British Guiana

Banknotes issued from 1830 to 1942

News by - on


After the Falklands Islands, Suriname and Guyana, British Guiana becomes the 4th country in South America to enter the Numizon catalog. The 28 banknotes from this former Dutch and then British colony were to be an integral part of the Guyana banknote catalog, but we preferred to isolate them to give them greater visibility. We also made the decision to combine the two issues of 1830 from the Colony Demerary and Essequebo with the three issues of 1916, 1929 and 1937 from the Government of British Guiana. Finally, a few banknotes issued for the colonies by Barclays Bank and the Royal Bank of Canada complete the series.

Historical context

In South America, the four colonies of Berbice, Essequibo, Demerary and Pomeroon were conquered by the British during the Napoleonic Wars in 1796. Then these territories returned to Dutch rule in 1802, then were again taken over by the British in 1803. These territories colonies were officially ceded to United Kingdom in 1814 and which merged them in 1831 to give rise to the sole colony of British Guiana. The territory becomes independent on May 26, 1966 and takes the name of Cooperative Republic of Guyana ...

The first banknotes are those issued by Demerary and Essequebo. Although the colony has been under British rule since 1803, the first banknotes in circulation are denominated in both guilder and joe (1).

In 1809, 50,000 joes (equivalent to 1,100,000 guilders) were issued. This print was followed by 25,807 additional joes in 1815–16, then 24,193 copies in 1824 for a total print run of just under 100,000 joes. Considered to be legal tender, the notes are partially backed by securities in London, although their ability to be redeemed for gold has been questionable. In 1837, records indicated that 99,989 Joes had been issued with the following breakdown: 1 joe (13,258 notes), 2 joes (8,189 notes), 3 Joes (4,201 notes), 5 joes (3,150 notes), 10 joes (1,700 notes) and 20 joes (1,250 notes). However, no copy of the issue from 1809 to 1824 has been found to date! The only banknotes listed to date are those dated 1830.


Above: front of 20 joes or 440 guilders type 1830 (Pick: # A5) found in the National Numismatic Collection (National Museum of American History). Dimensions: 205 x 220 mm.

This issue is characterized by two types of design. The banknotes of the first series are illustrated with a D-E (for Demerary / Essequebo) at the top center and the banknotes of the second series are illustrated by a woman with an anchor at the top left and the Latin phrase “inter ripas fluo” (Between Banks It Flows). It should also be noted that the wording of the denominations differ between the series. On the first series, it should read: 1 Joe or 22 florins, 10 Joes or 220 florins, etc. Concerning the denominations of the second series, we can read: For 1 joe of 22 florins each, For 2 joe of 22 florins each, etc.

Dollar banknotes

Although private banks have been present in British Guiana since the late 19th century, it was not until 1916 that the Government of British Guiana began issuing dollar denominated banknotes. From 1916 to 1924, two banknotes of 1 and 2 dollars were issued and illustrated, front / back, with a seal representing a sailboat at sea surrounded by the Latin phrase: "Damus Petimusque Vicissim" (We both give and seek). From 1929 to 1936, the two 1 and 2 dollar bills became more elaborate. The seal with the sailboat is preserved, but the front shows a toucan appearing on a branch and a view of the towering Kaieteur Waterfalls on the Potaro River in central Guyana. On the back, a portrait of HRH the King of England George V in ceremonial costume. From 1937 to 1942, the series was completed with 4 new notes of 5, 10, 20 and 100 dollars. The front remains unchanged, but the back of the banknotes is this time illustrated with a portrait of HRH the young King of England George VI in ceremonial costume.


Above: front of 5 dollars type 1938 (Pick: # 14). Dimensions: 152 x 82 mm.


(1) This unit of monetary exchange, in use in the colony since 1798, corresponds to a Portuguese gold coin called “Johannes” with the exchange rate of 1 joe for 22 Dutch guilders. The coin, however, gradually loses its intrinsic value and facilitates the emergence of the first banknotes of 1809.

Our sources

Top of page
© 2018-2021, Numizon. All rights reserved.
Text index Legal mentions Contact us
Build in Paris - version A-3.7-1.5.7-161
Numizon NavigationNumizon Navigation