Whilst sifting through a small heap of world coins a while ago, I
thought they all seemed fairly common, but then I spotted something
different. It was a tiny copper-coloured coin: the legend on one side
read “BANK OF UGANDA FIVE CENTS”; the other side included the date
“1987”. Straight away I knew that this was a coin I had not previously
encountered. Sure enough, the latest edition of each of “Standard
Catalog of World Coins” (KP Books, U.S.A.) and “Weltmünzkatalog”
(Battenberg, Germany) listed only 1, 2, 5 and 10 Shillings coins of
1987 for Uganda; none of them was as small this 5 Cents coin.
The Uganda 5 Cents of 1987.
This 1987-dated 5 Cents coin seems to be made from Copper-plated-Steel;
it has a diameter of 17mm and a mass of 2.6 grams. The obverse features
the Coat of Arms of Uganda with “BANK OF UGANDA” above and “FIVE CENTS”
below. The reverse features a cotton plant and a bag of cotton, with
“BANK OF UGANDA” above, the date below and then the value “5” encircled
in the centre. Furthermore, the reverses of the 1 Shilling and 2
Shillings coins each feature a cotton plant and a bag of cotton (as on
the 5 Cents coin); the reverses of the 5 Shillings and 10 Shillings
coins feature a coffee plant and a basket of coffee beans. The
compositions, shapes, masses and diameters of these four coins are
shown in the table, along with the data for the 5 Cents. All pieces
have plain edges.
Table - Uganda 1987 coin specifications.
The four coin types, 1 Shilling to 10 Shillings had been the result of
Uganda’s currency reform and devaluation, of May 1987. Those changes
were another step in the country’s recovery that had started when
President Museveni assumed power in January 1986. The changes brought
in a new Shilling equal in value to 100 old Shillings.
So what about the tiny 5 Cents coin? How did it fit in with the other
coins? This question had me completely mystified, particularly as I
could not find anyone who knew of this 5 Cents coin. Who could have any
answers? Well, the Uganda 1987 Brilliant Uncirculated set, which many
of you will have in your collection, comprises the four issued coins
and was produced by the Royal Mint. So perhaps they might provide me
with some answers. I asked them, kept patient and then got a result
that was well worth the wait.
Information kindly provided to me by Joseph Payne, Assistant Curator at
the British Royal Mint, gave me the answers I was looking for. His
detailed response can be broken down into several parts:-
Firstly – “From the surviving records
it is clear that towards the end of 1986 the Royal Mint received an
order from Uganda for five denominations: 1 Shilling, 50 Cents, 20
Cents, 10 Cents and 5 Cents.
By this time it would have been a number of months since the new
government had initiated plans for an economic turnaround. The range of
Ugandan circulation denominations had also been 1 Shilling down to 5
Cents during the 1970s.
Secondly – “A few months later the
order was amended, reducing the number of denominations to four and
changing their values as detailed below:
1 Shilling became 10 Shillings
50 Cents became 5 Shillings
20 Cents became 2 Shillings
10 Cents became 1 Shilling
5 Cents was abandoned.
The specifications remained the same
and the designs were unaltered except for the denominational values.
Around this time Ugandan inflation was running in excess of 100 per
cent. The information I received from the Royal mint revealed that if a
coin type of 17mm diameter had been part of the issued series, then it
would have been a 50 Cents type. It also explains why the 5 Cents is
just one size down from the issued 1 Shilling coin. As the lowest
denomination in the series, a 50 Cents coin would have been the only
reason for retaining Cents in Uganda’s accounting system – a lot of
extra work for just the smallest monetary amount, and a good reason for
abandoning this particular denomination.
Thirdly, and with reference to the un-issued series: “A
considerable number of 5 Cent and 1 Shilling pieces had been struck
before the amendment to the order was received. Samples would have been
sent to Uganda for approval before starting mass production but I have
been unable to establish whether any additional shipments took place.
Work on the two denominations in question was suspended as soon as it
became apparent that a change was necessary. The obsolete coins were
retained by the Mint in quantity for a couple of years and then it
appears they were scrapped.
All of this explains how this 5 Cents coin came to be included in the
heap of coins I was looking through in England all those years later.
Finally, and again with reference to the un-issued series: “Specimens
of both the 5 Cents and 1 Shilling are held in the Royal Mint Museum,
together with trial strikings of the 10 Cents and 20 Cents. I have
found no evidence that the latter two denominations were ever produced
in large numbers.
So the Royal Mint Museum is the place to go if you wish to see any
other examples of the unissued Ugandan coins of 1987.
In conclusion, as part of its 1987 reforms Uganda got new coins of 1 to
10 Shillings a move to “Shilling only” accounting. My research into
this little 5 Cents coin has revealed that this was far from being the