PMG-certified Ceylon Tea Coupons Tell a Fascinating Tale
Posted on 1/19/2021
Many historically significant forms of currency, and the regulation thereof, are graded by Paper Money Guaranty® (PMG®). One is Ceylon Tea Coupons. Ceylon (now Sri Lanka since 1972) is synonymous with high-quality tea. In 2013, the country was the world’s largest tea exporter at around 320,000 metric tons with a value of $1.5 billion (USD). The industry directly and indirectly employs over 1 million people.
In 1867, James Taylor sparked the birth of the tea industry in the British Colony of Ceylon by starting a 19-acre tea planation in Kandy. In 1872, he began operating a tea factory on the grounds of the Loolkandura estate. By the 1880s, tea production in Ceylon increased dramatically such that by 1894, the Ceylon Tea Traders Association was formed. Today, all tea produced in Sri Lanka is sold through this association and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
During the late 1920s, there was a large surplus of tea in the London market because of bumper crops in India, Ceylon and Java. The overproduction that continued over the following years led to a disastrous slump in prices. In 1933, it was agreed to restrict tea exports between the major producers of tea in India, Ceylon and the Dutch East Indies to stabilize prices. This regulated export scheme was subsequently extended until 1954. Had it not been for this export restriction intervention, there would undoubtedly have been serious economic consequences and company failures in the industry.
Ceylon’s April 1, 1941-dated Tea Coupons are a fascinating numismatic souvenir of this period. These uniface coupons were issued under Section 20 of the Tea Control Ordinance and used to monitor and regulate the export of tea from Ceylon. The tea coupons acted as a quota system for tea growers since the coupons had to be accompanied by all tea export sales. Although these coupons did not circulate as money, there are reported instances where some growers sold their coupons to other growers for cash or provisions to fund their operations.
Ceylon tea coupons were issued in weights of 1 Pound, 5 Pounds, 10 Pounds and 100 Pounds of “Made Tea” and each has a unique serial number. The printed signature of Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Tea Controller is found at the bottom-right of the coupon. A perforated left edge is normally seen as these coupons were issued in booklets with a staple through the counterfoil. The dimensions of the tea coupons progressively increase from 122 X 93 mm for the 1 Pound coupon to 168 X 118 mm for the 100 Pound coupon.
The tea coupons have black text printed on a geometric pattern of green and pink colors, including “CEYLON” in large outline font. A watermark is observed with the word “RESTRICTION” as a center line in the middle, with the arced words “CEYLON” above and “GOVERNMENT” below.
- Singh, S. (2016). The Encyclopedia of Dry Rubber Export Coupons Malaya, Ceylon and Netherlands East Indies, 1922-1942
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