World Coins: The Coinage of the White Rajahs of Sarawak: Part 2 Rajah Charles Brooke

Posted by Jay Turner, NGC Grader on 11/14/2011

The coinage of Rajah Charles Johnson Brooke continued the tradition of Rajah James Brooke.

Before James Brooke died in 1868, he set a precedent for the future rulers and coinage of Sarawak. Unmarried and without legitimate children, Brooke looked to his extended family for heirs. Thus Sarawak’s government and coinage remained in control of the Brooke family as the “White Rajahs” continued their reign.

The succession of Sarawak was set in place in 1861 when Rajah James Brooke named Captain John Brooke, his sister’s oldest son, his successor. However, after John Brooke criticized James Brooke, the latter rescinded this order and banished John Brooke from Sarawak. His new successor, Charles Anthoni Johnson Brooke, another son of his sister Emma Frances Johnson, eventually succeeded James Brooke and become Rajah Charles Brooke of Sarawak, the Second White Rajah.

Sarawak 1906 10 Cents
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Rajah Charles Brooke’s reign continued the trends established by Rajah James Brooke of fighting piracy, slavery, and head-hunting; development of trade; and border expansion. Sarawak expanded tremendously under the reign of Rajah Charles Brooke, as large tracks of land were taken from Brunei. The State of Sarawak became its current size in 1905. During Rajah Charles Johnson Brooke’s rule the State of Sarawak was placed under British protection in 1888 and the governor or the Straits Settlements was appointed Agent of Sarawak. As a protectorate of Britain, Sarawak gained a parliamentary government. Investment in state infrastructure included a railway and the development of natural resources after oil was discovered.

Sarawak 1879 Half Cent
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Sarawak 1879 Cent
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The coinage of Rajah Charles Johnson Brooke continued the tradition of Rajah James Brooke. The coins feature a portrait and the “C. Brooke Rajah” title. The copper ¼ cents were issued in 1870 and 1896; ½ cents in 1870, 1879 and 1896 and cents in 1870, 1879, 1880, 1882, and 1884 through 1891. However, due to complaints by the Strait Settlements, the export of Sarawak coinage was banned. Beginning in 1892, the cents were issued holed in the middle, to avoid confusion with the Strait Settlements' pieces. The holed cents displayed a reduced-size portrait of Charles Johnson Brooke as well as his title and flags. These cents were issued from 1892 through 1897 with the exception of 1895.

Straits Settlements 1895 Cent
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Sarawak 1894 Holed Cent
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Unlike the coinage of Rajah James Brooke, silver coins were issued to a .800 fine standard in Sarawak under Rajah Charles Johnson Brooke. These included silver five cents dated 1900, 1908, 1911, 1913 and 1915. Ten cent pieces were issued in 1900, 1906, 1910, 1911, 1913 and 1915. Twenty cent silver pieces were issued in 1900, 1906, 1910, 1911, 1913 and 1915. Even a fifty cent piece was issued in 1900 and 1906.

Sarawak 1915 5 Cents
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Finding nice examples of the coinage of Rajah Charles Johnson Brooke is difficult due to the export restrictions on Sarawak coinage, limited mintage for the population size and that most coins circulated. The coins are always in strong demand by collectors. The silver coins are scarcer than the copper issues due to a mintage under 200,000 per issue for the series and a low survival rate as a result of the melting of almost all of the Sarawak silver obtained by Japanese during their World War II occupation. With the exception of the proof and specimen issues, the keys to the series are: 1915-H 10 cent, mintage 100,000; 1915-H 20 cent, mintage 25,000; and both the 1900-H and 1906-H 50 cent pieces, mintage 40,000 and 10,000, respectively. While the 1915-H pieces have a mintage on par with other coins of the same series, the survival rate seems much lower. Both 50 cent pieces had low mintages and after the meltdown they seem to be exceptionally scarce today.

Sarawak 1900 20 Cents
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Today the coinage of Rajah Charles Johnson Brooke is prized by collectors of Sarawak coinage. Putting together a problem-free set in high grade is a very difficult task for even the advanced collector. However, many choose to accept this challenge and see what might be accomplished.