In 1863 Brooke was knighted by Queen Victoria and Britain recognised Sarawak as an independent state. Although Brooke had ruled Sarawak for 22 years by that time, it was not until he returned to England that year, leaving actual government in his nephew's hands, that he got around to ordering a full series of coinage for Sarawak.

This time he went to the successor of the Soho Mint, Ralph Heaton. Heaton (now known as the Birmingham Mint)won a contract which was to last until the Japanese overran Sarawak at the end of 1941.

The series of 1863 bore a left-facing profile of Sir James flanked by the inscription J BROOKE RAJAH. The sensitive portrait was the work of Joseph Moore, medallist and diesinker. The reverse featured the value within a wreath, with SARAWAK at the top and the date at the foot.

Copper coins in denominations of quarter-, half-, and one-cent were struck. Unfortunately, the Birmingham Mint has no record of the mintage, but production, especially of the quarter-cent, must have been quite small.

A mule of the 1-cent reverse, with the Straits Settlements obverse showing Queen Victoria, has been recorded in brass - possibly deliberately contrived some time in the 1870s after Heaton got the contract to strike the Straits coins.

Sir James Brooke died in 1868 and was succeeded by his nephew, Charles Johnson who had previously adopted the surname Brooke on being named as his heir. He was created GCMG in 1888, the year in which the British government negotiated a treaty of protection. Britain undertook to look after foreign affairs, leaving the "White Rajahs" in control of internal affairs.

Sir Charles had been rajah for three years before he ordered a new series of coins bearing his profile. These coins followed the previous pattern, merely substituting the moustached portrait of Sir Charles, and the initial C instead of  J in the title. The date 1870 appeared on the reverse, although the coins were not actually issued till the following year.

New cents and half-cents were ordered in 1879, but thereafter only cents were issued, at more or less annual intervals, till 1891 (with the exception of 1881 and 1883).
For much of this period orders for coins continued to be placed through Smith & Wright. In 1889, however, responsibility for ordering the coins was transferred to the British North Borneo Company in London and henceforward the coins were impressed with the H mint mark of the Heaton Mint.

Thus the cent dated 1889 exists in two versions, with or without the H mint mark which appears on the reverse, below the ribbon of the wreath. Some 3,210,000  cents were struck that year, equally divided between those with and without the mint mark.

All of the cents issued in 1890 had the mint mark, but in 1891 only about  two-thirds of the mintage (1,623,888 in all) bore the letter H, while the others were unmarked.
The protected status of Sarawak was reflected in the design of the cent introduced in 1892. This coin had the same weight and diameter as its predecessors, but was slightly thicker, and had a central hole. Above the hole appeared the profile of Sir Charles Brook, while below were the crossed flags of Sarawak and Britain.

The wreathed value reverse was modified to allow for the central hole. These coins bore the H mint mark as before. Cents alone appeared in 1893 and 1894, but in 1896 they were joined  by a comparatively small quantity of halves and quarters.

Despite the attempts by Sir Charles Brooke to protect his subjects from the encroachment of outside influences, these inevitably affected Sarawak whose mineral deposits were exploited in the closing years of the 19th century.   

To Be Continued...


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