Culion Island Leper Colony Coinage by JAA USA/Philippines Collection
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Thank you NGC for creating a competitive registry set category for the Culion Island Leper Colony Coinage.

 

The Culion Island Leper Colony Coinage is a fascinating but often overlooked aspect of USA-Philippine numismatics.

 

In 1906 the Bureau of Health for the U.S. Territory of the Philippines established a colony for leper patients on the small island of Culion in the China Sea. For health reasons, the decision was made that the leper colony should have a separate coinage of its own which would not circulate in the rest of the Philippines.

 

One of the fascinating features of the monetary system in the leper colony was the strict regulations which separated the circulation of government coinage and the special "Leper Coins". In the colony proper "Leper Money" was the only legal medium of exchange. Government coinage was not allowed within the colony and non-lepers that did business in the colony had to exchange their "Government Money" for "Leper Money" before they entered the colony. When they exited the colony they exchanged their "Leper Money" for "Government Money". In this way "Leper Money" only circulated within the colony. The police strictly enforced these regulations and violators were subject to a fine of not more than Fifteen Pesos, imprisonment of up to one month or both.

 

The first issue of "Lepar Money" consisted of Half Centavo, One Centavo, Five Centavos, Ten Centavos, Twenty Centavos, and One Peso coins which were struck in aluminum by the firm of Frank and Company, Manila in 1913. The obverse used a simple inscription of value as its central design. "Culion Leper Colony" was inscribed at the top, and "Philippine Islands" below. The reverse design was a "Caduceus" surrounded by the inscription "Bureau Of Health" at the top and the date below. The 1913 issue carried no mint marks.

 

The second issue, also in aluminum, was struck at the newly opened Manila mint in 1920. The second issue consisted of Ten Centavos, Twenty Centavos, and One Peso coins, all of which used the same obverse and reverse designs as the 1913 issue. The 1920 issue carried no mint marks. All subsequent Culion Island Leper Colony Coinage was produced at the Manila mint.

 

The aluminum coins proved totally unsatisfactory due to rapid deterioration from the climatic conditions in the Philippines and the chemicals used to disinfect leper colony money. Starting in 1922 all Leper Colony coinage was struck in copper-nickel.

 

The third issue, struck in copper-nickel by the Manila mint in 1922, consisted of Twenty Centavos and One Peso coinage. These coins continued the same obverse and reverse designs as the 1913 and 1920 issues but added an incuse monogram "PM" (Philippine Mint) Mint-mark on the obverse.

 

The fourth issue consisted of only one denomination, a copper-nickel One Peso which was struck at the Manila mint in 1925. The obverse design for the 1925 peso features a bust of Jose Rizal (Filipino patriot and martyr who was killed by the Spanish in 1896) and carries the inscriptions "Culion Leper Colony" and "Philippine Islands". The reverse design features the seal of the Philippine Health Service and carries the inscription "Philippine Health Service", the date and value. The reverse also carries the mint-mark for the Philippine Mint. The mint-mark is a very unusual double mint-mark represented by a "P" on the left side of the reverse under a star and an "M" on the right side of the reverse under a star.

 

The fifth issue consisting of One Centavo and Five Centavo denominations was struck in nickel-copper by the Manila mint in 1927. The Five Centavos used the same obverse design as the 1925 Peso. The reverse changed the date and denomination but was otherwise the same as the 1925 issue. The One Centavo was issued in two die variations. Both die varieties featured a bust of Apolinario Mabini (known as the "brains" of the Philippine Revolution) on the obverse with the same inscriptions as the 1927 Five Centavos. The reverse design (except for the denomination) was the same as the 1927 Five Centavos.

 

The sixth and final Leper Colony issue consisted of One Centavo and Ten Centavos denominations struck in nickel-copper by the Manila mint in 1930. Although manufactured at the Manila mint the 1930 issue carried no mint marks.

 

The 1930 One Centavo featured a bust of Jose Rizel on the obverse and carried the inscriptions "Leper Colonies And Stations" and "Philippine Islands". The reverse had the denomination and date inscribed in the center and carried the inscriptions "Philippine Health Service" at the top and "Leper Coin One Centavo" below.

 

The 1930 Ten Centavos featured a bust of Andres Bonifacio (a hero of the Philippine Revolution) on the obverse and carried the inscriptions "Leper Colonies And Stations" and "Philippine Islands". The reverse had the denomination and date inscribed in the center and carried the inscriptions "Philippine Health Service" at the top and "Leper Coin Ten Centavos" below.

 

The reason for the 1930 inscription change to "Leper Colonies And Stations" was that beginning in 1926 special "Leper Coins" were also used by the inmates of the San Lazaro Leper Hospital in Manila.

 

Unfortunately most surviving examples of Culion Island Leper Colony Coinage are well worn or corroded. With the exception of the 1913 Half Centavo mint state examples of Leper Colony coinage are practically nonexistent and nice Extra Fine to AU specimens are a challenge to locate.

 

I would encourage everyone to visit the "Culion Island Leper Colony Coinage" Registry Set belonging to "coin928" at: http://coins.www.collectors-society.com/registry/coins/SetListing.aspx?PeopleSetID=147941&Ranking=all

 

Thank-you coin928 for suggesting that NGC create this new competitive registry category and congratulations on the very nice high quality coins in your "Culion Island Leper Colony Coinage" Registry Set.

 

See more journals by JAA USA/Philippines Collection

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2,684 posts

Thanks for the information, the 1922 one is cool because the reverse has the double snake thing that you see on medical equipment, etc.

 

Jaa, how expensive are these coins? I would love to own one. Also any idea on mintage?

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All of the Culion Island Leper Colony Coinage have very low mintages. Mintage figures are as follows:

 

 

FIRST ISSUE - 1913

1913 Half Centavo (17,000)

1913 One Centavo (32,500)

1913 Five Centavos (6,600)

1913 Ten Centavos (6,600)

1913 Twenty Centavos (10,000)

1913 One Peso (8,000)

 

SECOND ISSUE - 1920

1920 Ten Centavos (20,000)

1920 Twenty Centavos (10,000)

1920 One Peso (4,000)

 

THIRD ISSUE - 1922

1922 Twenty Centavos (10,155)

1922 One Peso (Two Die Varities) (8,280)

 

FOURTH ISSUE - 1925

One Peso (20,000)

 

FIFTH ISSUE - 1927

1927 One Centavo (Three Die Varities) (30,000)

1927 Five Centavos (16,000)

 

SIXTH ISSUE - 1930

1930 One Centavo (2,000)

1930 Ten Centavos (17,000)

 

With the exception of the 1913 Half Centavo, which was never put into circulation, mint state examples of Leper coins are just not available at any price. The 1913 Half Centavo in EF or AU has a FMV of about five to ten dollars. Most of the copper-nickel Leper coins are reasonably priced in Fine to Very Fine and can be purchased raw (when you find them) for well under $100.00. The easiest examples to find in VF to EF are the 1922 and 1925 One Peso coins. I purchased the 1922 One Peso pictured in my Journal article for Thirty-two Dollars. It would probably grade EF. The Aluminum issues are scarce in gradeable condition and most specimens would recieve a Details Grade.

The most expensive Leper coin is the 1930 One Centavo of which only two specimens are known to exist.

 

If you check the NGC and PCGS population reports you will see that VERY FEW leper coins of any date have been graded by either of these grading services. ANACS has graded a fair number of leper coins however their Pop reports are not available.

 

For somone interested in starting a Registry Set of this series I would recommend purchasing the coins raw from a dealer that specializes in USA-Philippine coins. Raw leper coins are regularly offered on ebay however all of the specimens that I have seen on ebay are way overpriced compared to what a similar coin would cost from a dealer that specializes in USA-Philippine coins.

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Thanks Jaa! I did check on ebay and most of the coins seem to have been cleaned, damaged, etc. I appreciate your hard work in sharing obscure coinage to all of us!

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