Early Gibraltar Coinage (1802 - 1842)

Queen Victoria

After the Capture of Gibraltar in 1704, ordinary British Coins started to circulate in the City. However to relieve an acute shortage of small change, a local merchant, Robert Keeling, started issuing copper tokens during 1802. This was, by then, a normal practice by many traders and shopkeepers in Britain.

Robert Keeling : One Quart Token

Robert Keeling went on to produce a second issue in 1810, as seen below.

Robert Keeling : One Quart Token

This new issue has a number of differences. On the Obverse can be seen the inscription ‘Payable at Robert Keeling & Sons’ as opposed to the 1802 inscription which read ‘Payable at R.Keelings’. This change may be due to Mr. Keeling setting roots in Gibraltar, which can be seen to be spelt correctly in this issue. More interestingly is the image of a Lion, a sign of Britain and possibly denoting strength, holding the Keys to the fortress in its paw. On the reverse stands the image of the Castle, with locked doors, and without the Key. The text on the reverse is also noteworthy, as it refers to a ‘VALUE ONE QUARTO’ or ‘VALUE TWO QUARTOS’ (a probable use of llanito as these tokens were loosely based on the Spanish Cuartos).

Robert Keeling : One Quart Token - Variations

The Gibraltar Tokens were valued 1 and 2 Quarts or Quartos and it seems that they were traded at 192 quartos to the Spanish silver Dollar, which, in turn was worth 4 shillings and 4 pence.

Other local traders or merchants also struck their own tokens in Gibraltar. Two such traders, Richard Cattons and James Spittle tokens are shown below.

Richard Cattons : One Quart Token
James Spittle : One Quart Token

These tokens, although bearing the British Lion guarding the Key of the fortress were unofficial issues. The reverses of these were a wreath topped by a crown for Cattons and the Moorish Castle & City Walls (apparently) for Spittle.

Around 1816 the British Government started to reform its own currency and gradually the shortage of small change was alleviated. The ‘Gibraltar’ tokens were slowly withdrawn from circulation in 1820.

It was not until 1839 that the then Colonial Administration decided that it would be most useful for Gibraltar to have small value coins for only local circulation. After much discussion the Royal Mint was approached and copper coins of half, one and two quarts were proposed.

During 1840-41 proofs were produced and finally the dies dated 1840 were manufactured. However, the actual introduction of the local coins was delayed until 1842, so the original dies were counter-punched to change the date to 1842. Likewise, the 2 quart coins of 1842 were over-struck on a die dated 1841.

Gibraltar One Quart Coins
Gibraltar Half Quart Coin

The coins of 1842 bore the young head profile of Queen Victoria by Thomas Wyon on the obverse and the Castle and key emblem of Gibraltar on the reverse.

There was no further issue for general circulation, although proofs for 1 and 2 quarts dated 1860 and proofs of all three coins dated 1861 are known to exist, albeit very rare.

British coins were used exclusively thereafter.