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History of the copper coinage in India

Detail from 20 cash coin

The unit of the copper coinage of southern India was the Kasu – cash (a Tamil word meaning 'a coin').

The earliest reference which gives a rating to the cash circulating in Madras is of the year 1660/1661, when 80 cash was the equivalent of one gold fanam in the East India Company's books of account. After the fanam became a silver coin, this rate still continued. Other ratings of cash to the fanam have been noted but as the word 'cash' like 'pice' was used in a general sense to denote practically any copper coin which was current in a particular locality, it is not certain whether actual coins were intended or whether they were cash of account.

In 1678 the copper cash currency underwent some changes. The weight of the cash and its fanam rating was altered. A multiple cash was also introduced. Still in the same year other changes were made, but by the year 1680, the multiple had been demonetised and the only copper coin was the cash.

Two new copper coins were introduced in 1691, a dudu or 10 cash piece and a half dudu, and these together with the cash formed the copper currency throughout the 18th century.

At the instigation of the Court of Directors, a copper coinage consisting of four denominations – 20, 10, 5 and 1 cash, was struck in England in 1803 and the two higher values were repeated in 1808.

In the meantime, new copper coins were struck in the new Madras mint in 1807 in the range of denominations of 40, 20, 10, 5 and 2 cash.

When the currency standard of the Madras presidency changed in 1818 from the pagoda to the Madras silver rupee, the old cash coins remained in circulation, the 20 cash piece as a pysa or pice, the 10 and 5 cash becoming  a and a pice respectively. The copper currency rating was 12 pice to 1 anna, 16 annas to 1 Madras rupee.

Acknowledgements & Credits: 
Source: Pridmore, F, Coins of the British Commonwealth, London: Spink, 1975-80, vol 2, pp9-10]  Photograph Andrea Cordani 1998. All rights reserved.