This country actually makes coins for its own use, so they can be found
circulated. In fact, with many if not most of the L.s.d. coinage
it is extremely
difficult to find perfect Unc specimens. (And then when you find
really hard to sell at those astronomical prices in the catalog.)
Let's do a brief historical survey before going into the numismatic
The original inhabitants were a mixture of Melanesians, thought to
emigrated from the west before the common era, and Polynesians traveling
the east somewhat later. These peoples now make up a bit less
than half of the
total population. First European sighting was by Abel Tasman
in 1643, first
contact by James Cook in 1774. Extensive mapping was done by
The two big islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, were richly forested
sandalwood and the coastal shallows were filled with beche-de-mere,
delicacy to the Chinese. These products made for a convenient
ships playing the China trade.
By the mid-nineteenth century British interests were dominant, and
islands were annexed to the Empire in 1874. In the British scheme
was to be a major sugar producer, and to this end many thousands of
were imported from India. The Indian community prospered and
grew until today
it forms the largest ethnic group in the country. The British
provided a degree of
infrastructure to the large islands, and this was improved when they
were used as
a major staging area for the Allies during World War II.
A push began for independence after the war, culminating in 1970 when
Fiji became a dominion within the British Commonwealth. Though
based on sugar and tourism with a dollop of gold mining, was and is
stable, there has been ongoing ethnic tension between the Indians and
Fijians. The Indians had controlled the economy and government,
constitution granted over 80% of the land to the natives, who by independence
made up less than half of the population. This antagonism bore
fruit in 1987
when a successful pro-native military coup was carried out. The
government took the country out of the commonwealth, and now it is
on its own.
The big islands were rich in the pre-European period, and there was
gifting using various kinds of so-called "primitive money." Typical
presented were tapa bark cloth, fish hooks, salt, shells. The
top of the line items
were orange cowries, Cyprea aurora, and tambua, the latter being a
tooth (or carved wooden imitation) artificially colored red and placed
on a string.
To the Fijians larger tambua were better, so the wooden imitations
preferred. Tambua trade was encouraged by Europeans and Americans,
being at the time fanatical whalers, had access to lots of teeth.
Today the tambua show up from time to time in the "primitive money"
market, where they get $300.00 or so. The orange cowries are
very scarce, and
original strung shells of the nineteenth century are very rare.
European style coinage was inaugurated in 1934 with copper-nickel
halfpennies and pennies and silver sixpence, shillings, and florins.
As was the
normal British practice, the colonial coins were valued a bit lower
homeland counterparts. All of the prewar and wartime coins are
easy enough to
find in circulated condition, anything up to, say, XF. Uncirculated
coins are, in my
experience, rather excessively rare. Almost every piece I've
seen so described
was "iffy," AU++ at best, and who would want to pay three figures for
a coin which
will only be a problem when it's time to sell? I imagine unquestionably
would get the money in an auction, but AUs get the XF price if you're
XFs usually sell at a discount.
These comments don't apply to the San Fransisco coins of 1942-43.
These are common in Unc, except for the brass pennies and halfpence,
often come with spots. And you can't compare these coins with
the British issues
to decide if you have an expensive British Unc, as the striking characteristics
quite different. San Francisco coins are nice and sharp, while
the British pieces
are a bit shallow on the portrait.
Brass 3 pence were introduced in 1947. George VI's 3 pence are
Unc, but those of Elizabeth are common enough, subject the usual proviso
spots with this vulnerable alloy. No silver coins were struck
after the war, being
replaced with copper-nickel versions starting in 1953. All of
coins can be found fairly easily in Unc.
There are numerous proofs of the L.s.d. series from 1934 through 1965.
All are rare.
Fiji abandoned the pound for the dollar (tied to Australia) starting
Most of these coins were issued in decent quantity, but export to wholesalers
been spotty, there being no big numismatic dealers there. Consequently
find yourself having a devil of a time filling in the holes in your
date set. It's
frustrating to be waiting for years for a coin valued at .75, but that's
the way it is.
Some of the 20¢ and 50¢ coins of the 70s are now almost impossible
to find in
Unc, and the 1978 50¢, with mintage of just 4000 odd, will one
day be a rare key,
when Fiji booms (which doesn't look to happen soon).
Decimal mint and proof sets issued since 1969 can be easily acquired
Australia, but here in America they are not seen very often.
Most of the Dominion commemoratives are reasonably easy to find in
copper-nickel and silver. Typically the proofs are easier to
come by than the Unc
versions. The gold commemoratives tend to be somewhat less common
circles than, say, Caribbean gold. The bullion issues of 1990,
unrefined native gold by the military government, are available on
market. They are very striking and pretty and more dealers took
a chance on
them. You'll have to ask them if they sell.