Richard B. writes: Doc…I gotta question, as I’ve inherited a rather eclectic coin collection…small, yet interesting. One of the coins is an 1847 Hawaiian penny…yet it’s the first strike/die one with the crossed “4”. My question, is how many of these are there out there? I found out that the total coinage struck was 100,000, yet 90,000 were melted in Boston in the late 1800’s. So, I wonder how many of the remaining, are the crossed “4” variety?
By 1846, the residents of Hawaii were growing out of their barter economy and were resisting exploitative company script only good at company stores. (For example, the Koloa Plantation paid workers exclusively in script).
When the Hawaiian coinage law was passed in 1846 authorizing a Hawaiian national coinage, the Hawaiian government contracted with the private mint of H.M. & E.I. Richards in Attleboro, Massachusetts. The initial order was for 100,000 copper ‘Keneta’ or “Hapa Hanele” (“Moiety” of 100 or, as Americans called it, one cent).
The coins were of poor quality, the Kings portrait was incorrect and the denomination, Hapa Hanele, was misspelled HAPA HANERI. Though the Hawaiians hated the coin, anecdotes report residents throwing the coins into the ocean, they were used in other Pacific Islands for small change and the Hawaiian government continue to store the remainders.
By 1862 the Hawaiian Treasury still had 11,595 pieces in stock and this was the last year that they were distributed. They continued to circulate as legal tender as “One Keneta” until 1884 when they were redeemed for the then current 1883 silver coinage. The Boston melt story is a myth.
There are two main die varieties of the copper keneta of 1847:
1. Large Bust and letters. They come with 15 and 18 berries on the reverse wreath. The crosslet “4” is taller than the “7”
2. Small bust and letters, 13 berries on wreath. Plain 4 that is not taller than the “7”.
Souvenir copies of the 1847 Keneta exist. They were made for the centennial of the coinage in 1947 and sold at souvenir stands in Hawaii. The souvenir examples are usually in brass but retain the 1847 date. They may still be selling these souvenirs in Hawaii.