India was the land of spices, precious diamonds and untold riches to the west. Columbus set sail to the west from Spain underestimating the circumference of the earth, trying to find India. Finding a seaward route to India would have given Spain an entry to the lucrative spice trade dominated by the Arabs but instead he found the Americas. Since then the Portuguese, Danish, French and the British have tried to find trade posts in India and had fought over each other for dominance in the spice trade.
The British East India Company was an English and later British joint-stock company and megacorporation formed for pursuing trade with the East Indies but which ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent. The East India Company traded mainly in cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, saltpetre, tea and opium. The Company was granted a Royal Charter in 1600, making it the oldest among several similarly formed European East India Companies. Shares of the company were owned by wealthy merchants and aristocrats. The Company eventually came to rule large areas of India with its own private armies, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions. The British East India company's rule of India effectively began in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey and lasted until 1858 when, following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Government of India Act 1858 led to the British Crown assuming direct control of India in the new British Raj. The British East India Trading company ruling India would be the same as Walmart ruling over a land mass one-thirds the size of the United states. India until then was comprised of 100's of independent kingdoms that had its own language, culture, food, dance and written script. Though the British colonized India and used all its resources to make itself richer, the British occupying all these very diverse kingdoms and calling it India sowed the seeds for the concept of India being a country as opposed to a general area being referred to as India. British India consists of today's Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
History has its own way of telling it's story through books, photos and movies. And sometimes it tells it's story through Numismatics. When the British had completely acquired control over most of India, the princely states/ kingdoms staked claim to strike its own coins. Permission was however granted only to those states that could justify their claims. This concession created problems. Numerous varieties of coins was struck with different weights and value and began circulating all over the country causing great difficulties to the business community and the public. In order to remedy this problem, a controlling standard had to be established. Thus the standard rupee of the East India company was established in 1835. Since the British crown took over India from the British East India company, the coins starting 1862 until India's independence from the British became referred to as the Imperial series or Uniform coinage series.
There were two major mints that issued coinage for British India. Bombay Mint from 1835-1947 had a dot on coin to indicate the coin was minted in Bombay. Calcutta mint from 1835-1947 had no mint mark on coin. Some coins were also issued by the Madras mint. British India currency circulated formally and informally East Africa, British India and Burma.
The Quarter anna was the sixth denomination in the Victoria coin series. Since there was no one-anna coin at that time, the quarter anna was taken as 1/8 of 2 annas or 1/64th of a rupee in value. It was worth three pies in small change. The value was shown on the coin in English language only, and it was known locally by several names : Teen pai, teen-kas, Pav anna, One Paisa, etc. Of all the Copper denominations the quarter anna was by and large the most abundant in circulation. Barring the year 1881, it was struck continously at the Calcutta mint, whereas Bombay mint issued it intermittently. It finally stopped its production after 1889, and did not resume until 1923. Though millions of these were minted, they are mostly available in worn out condition and it is very hard to obtain Victorian 1/4 annas in higher grades. Very few collectors collected these coins in the day and some coins are available more than the others due to discovery of hoards of coins. Therefore determining rarity of the British India 1/4 anna cannot be done just with mintage numbers as it is done with American coins. Only by watching the market for inflows of these coins can one truly determine the rarity of the 1/4 annas. Ironically, I have had more luck finding better specimens of the 1/4 annas in other parts of the world than in India itself.(Edit : I don't think that anymore. India is the best place to find British India business strikes, you just have to know where to look).Read more...