The Silver Coinage of the Kingdom of Hawaii
Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I Ka Pono, "The Life of the Land is Perpetuated
in Righteousness," that is the state motto of Hawaii; that was the territorial
motto of Hawaii; and, that was the royal motto of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
What does Hawaii have to do with numismatics? In 1883 and 1884 (but all
coins are dated 1883), the United States mint in San Francisco manufactured
silver coins for the Kingdom of Hawaii. When Hawaii became a U.S.
territory in 1900, the U.S. government called for the withdrawal of the coinage
from circulation, and for its destruction. The Hawaiian coinage was to be
replaced by U.S. coinage. Today, the coinage of the Kingdom of Hawaii is
considered a numismatic treasure among Coin Collectors in the know.
Soon after the tragic murder of Captain Cook, King Kamehameha I forcibly
unified the Hawaiian Island's many small kingdoms under one ruler thereby ending
the many generations of war. With that unification came: governmental
development; many struggles with outsiders trying to exploit the resources and
people; and the development of a monetary system. These developments
continued throughout the rule of the Kamehameha Dynasty. Upon the death of
King Kamehameha V, in December of 1872, a successor to the King was never named,
and under Hawaiian law, that meant that the legislature had to ratify a new
Monarch. Through a popular election, the people chose William C. Lunalilo
over David Kalâkaua, the legislature ratified him,
and he ascended to the throne. A year later, on February 3, 1874, Lunalilo
passed away. Without out a successor being named, David Kalâkaua announced
his candidacy for the throne the very next day. This time, David Kalâkaua
faced Queen Emma (the widow of King Kamahameha IV) as his opponent and was
victorious. The opposition's supporters rioted, and the first order of
business for the new King was to ask the marines from American and British
warships to restore the peace.
King Kalâkaua's second and third order of
business was to name his brother as his successor, and to put is governmental
house in order. He toured the Hawaiian Islands to improve his popularity,
made many changes within the cabinet posts and in October of 1874 traveled to
Washington, D.C. to meet with President Ulysses S. Grant to negotiate a treaty
to allow certain Hawaiian goods to be imported into the United States duty-free,
e.g. sugar and rice. The treaty was signed and ratified by the U.S.
Congress in January 1875. King Kalâkaua returned to Hawaii to deal with a
power struggle which plagued his government.
King Kalâkaua recognized the importance of
bringing Hawaii into the 19th century in order for it to prosper, and not to be
just a country of which to be taken advantage. In 1881, he left Hawaii to
tour 16 countries to study how other monarchs ruled, the matters of immigration,
monetary systems, and to improve foreign relations. In his absence, he
left his sister, Princess Lili'oukalani, to rule as regent. During his
world tour, King Kalâkaua met with officials of many national mints, among them
Vienna, Brussels and Paris, all of whom were prepared with proposals for
manufacturing coinage for the Kingdom of Hawaii. Impressed with the
proposal of the Paris Mint, the King ordered sample pattern coins for his
approval. King Kalâkaua was certainly flattered by his portraiture which
appeared on the pattern coins, but with a misspelling appearing in the motto of
the Kingdom of Hawaii, he ended the project.
It was during King Kalâkaua's visit to the
United States that the Secretary of State, James G. Blaine indicated publicly
the importance Hawaii played in the safety of this nation, and that no other
nation would be allowed to have her. That statement signaled the start to
increased economic, political and physical ties with the island nation.
Upon the King's return to Hawaii, he was
approached by Claus Spreckels, in 1883, with a proposal to permit the United
States to manufacture silver coins for the Kingdom of Hawaii. Claus
Spreckels was a German immigrant to the U.S. who became the largest sugar
refiner on the west coast. He owned sugar cane and sugar beet plantations
throughout the U.S. and Hawaii, was a Banker, and a newspaper publisher.
Some say he was the power behind King Kalâkaua. The proposal was accepted
by the King, and under the terms of the agreement, the royal government of
Hawaii applied for 1 million Dala in silver coinage. Designs were
submitted to the U.S. Mint Director Horatio C. Burchard; they were modified;
and, passed on to the mint's Chief Engraver, Charles E. Barber, to create hubs
and master dies.
The original order placed with the U.S. Mint
indicated 4 different denominations of coins be produced: Dala = 100
Keneta (cents), Hapalua = 50 Keneta, Hapaha = 25
Keneta, and Hapawalu = 12-1/2 Keneta (1/8 Dala), but in
the time period from when the order was placed, and the creation of the working
dies, the order was modified. This modification called for the replacement
of the Hapawalu with the Umi Keneta (ten-cent piece or dime).
This important alteration in the denomination of one coin tied the Hawaiian
silver coins to that of the United States coins in size, weight, and composition
which lowered the cost of production significantly.
Because of an Act passed by Congress on January
29, 1874 which permitted the U.S. Mint to produce coinage for foreign
governments, the mint commenced its production of the Hawaiian Silver Coinage in
November 1883, and ended its production run in June 1884. As stated
previously, all coins were dated 1883. There was six, four piece proof
sets produced at the Philadelphia Mint, and approximately 20, five piece proof
sets (including the Hapawalu) produced at the San Francisco facility.
All the proof sets were made for presentation purposes, and none were released
for sale to the public. All of the Business Strike coinage was
manufactured at the San Francisco Mint.
There is a common obverse to the design of all
the denominations. On them, there is a right facing effigy of the King as
the main device. The date is centered at the 6 o'clock position with a
"dot" before and after the date. On the outer perimeter of the coin the legend
reads, KALAKAUA I KING OF HAWAII. The reverse design of the quarter, half
dollar and dollar displays various depictions of the royal coat-of-arms with the
denomination flanking it as 1/4 D, 1/2 D, 1 D. The Motto UA MAU KE EA O KA
AINA I KA PONO is found running the perimeter of the coin from 8 o'clock to 4
o'clock, and the denomination in the Hawaiian language is centered at the 6
o'clock position. The devices on the reverse of the 10¢ piece display a
wreath with a crown at the top and inside the wreath it reads ONE DIME.
The legends are the same as on the larger denominations.
Due to a revolt, King Kalâkaua was forced to
sign a new constitution in 1887. It has been dubbed with the nickname of
the "Bayonet Constitution," and he died in 1891. In 1900, Hawaii
officially became a territory of the United States, and orders were issued to
withdraw the Hawaiian Silver Coinage from circulation, and replace it with U.S.
coinage. Of the original 250,000 dimes issued, approximately 79 were
melted. Of the 500,000 Hapaha issued, approximately 257,400 were
melted. Of the 700,000 Hapalua issued, approximately 612,245 were melted, and of the
500,000 Dala issued, approximately 453,622 were destroyed.
It is no wonder the Silver Coinage of the
Kingdom of Hawaii is considered a numismatic treasure. There is history,
and scarcity associated with them. That is what Coin Collecting is all
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