Posted on October 26, 2017 by

Recently, I purchased a twenty-six foot Ranger sailboat and renamed her “Makaleka.”

“What does this have to do with numismatics?” you ask. Well, Makaleka is the Hawaiian version of my wife, Maggie’s, name. This got me thinking of Hawaii and, being a numismatist, that got me thinking of Hawaiian coins. To mimic the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game, my boat is three degrees from Hawaiian coins: 1) my boat is named Makaleka; 2) Makaleka is Hawaiian; and 3) Hawaii has coins.

There are three places to learn about Hawaiian coins. The first is the “Redbook” (more properly called “A Guidebook of United States Coins”) published by Whitman.  Hawaiian coins appear in the back of the book under “other Issues.” The Redbook lists and prices all of the major denominations of Hawaiian coins. Also included are the tokens used on different Hawaiian plantations during the middle to late 1800’s.

The second source for information on Hawaiian coins is the “Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900” published each year by Krause Publications. As with the Redbook, Hawaiian coins appear at the end of the United States section instead of in their expected place in the alphabetical listings. The Standard Catalog lists all of the major denominations, some varieties, one pattern, but no tokens.

Hawaiian Money














The third source, and the best (in my opinion), is “Hawaiian Money, Standard Catalog, 2nd edition” by Donald Medcalf and Ronald Russell. This 160 page books covers every bit of history related to Hawaiian coins, paper money, commemorative medals, commercial tokens, school tokens, military tokens, plantation tokens, and much more. Every known variety is listed, along with patterns and Proof strikings. The pricing is dated (it’s from 1991) but, otherwise, it is a treasure trove of information.

The two most popular areas of Hawaiian numismatics are the afore-mentioned coins and tokens, so I’ll whet your appetite with a few highlights.

Hawaii Cent
1847 Hawaiian Cent – the first Hawaiian Coin – PCGS MS65BN

The first Hawaiian coin was the 1847 One Cent. The obverse features a bust of King Kamehameha facing the viewer; the reverse shows the denomination “Hapa Haneri” within a wreath. Researchers believe these were made somewhere in New England because they arrived in Hawaii aboard a ship out of Boston, Massachusetts. The 1847 Hawaiian Cents were the subject of one of my previous blogs and I refer readers there for the full story.

Hawaii Dollar1883 Hawaiian Dollar – PCGS MS67

The largest denomination issued by Hawaii was the Silver Dollar. These were struck at the Philadelphia Mint at the request of the Hawaiian government and the Dollars can be found in both circulation strike and Proof formats. The Proof version is extremely rare, with only 26 struck. The obverse features a bust of a bearded King Kalakaua I facing right; the reverse shows the Coat of Arms of Hawaii.

Hawaii Eighth Dollar PatternOdd Denomination 1/8 Dollar Pattern in Copper – PCGS PR67BN

Copper Patterns (or Die Trials) exist of the 1/8 Dollar, ¼ Dollar, ½ Dollar and 1 Dollar denominations (no Dime patterns exist because that denomination did not join the lineup until later). These were struck from the same dies used to make the silver Proof sets.

Hawaii Quarter Dollar ProofColorful Proof Hawaiian Quarter Dollar – PCGS PR67CAM

Silver Proofs are known of all denominations. Proof sets were made on two separate occasions and the maximum mintage of any of the denominations is 26 (only 20 of the silver Proof 1/8 Dollar were made).

Hawaii Kahului Token15C Token of the Kahului Railroad – PCGS AU55

Tokens were issued and used on several Hawaiian sugar plantations and railroads. They were meant for use in the company stores, but they circulated throughout the island, where coinage was scarce. They are generally crudely made, rare and difficult to locate in high grades.

You can establish a single degree of separation with Hawaiian coins by sourcing the publications listed above and purchasing your first Hawaiian coin or token. Then, the next time you take a trip to Hawaii, you’ll have a much deeper connection with the Islands. Aloha!

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