The Saint Helena pound (also called simply "pound") is the currency on the British island dependency of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean and also on one of its two dependencies, Ascension Island. It is fixed at parity with the pound sterling and is subdivided into 100 pence.
Initially, British currency circulated on St Helena, with the pound subdivided into 20 shillings, each of 12 pence. This was supplemented by occasional local issues of paper money. One coin, a copper halfpenny, was also struck specially for use in the islands in 1821. Prior to February 1961, the South African pound, which was then equal in value to sterling, was also accepted on the island, but this stopped with the introduction of the new decimal South African Rand, such that one rand was worth only ten shillings sterling. In 1976, the government began issuing notes, with circulation coins following in 1984.
For a more general history of currency in the South Atlantic region, see The Sterling Currency in the South Atlantic and the Antarctic.
Prior to 1984, both St Helena and Ascension Island had issued commemorative coins but used British circulation coins. In 1984, coins were introduced in the names of St Helena and Ascension in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10 and 50 pence and 1 pound. All the coins were the same size and composition as the corresponding British coins. 20 pence coins were introduced in 1998, followed by 2 pounds in 2002, although the first bi-metal £2 coins were issued in and dated 2003.
From 1716, the Governor and Council of the Island of St Helena issued notes for 2½ and 5 shillings, 1 and 2 pounds. These were issued until the late 18th century. The next issue of notes occurred sometime after 1917. It was produced by the St Helena Currency Board in denominations of 5, 20 and 40 shillings.
In 1976, 1 and 5 pound notes were introduced by the government, followed in 1979 by 50 pence and 10 pound notes. The 1 pound note was replaced by a coin in 1984, with 20 pound notes introduced in 1986.
Notes for visitors
St Helena does not have a central bank of its own, and the only banking services on the island are provided by a commercial bank, the Bank of St Helena. St Helena banknotes and coins are issued by the St Helena Government, not the Bank of St Helena.
Saint Helena banknotes are accepted on Saint Helena and Ascension Island only. Note that they cannot be exchanged in UK banks. They can be obtained while sailing to the island on the RMS Saint Helena, or from the Bank of St Helena on arrival. UK pound sterling banknotes are also accepted on the island. Some outlets may accept other major currencies. Notes and coins from other UK territories, including the Falkland Islands are not normally accepted in outlets.
Credit cards and debit cards are not widely accepted on the island, so it is advisable to bring traveller's cheques, which can be exchanged at the Bank of St Helena, or cash. The Bank of St Helena can make cash advances on some major credit cards and debit cards.
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