Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah the First

Merry Christmas to readers who are celebrating it out there. I remembered when I was studying in UK and USA, the Christmas/New Year holidays mean that no shops are open for about a week and that one better stock up for that week if one wants to eat something else other than Christmas puddings. For today I thought I will write something about how Christmas cards led me to discover something about Brunei.

When I was studying in England, I had a very good English friend. He is a pure vegetarian and would take me to the supermarkets and tell me which food product contained animal derivatives. I knew about animal derivatives sources in most Enzymes (the E in food ingredients) long before most people. In my second year in England, he invited me to spend a Christmas evening with his family. It was an interesting occassion as my friend was a mature student and his family were quite elderly. We had candlelight dinner and I know enough now how Christmas is celebrated. I still keep in touch with the family despite the fact we haven't seen each other for more than 20 years now. I told them about Hari Raya and up to now they would send me Hari Raya greetings and I sent them Christmas greetings. We even discovered something in common.

The mother of my friend in one of her annual letter was talking about one of her work which was then to help research for an autobiography of a local English writer who also designed coins, one of them being a Brunei coin. I helped her to find the coin and discovered that it is the first Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's commemorative coin. We also discovered that that coin had an interesting feature. On the coin was embossed "Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah I". At first you may not realise the implication. But if you think about it you can normally have a first, if there is a second and in this case, since there was clearly yet no visible 'II', you can't have a first unless you are so clairvoyant and be able to so far into the future. When I visited the Currency Board last year, all those coins have been sold out. The 'mistake' has not been repeated in any of the other commemorative coins. All subsequent coins have the plain 'Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah'.

I later discovered that it is not just the commemorative coin that had 'Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah I' on it. The 1970 coin series all had that same title and it wasn't until the 1980 series that the 'I' was dropped. [Click on the photo above to show clearly the 1973 coin, the 1981 coin and the 1986 coin - the 1973 had the 'I'.]

I have been told that the 'I' in the title of 'Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah I' on those coins was not a mistake but done deliberately. This happened because the previous coins were the series of 'Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III' and hence the new replacment coins should retained that 'numerical' consistency and hence the 'I' was included. Coincidentally enough, I remembered a couple of months after we corresponded, there was an article about this in the now defunct News Express. So do have a quick look at the coins that you have in your purse or pocket. If you find the one with the 'I' think of it as an interesting piece about Brunei coinage history.


Anonymous said…
ive kept alot of those coins with the I, they come in 50, 20, 10 cents coins... i must hav more than $10 worth by now, heheh very interesting Mr BR :)
Anonymous said…
BR you have highlighted one of Brunei's "hidden treasures".

Coins issued up to 1977 had the "I", and some of the 1977 coins did not have them ie the year when the 'mistake' was corrected. Hence the older coins are considered "valuable", except that there were milions of them!

I collect these coins, ganya kalau dah kapih then I start to use them!

I also have a Swiss 2 francs coin dated 1936. I was told back in 1988 then that the same coin bought the same cup of Swiss coffee (ummm!!) as in 1936 - it says so much about the stability of the Swiss francs.

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