At first gold and coal were mined, but in 1909 oil was discovered. The growing prosperity of Sarawak led to a demand for higher denominations, and in 1900 the Heaton Mint began striking coins in .800 fine silver, comprising 5,10,20 and 50 cents. The three highest denominations were repeated in 1906 and the 5 cent in 1908; 10 and 20 cents were issued in 1910, while 5, 10 and 20 cents were struck in 1911, 1913 and 1915.

Some of the mintages were very small - a mere 15,000 20 cent in 1911 and only 10,000 of the 50 cents in 1906 - and the series as a whole is pretty elusive in the better grades of condition.

Oddly enough, the 50 cents is not as scarce a coin in VF condition as the 20 cents, probably because a higher proportion of the largest silver coins were preserved by collectors at the time.

In 1917 Charles Brooke was succeeded as rajah by his son Charles Vyner Brooke. No coins bearing his right-facing profile could be issued until 1920. The obverse was inscribed C.V.BROOKE RAJAH round the top and SARAWAK round the foot. The reverse had the value, on the 1 and 5 cents, in numerals and words within a wreath, with the date at the foot.

The higher denominations had the value in words flanking the date round the circumference, with large numerals inside a knotted rope. The H mint mark appeared below the knot.

The 1 cent was now struck in cupro-nickel, while the 5 and 10 cents were originally minted in .400 fine silver. All three denominations were restruck the following year in cupro-nickel, without any alteration in the date. The 20 cents, in .400 silver, was  confined to 1920. In 1927 the series was re-issued, the 1 cent reverting to copper.

At the same time 50 cents in coins bore the H mint mark about half of the 5,000,000 1-cents were actually struck by the Kings Norton Mint, a subsidiary of ICI. Part of the later coinage was also struck by ICI as sub-contractor to the Heaton Mint, but these coins were not distinguished in any way.

The diameter of the 1 cent was increased, from 18mm to 24.5mm, in 1927 when copper replaced cupro-nickel. At the same time, the design was modified, reviving the pattern of the earlier large cents, with the country name on the reverse and the value, in words, within the wreath. Copper cents were also issued in 1929 and 1930, while copper half-cents were issued in this style in 1933. Cupro-nickel 10 cents were struck in 1934 and continued the following year without a change in the date.

Further issues of copper cents were made in 1937 and 1941, production of each date being continued in 1938 and 1942, respectively. This accounts for the rumour that 1942 cents were struck; but an examination of the Birmingham Mint records indicates that all coins struck early in 1942 merely continued the 1941 date. Of the 1941 cents some 2,016,000  were struck in that year and a further 984,000 in 1942 (including 18,227 by ICI).

Due to the outbreak of the war in South-east Asia in December 1941, however, the entire issue was recalled before it could be despatched to Sarawak and subsequently melted down. Only about 50 examples of the 1 cent of 1941 are now believed to be in existence.

Sarawak was invaded by Imperial Japanese force on December 16, 1941. Kuching fell on Christmas Eve and the rest of the country was quickly overrun. The Japanese commandeered all the silver coinage and melted it down.

Consequently most of the 5- and 10-cent coins now encountered in the markets come from jewellery (hence the tell-tale solder marks or filled holes) or traces of purple dye, indicating their interment with the dead.

Sir Charles Vyner Brooke died in 1946, shortly after ceding Sarawak to the British Crown. British military administration after the Japanese surrender in 1945 was followed by crown colony status and the substitution of the coinage of Malaya and British Borneo, forerunners of the present-day Malaysian currency
     by JAMES A MACKAY,Coin Digest.


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