Minted in 1788 the Pineapple Penny was the first coin specifically produced for commercial use in Barbados. The Pineapple Penny was made of copper, produced by the British Mint and commissioned by Sir Philip Gibbes a member of Barbados’ council and great-grandson of Philip Gibbes one of Barbados’ earliest settlers. The coin depicts, on the obverse, an African in profile wearing the royal diadem of the Prince of Wales with the motto ‘I serve’ inscribed beneath.
On the reverse the image of a pineapple appears which is where the coin derives its name. In total 5,367 Pineapple Pennies were produced and many of these as well as the Barbados Neptune Penny, also commissioned by Gibbs, remained in circulation in Barbados until the early twentieth century.
In the seventeenth century when Barbados was settled there was an acute shortage of currency that forced the early settlers to create systems of economic exchange that was based on the use of available currency, usually Spanish, but also a variety of Portuguese, Dutch and French currency that was affixed to the British sterling.
However the primary method of paying for goods and services as well as settling debt in seventeenth and early eighteenth century Barbados was through the use of commodities such as cotton, tobacco and sugar. This medium of transaction was made legal through legislation at that time. For example an early act in Barbados stated that each person who was not a free holder should pay 20 pounds of cotton to the governor as a tax.
As the sugar revolution unfolded in Barbados in the mid seventeenth century the medium of transaction became sugar which was also used for the payment of fines.
By the 1690s the use of commodities such as sugar was gradually phased out for business transactions and the term ‘current money’ began to appear on the legislation of the island. Throughout the eighteenth century a wide variety of currency continued to be used in Barbados including the Pineapple penny.
The Pineapple Penny represents trade and commerce in Barbados and also the development of Barbadian individualism and identity through currency.