Written by Shekinah Ade-Gold on behalf of Budget Leaf
The Origins of Money
Previously on Budget Leaf, we covered the historical origins of money – from the bartering system 6000 years ago, to the currency system around 5000 years ago, and then the introduction of paper money around 4000 years ago. How is money printed and minted in Jamaica’s current economy?
Early Colonization of Jamaica
Tracie Shortridge, associate writer for My-Island-Jamaica.com, notes in her article “Where Is Jamaican Money Printed?” that the original inhabitants of Jamaica (the Tainos) used the bartering system until the arrival of the Spanish to the island in 1494. Gaining dominion of the country, they decided to use their own minted currency, known as the real/reale/pieces of eight. Eight reals would be equal to 1 dollar. They also used the doubloon. Financial blog Remitly also states that the first Spanish currency in use were thin copper coins called maravedis.
When the British gained control in the 19 th century, they introduced an Act on December 31, 1840 that made British currency the official money of Jamaica. As a result, Spanish currency in the island was demonetized by April 1, 1901, and Jamaica started to use the lower denomination copper coins, farthing, half penny, penny and ha’penny with the higher denomination silver coins, three pence, six pence, shilling, florin half crown and crown.
With the abolition of slavery in 1838, British pounds and Spanish dollars began to take precedence in Jamaica’s economic environment. In 1904, The Currency Notes Law gave a Board of Commissioners the power to issue currency notes valued at 10 shillings each, and this paved the way for the formation of the Bank of Jamaica Act, which gave the bank this authority in 1960. By 1969, coins of various denominations (minted by the British Royal Mint) called pounds were being issued. According to Remitly, these were mostly made from a copper-nickel alloy except for the pure copper penny.
From 1970 to 2011, Thomas De La Rue Ltd. and The British Royal Mint printed Jamaican bank notes and coins, respectively. In 2011, a new set of printers and minters came to the fore. For Jamaican bank notes, the printers are De La Rue International Ltd., Giesecke & Devrient Currency Technology GmbH and Oberthur Fiduciaire. For Jamaican coins, the mints are Royal Mint (UK), Royal Canadian Mint, Royal Dutch Mint and Mint of Finland. An example is the Jamaican $20 coin which, according to Remitly, is made of brass and cupronickel and weighs 7.8 grams, measuring 23 millimeters in diameter. Corporate Finance Institute notes that current denominations of coins are made using a combination of steel, nickel and copper, while paper notes moved from being produced on cotton (which deteriorated easily in our tropical climate) to being printed on enhanced cotton substrate material, varnished to protect the paper from moisture and contamination by bacteria and other microorganisms.
This is how money flows in Jamaica: it is minted by these companies, and sent to our local bank system which dispenses the money to different businesses, funds and individuals. With this currency, people are able to buy and sell, afford products and services, get paid for their work, trade for foreign currency and save and invest. Now that you know the history of money in Jamaica, be sure to work towards saving some of what you make, and finding creative ways to make more. There’s never a shortage.
1. Tracie Shortridge, “Where Is Jamaican Money Printed?”, My-Island-Jamaica.com (April 30, 2018)
2. Remitly, “10 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About The Jamaican Dollar”,Blog.Remitly.com (June 15, 2021)
3. Corporate Finance Institute, “What Is The Jamaican Dollar (JMD)?”, CorporateFinanceInstitute.com