The dollar has been the currency of Jamaica since 1969. It is normally abbreviated with "$". The to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies. It is divided into 100 cents.
The history of currency in Jamaica should not be considered in isolation of the wider picture in the British West Indies as a whole. See British West Indies dollar. The peculiar feature about Jamaica was the fact that it was the only British West Indies territory to use special issues of the sterling coinage, apart from the four pence groat coin which was specially issued for all the British West Indies, and later only for British Guiana.
The earliest money in Jamaica was Spanish copper coins called maravedíes. This relates to the fact that for nearly four hundred years Spanish dollars, known as pieces of eight were in widespread use on the world's trading routes, including the Caribbean Sea region. However, following the revolutionary wars in Latin America, the source of these silver trade coins dried up. The last Spanish dollar was minted at the Potosí mint in 1825. The United Kingdom had adopted a very successful gold standard in 1821, and so the year 1825 was an opportune time to introduce the British sterling coinage into all the British colonies. An imperial order-in-council was passed in that year for the purposes of facilitating this aim by making sterling coinage legal tender in the colonies at the specified rating of $1 = 4s 4d (one Spanish dollar to four shillings and four pence sterling). As the sterling silver coins were attached to a gold standard, this exchange rate did not realistically represent the value of the silver in the Spanish dollars as compared to the value of the gold in the British gold sovereign, and as such, the order-in-council had the reverse effect in many colonies. It had the effect of actually driving sterling coinage out, rather than encouraging its circulation. Remedial legislation had to be introduced in 1838 so as to change over to the more realistic rating of $1 = 4s 2d. However, in Jamaica, British Honduras, Bermuda, and later in the Bahamas also, the official rating was set aside in favour of what was known as the 'Maccaroni' tradition in which a British shilling, referred to as a 'Maccaroni', was treated as one quarter of a dollar. The common link between these four territories was the Bank of Nova Scotia which brought in the 'Maccaroni' tradition, resulting in the successful introduction of both sterling coinage and sterling accounts. In 1834, silver coins of threepence and three halfpence (1½ pence) were introduced, valued at ½ real and ¼ real. The three halfpence coins came to be called "quartiles" or "quatties." These in particular were used in church collections due to a feeling by the black population that copper coins were inappropriate for that purpose. Hence, they came to be called "Christian quatties".
In 1839 an act was passed by Parliament declaring that as of December 31, 1840, only British coinage would be legal tender in Jamaica, demonetizing all of the Spanish coins, with the exception of the gold doubloon which was valued at £3 4s. Coins in use were thus the farthing (¼d), halfpenny, penny, three halfpence (1½d), threepence, sixpence, shilling, florin (2s), half crown (2s 6d), and crown (5s).
The emancipation of the slaves in 1838 increased the need for coinage in Jamaica, particularly low denomination coins, but the blacks were still reluctant to use copper. The solution was to use cupronickel, adopted in 1869. Penny and halfpennies were minted for use in Jamaica, becoming the first truly Jamaican coins. Beginning in 1880, the farthing was also minted in cupronickel.
In 1904, the first government-authorized banknotes were produced in the denomination of 10s. Banknotes of £1 and £5 were also being circulated by chartered banks. In 1918 denominations of 2s 6d and 5s were authorized. The 2s 6d note proved to have a short life, being withdrawn in 1922. In 1940, the government bank began producing £1 and £5 notes.
In October 1960, the Bank of Jamaica was given the sole right to mint coins and produce banknotes in Jamaica. Their notes were released on May 1, 1961 in the denominations of 5s, 10s, £1 and £5.
On January 30, 1968, the Jamaican House of Representatives voted to decimalize the currency by introducing the dollar, worth 10 shillings, to replace the Jamaican pound. Coins and banknotes went into circulation on September 8, 1969. From its introduction, the Jamaican dollar has fallen from a peak of J$0.77 to US$1 in its first few years of circulation to a series of new lows exceeding J$89 to US$1 during 2009. It was a huge setback to their economy.
The new Jamaican dollar (and the Cayman Islands dollar) differed from all the other dollars in the British West Indies in that it was essentially a half-pound sterling. All the other dollars either began on the US dollar unit or the Spanish dollar unit.
Jamaica's currency is the Jamaican dollar, not to be confused with the US dollar. The value of the jamaican dollar fluctuates but in November 2004 it was approximately JA$61 US$1. At the time of its introduction, coins of 1 cent (1.2 pence), 5 cents (6 pence), 10 cents (1 shilling), 20 cents (2 shillings) and 25 cents (2 shillings 6 pence) were produced. With the exception of a smaller bronze 1 cent, the compositions, sizes, and shapes of the coins were identical to those they replaced.
The 1-cent coin was changed in 1975 to a twelve-sided shape and aluminium composition. Decagonal 50-cent coins were introduced in 1976 to replace the 50 cent banknote, but production for circulation ceased in 1989, along with that of the 20 cents. In 1990, nickel-brass 1 dollar coins were introduced to replace the banknote of the same denomination. Nickel-plated steel replaced copper-nickel in the 5, 10, and 25 cent coins in 1991 with a smaller size and seven-sided shape for the 25 cent coin. In 1994, a round nickel-plated steel 5 dollar coin replaced its corresponding banknote, a smaller, seven-sided nickel-plated steel 1 dollar coin was introduced, and the 5 cent coin was abandoned. 1995 saw smaller, round copper-plated steel 10 and 25 cent coins. All non-current coins were demonetized in January 1997. A scalloped nickel-plated steel 10 dollar coin replaced the 10 dollar note in 1999 and a bimetallic 20 dollar coin with a nickel-brass ring and copper-nickel center was introduced in favor of a 20 dollar banknote in 2000. All nickel-plated or copper-plated steel coins are magnetic.
Coins currently in circulation are:
* 1 cent (21.08 mm; 1.22 g; aluminium; twelve-sided)
* 10 cent (17 mm; 2.4 g; copper-plated steel; round)
* 25 cent (20 mm; 3.6 g; copper-plated steel; round)
* $1 (18.5 mm; 2.9 g; nickel-plated steel; seven-sided)
* $5 (21.5 mm; 4.3 g; nickel-plated steel; round)
* $10 (24.5 mm; 6 g; nickel-plated steel; scalloped or round)
* $20 (23 mm; 7.1 g; bimetallic copper-nickel center in nickel-brass ring; round)
In 1969, banknotes of 50 cents (5 shillings), $1 (10 shillings), $2 (£1), and $10 (£5) were introduced. The $5 note was introduced in 1970, followed by the $20 in 1976, when the 50 cents note was replaced by a coin. $100 notes were added in 1986, followed by $50 notes in 1988. The $2 note was dropped in 1989, whilst the $1 note was replaced by a coin in 1990. In 1994, coins replaced the $5 notes and $500 notes were introduced. In 1999, $10 coins replaced notes, whilst, in 2000, $20 coins replaced the notes and $1000 notes were introduced.
Banknotes currently in circulation are:
* $50 (Front: The Right Excellent Samuel Sharpe, National Hero; Back: Doctor's Cave Beach, Montego Bay)
* $100 (Front: Sir Donald Sangster; Back: Dunn's River Falls)
* $500 (Front: The Right Excellent Nanny of the Maroons; Back: Old Map of Jamaica highlighting Port Royal)
* $1000 (Front: The Honourable Michael Norman Manley, ON OCC LL.D. (Honorary); Back: Jamaica House)
The Bank of Jamaica also introduced a $5000 bill into Jamaica's monetary system in September 2009. It bears the portrait of former Prime Minister of Jamaica, The Honourable Hugh Lawson Shearer. On May 18, 2009, a specimen note was presented to the former Prime Minister's widow, Dr. Denise Eldemire-Shearer. Some have criticized the Bank of Jamaica's measure to introduce this banknote. Among the critics are Finance Minister Audley Shaw, who says that the introduction of such a banknote is a sign that the Jamaican Dollar is losing value.
Use outside of Jamaica
The Jamaican dollar was used not only by Jamaica, but also by the Cayman Islands, a former dependency of Jamaica, until 1972. In that year, the territory stopped using the Jamaican dollar and adopted its own currency, the Cayman Islands dollar.
In adopting the Jamaican dollar, Jamaica followed the pattern of South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand in that when it adopted the decimal system, it decided to use the half pound unit as opposed to the pound unit of account. The choice of the name dollar was motivated by the fact that the reduced value of the new unit corresponded more closely to the value of the US dollar than it did to the pound sterling.
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