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History::Guyanese dollar

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History The history of the Guyanese dollar should not be considered in isolation of the wider picture surrounding the history of currency in the British West Indies as a whole. ( See Currencies of the British West Indies ). The aspects of that history that are peculiar to British Guiana are the continued use of the four pence groat coin when all other territories had abandoned it, and also the use of dollar accounts in both the public and private sectors since 1839. In the other Eastern Caribbean territories, there was a mixture of dollar and sterling accounts until the year 1951.

The Dutch territories of Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice on the north coast of South America, created in early 17th century, came under the control of the British during the Napoleonic wars. These territories were formally ceded to the United Kingdom in 1815 and united to become the colony of British Guiana in 1831. At first, the British introduced a British variety of the Dutch guilder currency into this territory. Then in 1839, the Spanish dollar as a unit of account was introduced in order to facilitate the introduction of British sterling silver coinage. The rationale behind this lies in the fact that Spanish silver dollars, alternatively known as pieces of eight, were already circulating alongside the Dutch coinage, and also widely throughout the Eastern Caribbean. The dollar unit of account therefore acted as a convenient intermediatory conversion unit between sterling and the outgoing guilder unit. The dollar unit was equivalent to 4 shillings 2 pence sterling and replaced the guilder unit at a rate of 1 dollar = 3⅛ guilder.

A particular feature of the circulation of British silver coins in British Guiana was the popularity of the 4d (four pence) coin, known as the groat. This was a direct consequence of its equivalence to the very popular outgoing 'Bit' coin which was equal to one quarter of a guilder. When the groat coin ceased to circulate in the United Kingdom in the latter half of the nineteenth century, a special request was made in 1888 for groats to be struck for use in the British West Indies and British Guiana. These were first struck in 1891. From 1917 they were struck exclusively for use in British Guiana.

Spanish, Mexican, and Colombian silver dollars continued to circulate alongside the British sterling coinage until 1876 when these dollar coins were demonetised.

The Spanish dollar unit should not be confused with the American dollar unit. The American dollar unit was first introduced in the USA in the year 1792, based on the average weight of a selection of worn Spanish dollars. As such, the American dollar was marginally less valuable than the Spanish dollar.


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