1785 - Ceilon

Bonk bar - Colombo VOC 4 3/4 Stuiver

It was decided by a Res. of Colombo dated 1785 Oct. 20, to strike Half copper Larins in the shape of small bars with two round countermarks on either end and declare them current at the rate of 4 3/4 Indian Stuivers or Half Larin.

Denomination4-3/4 Stuiver
Length83. mm
Width(max)21. mm
Thickness mm
Weight Legal63.41 gms
Weight64.16 gms
StatusOld Forgery ?
Codrington 129; Schloten 1295c; Mitchiner #2184; Krause #32
Obverse : Two round countermarks stamped on either end of bar; within a rim of of beads outside a plain circle - On left: 4 3/4 ST ; On right: VOC monogram, below C (Colombo)
Reverse : Same

VOC monogram of the Dutch East India Company has a large V superimposed on OC.

The length and weight of these flattened bars of Japanese copper bars often differs considerably from 58 to 105 mm and from 54 to 62 grams. The legal weight based at that eras copper standard in Stuivers should be 63.413 grams.

KM32S1295a*RRRND the VOC monogram to left, the value to right
KM32S1295b RRRND with S-T
KM32S1295c RRRND the value to left, the VOC monogram to right

These bar coins are extremely rare since most of them were melted to mint the Elephant dump coins of the early period of the British colonial rule. Lowsley who made an exhaustive collection of coins in Ceylon in the early 1890's states I obtained in Ceylon but one specimen of the copper ingot 4 3/4-Stuiver, stamped on both sides with value as stated at either end with the monogram VOC under the letter C. The length of it is 2 3/8 inches (60.3 mm) 2 1/6 ounces (61.3 grams) These ingots are now of the greatest rarity, and probably nearly all of the few struck have been broken up for brass-work

Most of the Bars putup for auction on eBay are cheap Tourist fakes which are worth no more than the price of copper. All legitimate dealers stop the Auction when informed. The Bonk bar shown above which is exactly of legal weight and very similar to a few I have seen sold on ebay for over $200. Few higher quality forgeries like above have sold for about US$70.

The Bar on right was put on Auction on ebay by an US ANA dealer in August 1999 and again in July 2003. It was withdrawn from Auction when it's true nature was informed to the Seller. Accourding to this dealer it was purchased by him from in a hoard from the Mellon Bank of Pittsburgh which dates back to the early 1900's. I have however been unable to obtain anymore information. According to expert Jan Lingen it is die identical to my specimen.

Jan Lingen said It is a nice copy, but definitely a fake coin. See for instance the top op the V. The sheriffs of both legs of the V are not in one line. It may indeed be a contemporary forgery.

The 4 3/4 stuiver or larin was forged extensively. When the emission was called in 1792 it is mentioned that "half of those called in were found to be false" (Codrington p.126, sub 18). In appendix E (Codrington p.223) it is noted that 101748 larins were received. If half of those were found to false, one can realize to what an extent forging has been going on. Some forgers probably found it less safe to deliver them with the authorities and rather deposit them at a safe place to converted later on in something else. So avoiding the chance to be prosecuted for producing false coins. Therefore these pieces could well be found in a hoard, which nevertheless doesn't make them genuine.

scholten_1295c Note that the BonkBars illustrated in Schloten (image on left), Codrington and Mitchiner and on display in the Colombo Museum have a flat (screwdriver-like) end and a concave bar rather than the rounded end and convex bar as in the coin shown above.
See also Bonk bar with flattened end in the Jan Lingen Collection. However, one must be careful. I saw a bar with a flat ends with a reputed dealer in Galle who admitted it was Not Genuine. The older wreath 6st bar illustrated in Schloten has concave middle but rounded ends similar to the bar shown above.

There are no bonk bars known to be genuine available for sale in Lanka and the existence of high quality fakes makes it probably an almost impossible task to prove a bar is genuine without extensive laboratory testing of the metallurgy. Since those making the bars and Galle dumps recently have only a vague ideas of the detail on the genuine dump, the cheap fake bars are very easy reject. If it is crudely constructed with letters of wrong size and/or layout then it is best to not contribute to support this recent cottage industry to swindle gullible tourists. A 1978 IAPN/IBSCC report unfortunately tested an obvious modern counterfeit rather than one of higher quality. The older higher quality copies are more difficult to recognize. So outside the Museums the best one can get for a collection is probably a nice bar of unknown authenticity as above.

The lack of significant impurities easy way to recognize a fake made from modern copper. Qualitative X-ray Fluorescence spectrum of the above bar showed Arsenic as an impurity to the copper in addition to lead and iron and Tin. No Antimony was observed. The copper is clearly old, but that alone does not establish authenticity.

The Dick Ford collection (in Taisei-Baldwin-Gillio Auction#19 1995 February 23 Singapore) sold them for hammer price (+10% buyers premium) (lots #54,#55) in VF at US $550 each, and (#56) in XF, $800, and (#57) a broken end at $280.

Even if you find a bar which looks in all respects genuine, realize that it has a high probability of being only worth it's weight in copper and not gold when you decide on your investment.

Text from
* Ceylon Coins and Currency By H. W. Codrington. Colombo 1924
  Page 133 Chapter X Dutch - Coins of the Eastern Mints. Plate 130.
* The Coins of the Dutch Overseas Territories- 1601-1948
  C. Scholten, 1953, Amsterdam: Jacques Schulman.

The coin was scanned at 300dpi and the images are displayed at 150dpi. It was obtained in December 1999 from the Rajah Wickremesinhe an Author and collector in Colombo, Lanka. He was uncertain if it was Genuine. It is one from a lot of about 20 he had purchased many years ago from a reliable source who had them for a very long time. One of these bars was offered to me by a dealer in Lanka, who subsequently sold it on eBay with a guaranteed genuine tag :-)