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The 1911 Pig Rupee

By Aarav Dokania - March 1, 2023

1911(C) Pig Rupee graded PCGS MS67 – the finest example of this issue, which is owned by Khalid Mohammad. Courtesy of PCGS. Click image to enlarge.

British Indian Coinage has caught the admiration of collectors of Indian and World coins and has been at the forefront in the past decade with auction values rallying higher. Among the vast breadth and depth of British India Uniform coinage (1834-1947) is a coin that has always piqued the collectors’ interest: the 1911 Pig Type 1 Rupee, a coin likely to be known by many world coin dealers and collectors.

Although what many might think to be a more recent, fabricated story, the 1911 Pig Rupee has been discussed and debated for over a century since it was struck with early mentions of the term “pig.” The etymological discourse can be traced back to as early as March 30, 1912, when it was mentioned in the Illustrated London News by G.K. Chesterton, and on page 45 of the New York Numismatic Club Yearbook 1918-19-20-21, published in 1922.

In 1910, work led by Royal Mint masters had started to bring in a change in the design of the coins of King Edward VII, but his demise on May 6, 1910, prevented any new issuances, and the patterns formed the guide for the coinage of his son and successor to the Imperial throne of India, George V.

His Majesty’s mints struck the new coins of George V at Bombay and Calcutta, and promptly supplied them to the treasuries for subsequent issuance to the public on “Durbar Day,” Tuesday, December 12, 1911. What was completely unknown was that this coin would cause an uproar. A bizarre rumor said to be started by political agitators claimed that a “pig” was depicted on the new rupee obverse upon the collar of the most eminent order of the Indian Empire worn on the robe of the king. While a similar obverse design was also implemented on the other smaller fractions, it was the size of the rupee coin that brought the most criticism.

The animal depicted was an elephant, but a shorter trunk and tail on the design of the pachyderm led the public to easily believe the narrative and denounce the coin design. The pig has been considered an unclean animal among Indians for religious reasons; for the British, this evoked painful memories of the Mutiny of 1857, when the Indian soldiers of the East India Company revolted on the knowledge of pig fat being used to grease the rifle cartridges. The British crown could not afford another such public revolt.

A closeup of the “pig”-like elephant on the 1911 Pig Rupee (left) and the corrected elephant on the 1912 Rupee. Closeups courtesy of Deepak Bansal. Click image to enlarge.

Authorities explained but failed to convince the masses and the public aversion to the coin was so persistent and hostile that the government, on January 23, 1912, issued orders to the banks and local treasuries for its withdrawal after some 700,000 of the total 9.4 million minted by the mints of Bombay and Calcutta had been issued, the remainder and those withdrawn from circulation were melted down. The dies were slightly altered, and on the coins issued in 1912 and after that, the figure of the elephant had more prominent features. This new form appears on all rupee coins struck from 1912 through 1922, and fractional coinage between 1912 and 1936.

The reverse designed by Percy Brown, principal of the School of Arts in Calcutta, features the legend within a double-line circle. The whole is surrounded by a Saracenic scroll composed of conventional representations of a rose, thistle, and shamrock. At the top and bottom is the Indian lotus, and these elements are all within another double-line circle and border.

The obverse was designed from a model supplied by the Royal Mint, with the effigy by Sir Edgar Bertram MacKennal featuring the crowned and robed bust of the king facing left. “B.M.” is inscribed in relief on the truncation of the shoulder. The legend around “GEORGE V KING EMPEROR,” all within a raised, toothed border. With an intriguing story as this, it leaves no question on why the 1911 Pig Rupee is among the most popular Indian Coins.

These coins were issued in the denomination of one rupee, half rupee, quarter rupee, two annas, and one quarter anna. While most of these coins can still be collected in MS61-63 grades, with their regular appearances in auctions, finding a coin graded MS64 or higher is still a task. The PCGS census records provide the evidential data on their rarity. It is worth mentioning that one of these coins, the half rupee, is notoriously tough to find in AU grade. Even if an example is found, a collector must be prepared to pay a price to get it, with an AU55 recently realizing $3,960 – clearly justifying its rarity and demand in the market.

So, when are you adding one of these cool coins to your collection?


Pridmore, Major F. The Coins of the British Commonwealth of Nations, Part 4 India. Spink and Son, 1980.

The author wishes to offer his special thanks to Deepak Bansal, Haresh Assumal, and Vikram Deshmukh for sharing their insights and valuable pieces of information regarding this topic.

Article provided by PCGS at
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