The Balson Holdings Family Trust holds a number of historically significant historical collections covering old maps, political memorabilia, old and rare books, and unusual numismatic items. The most famous, the money of the Griqua people, can be seen at this link.

The Balson Holdings Family Trust has a valuable representative collection of Fiji's bank notes and complete collection of Fiji's pre-decimal coins . The history of the bank notes is as fascinating as the country itself. The interest in these collections resulted directly from the development of the innovative niche travel market of Fijian Village Homestays established by Scott Balson after he fell in love with the people and their culture.

But first, a brief history of Fiji:

Fijians believe that they originated from the shores of Lake Tanganyika ("fish bag" in Fijian) situated on the western border of Tanganyika (East Africa). Fable records that Lutunasobasoba, a powerful chief and navigator, guided his people in their huge ocean going canoes to their final landing place at Vuda (our source) on Viti Levu's western coast near Ba. Interestingly, one of the largest coastal river systems in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) is the Rufiji - made famous by the German Cruiser, the SMS Konigsberg, and von Lettow Vorbeck, the German General who kept the British Allies on the run throughout World War One. 

More on this fascinating historical overlap can be viewed at this link.

Science tells a different story with the island of Lakeba (in the Lau Island group) located between Viti Levu and Tonga being the first base of Polynesians and Melanesians who travelled south and settled here some 3,000 years ago. Ancient carbon-dated pottery found on Lakeba dates back to about 1500BC. Scientists believe they were the first Fijians.

During the centuries leading up to the arrival of the whiteman and following the arrival of the first Missionaries in 1835 horrific stories of massacres and brother killing brother were common. It was common practice in early Fijian villages to simply strangle men and women who were old and sick who could no longer play a useful role in their society. Cannibalism was rife with the brains of the victims being the delicacy most sought after. The two major powers in the decades leading up to the cession of Fiji to Great Britain were Bau, under Cakobau ("Tui Viti") the King of Fiji and the villages under Rewa. These two peoples fought wars that lasted decades and resulted in some horrific massacres and killings which included burying people alive. The Fijian spoken today by ethnic Fijians originates from the "Bau" dialect.

Over many generations the Fijian people scattered throughout the islands as they tried to escape stronger waring groups. Theses stragglers made their way across the main island of Viti Levu's Nadrau Plateau - then settled in little villages like Namatakula on the coral coast. You can follow their footseps by going on a trek from Nadrau. Just 150 years ago these villages were at war and cannibalism was common. It was at the village of Nabutautau, near Nadrau, that the British Missionary Thomas Baker was killed and eaten by cannibals in 1867. On the coastline between Namatakula and Navutulevu are the remains of a historic stone wall erected by the villagers of Namatakula preventing the neighbouring coastal villagers of Navutulevu from attacking them.

Image right: the remains of the stone wall on the beach at Namatakula

The Fijian's traditionally most prized possession is the golden tabua... more at this link

When the first missionaries arrived in the 1840s a remarkable transformation took place and today the Fijians are peace-loving and God-fearing people with churches dominating their villages. The Fijians stopped their killing and settled down into a hunter-gatherer lifestyle with villages side by side living in peace. It was at about this time the first bank notes appeared in Fiji. In 1874 Fiji became a British colony and the next year a severe measles epidemic killed about one third of the population.

A breakdown of important Chiefs and Rulers of Fiji from the 1700s to date is at this link

A more detailed history of Fiji politics up to date can be seen at this link.


Fijian Bank Notes (1871 to date)

Displayed below are some of the notes and milestones in the evolution of the country's currency - some of the comments come from the book "Paper Money of Fiji" by Dr K A Rodgers and Carol Cantrell.

(all images are thumbnails of notes held in the Balson Holdings Family Trust - click to see bigger image)
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Brewer and Joske Smith $2.5 - 1871

Two early Suva settlers, Wm. H. O'Halloran Brewer & Paul Joske, established the first sugar mill in the islands in 1872. With the assistance of Smith & Harrison, they produced small quantities of crystallized sugar which was sold for 5d per pound. They eventually scaled up production shipping ten tons to Australia in April 1874. The soil conditions in Suva proved unsuitable to maintain production and the venture struggled on for a few years closing in 1875. The pair had reputedly invested £30,000 in the venture, an enormous sum at that time. Brewer distraught from the experience committed suicide. Joske started a new unrelated firm. Brewer & Joske's experience dampened others from starting new sugar production for some time.

$10 Debenture issued by the Kingdom of Fiji in 1872

The rare note on the right in extremely rare mint condition was the first Fijian money ever issued.

It is the only truly pre-colonisation Fijian bank note. The issue of these debenture notes followed a coup de'etat on 5th June 1871 led by a small group of merchants from Levuka, a village on a small island near the main island of Viti Levu.

Dr Rodgers, co-author of the book "Paper Money of Fiji" confirmed the extreme rarity of the condition of the note held by the Balson Holdings Family Trust - with no folds, tears or pin holes.

The debenture note was issued under authority of the Loans Act of 1871 and personally signed by Cakobau Tui Viti (King of Fiji) in January 1872. The debenture note was accepted as bona fide money in Fiji at this time. Cakobau , a Tongan, is credited with unifying all the tribes of Fiji under his leadership in the mid-1800s.

On the tenth day of October 1874 Cakobau (image right), the King of Fiji, together with other high chiefs of Fiji, gave Fiji to Her Britannic Majesty Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. The Deed of Cession was signed by Ratu Cakobau as Tui Viti and Vunivali.

His signature on this $10 debenture note makes it a sought after historical piece.


Levuka Treasury

In 1873 the Levuka Treasury issued notes valued at 12 1/2 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents, 100 cents, one dollar, five dollar, ten dollar, twenty five dollar and fifty dollar (note on left).

The rare notes that remain (seen right) are now cancelled.


Mavua Rubber Estates £100 Debenture note

Because of the shortage of indigenous currency in 1927 the Mavua Rubber Estates (an Australian based company) issued just one hundred £100 debenture notes to pay creditors. Most have been destroyed - just a handful remain.

The company was liquidated in September 1929.

The Balson Holdings Family Trust acquired the extremely rare note (numbered 13) with a large Fiji embossed Fiji duty stamp at the bottom.

Reverse of the note at this link.


Currency notes, colonial government of Fiji

George VI 5/- note issued on 1st October 1940 - image right

Currency notes were issued during the second world war on the 1st January 1942.

The notes below represent the entire set: 1d, 1/- and 2/-, the 1d note is the lowest value ever given to a bank note.

   

Currency tokens were issued by businesses and are not legal tender.

A number of businesses including Burns Philps, The Garrick, Lilac Theatre, Morris Hedstrom and the Grand Pacific Hotel (a Colonial relic) issued these stamp like tokens during the second world war. They were declared illegal by the authorities who then turned a blind eye to their issue. Images of the hotel in Suva at this link.

Displayed on the right above are a set of the GPH (Grand Pacific Hotel) tokens in uncirculated condition.

Post World War II Currency Notes

George VI £1 note issued on 1st June 1951 - image right

Recent Queen Elizabeth issues (pre-current issue):

Issued 1961

Issued 1961

Issued 1964

 


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The complete collection of pre-decimal Fijian coins in the Balson Holdings Family Trust

Ha'penny and Penny

Penny and thrupence

Thrupence and six pence

Shilling

Two shilling