and Bombay – which became the three presidencies – and which minted their own coins, initially in the name of the mughal emperor, but later on, in the name of the East India Company.
Figure 3: 1 Pie Bombay Presidency: 2 Variants
The British were the first to introduce machine struck coinage in India – the Madras Mint, followed by Calcutta Mint and finally Bombay in 1820s. The first machine struck coins in Bombay were copper coins of lower denominations – such as the 1 Pie – so that the workmen could gain experience on machines before moving on to more valuable materials such as silver and gold.
The obverse of the coin features the coat of arms of the East India Company – two lions holding up a shield and the date as per the Common Era – 1833 AD. The design on the reverse is more archaic – a balanced scale (तराज़ू - taraazu), with the Persian legend ‘Adil’ (justice) between the pans. Underneath, the date is given as per the Islamic calendar – 1248 AH. These coins are popularly known as तराज़ू (taraazu) coins. The value of the coin, in Roman script, is on the top – PIE. There are two variants – with a difference in the size of the lettering of the word Pie (See figure 3).
While these coins were minted in large numbers, they were also used more frequently (and roughly) than the higher value silver coins – just as the 10 rupee note today is used more frequently than a 2,000 rupee note. As a result, relatively few coins have survived, and high grade examples are very rare.