CirculationSix of the states using the EC$ are independent states: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The other two, Anguilla and Montserrat, are British Overseas Territories. These states are all members of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union. The other two associate members of the OECS do not use the Eastern Caribbean dollar as their official currency: the British Virgin Islands and Martinique. The British Virgin Islands were always problematic for currency purposes due to their proximity to the Danish West Indies, which became the United States Virgin Islands in 1917. Officially, the British Virgin Islands used to use Pound sterling, sterling, but in practice the situation was more complicated and involved the circulation of French francs and United States dollar, U.S. dollars. In 1951, the British Virgin Islands adopted the British West Indies dollar which at that time operated in conjunction with the sterling coinage, and in 1959 they changed over officially to the United States dollar, U.S. dollar. Martinique, as part of France, uses the euro as its currency. British Guiana and Barbados had previously been members of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union but withdrew in 1966 and 1972, respectively. Trinidad and Tobago had been a member of the earlier British West Indies currency union, but withdrew in 1964. The combined population of the EC$ area is about 613,000 (2014 census and estimates), which is comparable to Montenegro or the American capital city of Washington, D.C. The combined Gross domestic product, GDP is 5.46 billion US dollars, which is comparable to Bermuda. Queen Elizabeth II appears on the banknotes and also on the obverse of the coins. She is the head of state of all the states and territories using the EC$, except for Dominica. Dominica is nevertheless a member of the Commonwealth of Nations which recognises Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth.
HistoryQueen Anne's proclamation of 1704 introduced the gold standard to the British West Indies, putting the West Indies about two hundred years ahead of the East Indies in this respect. Nevertheless, silver pieces of eight continued to form an important portion of the circulating coinage right up until the late 1870s. In 1822, the British government coined , , and fractional 'Anchor dollars' for use in Mauritius and the British West Indies (but not Jamaica). A few years later copper fractional dollars were coined for Mauritius, Sierra Leone, and the British West Indies. The first move to introduce British Pound sterling, sterling silver coinage to the colonies came with an imperial order-in-council dated 1825. This move was inspired by a number of factors. The United Kingdom was now operating a very successful gold standard in relation to the gold sovereign that was introduced in 1816, and there was a desire to extend this system to the colonies. In addition to this, there was the fact that the supply of Spanish dollars (pieces of eight) had been cut off as a result of the revolutions in Latin America where most of the Spanish dollars were minted. The last Spanish Dollar was in fact minted at Potosí, Potosi in 1825. There was now a growing desire to have a stable and steady supply of British shillings everywhere the British drum was beating. The 1825 order-in-council was largely a failure because it made sterling silver coinage legal tender at the unrealistic rating in relation to the Spanish dollar of $1 = 4 shillings 4 pence. It succeeded in Jamaica, Bermuda, and British Honduras because the authorities in those territories set aside the official ratings and used the more realistic rating of $1 = 4 shillings. The reality of the rating between the dollar and the pound was based on the silver content of the Spanish pieces of eight as compared to the gold content of the British gold sovereign. A second imperial order-in-council was passed in 1838 with the correct rating of $1 = 4 shillings 2 pence. In the years following the 1838 order-in-council, the British West Indies territories began to enact local legislation for the purposes of assimilating their monies of account with the British pound sterling. Gold discoveries in Australia in 1851 drove the silver dollar out of the West Indies, but it returned again with the great depreciation in the value of silver that followed with Germany's transition to the gold standard between 1871 and 1873. In the years immediately following 1873, there was a fear that the British West Indies might return to a silver standard. As such, legislation was passed in the individual territories to demonetize the silver dollars. Even though the British coinage was also silver, it represented fractions of the gold sovereign and so its value was based on a gold standard. During this period, and into the nineteenth century, accounts could be kept in either dollars or sterling. Jamaica, Bermuda, and the Bahamas preferred to use sterling accounts whereas British Guiana used dollar accounts. British Guiana used dollar accounts for the purpose of assisting in the transition from the Dutch guilder system of currency to the British pound sterling system. In the Eastern Caribbean territories the private sector preferred to use dollar accounts whereas the government preferred to use sterling accounts. In some of the Eastern Caribbean territories, notes were issued by various private banks, denominated in dollars equivalent to 4 shillings 2 penny, pence. See Antigua dollar, Barbadian dollar, Dominican dollar, Grenadian dollar, Guyanese dollar, Saint Kitts dollar, Saint Lucia dollar, Saint Vincent dollar and Trinidad and Tobago dollar. In 1946, a West Indian Currency Conference saw Barbados, British Guiana, the British Leeward Islands, Leeward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago and the British Windward Islands, Windward Islands agree to establish a unified decimal currency system based on a West Indian dollar to replace the current arrangement of having three different Boards of Commissioners of Currency (for Barbados (which also served the Leeward and Windward Islands), British Guiana and Trinidad & Tobago). In 1949, the British government formalized the dollar system of accounts in British Guiana and the Eastern Caribbean territories by introducing the British West Indies dollar (BWI$) at the already existing conversion rate of $4.80 per pound sterling (or $1 = 4 shillings 2 pence). It was one of the many experimental political and economic ventures tested by the British government to form a uniform system within the British West Indies territories. The symbol "BWI$" for frequently used and the currency was known verbally as the "Beewee" (slang for British West Indies) dollar. Shortly thereafter in the 1950, the British Caribbean Currency Board (BCCB) was set up in Trinidad with the sole right to issue notes and coins of the new unified currency and given the mandate of keeping full foreign exchange cover to ensure convertibility at $4.80 per pound sterling. In 1951, the British Virgin Islands joined the arrangement, but this led to discontent because that territory was more naturally drawn to the currency of the neighbouring United States Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands. In 1961, the British Virgin Islands withdrew from the arrangement and adopted the U.S. dollar. Until 1955, the BWI$ existed only as banknotes in conjunction with sterling fractional coinage. Decimal coins replaced the sterling coins in 1955. These decimal coins were denominated in cents, with each cent worth one halfpenny in sterling. In 1958, the West Indies Federation was established and the BWI$ was its currency. However, although Jamaica (including the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands) was part of the West Indies Federation, it retained the Jamaican pound, despite adopting the BWI$ as legal tender from 1954. Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands were already long established users of the sterling accounts system of pounds, shillings, and pence. In 1964 Jamaica ended the legal tender status of the BWI$ and Trinidad and Tobago withdrew from the currency union (adopting the Trinidad and Tobago dollar) forcing the movement of the headquarters of the BCCB to Barbados and soon the "BWI$" dollar lost its regional support. In 1965, the British West Indies dollar of the now defunct West Indies Federation was replaced at par by the Eastern Caribbean dollar and the BCCB was replaced by the Eastern Caribbean Currency Authority or ECCA (established by the Eastern Caribbean Currency Agreement 1965). British Guiana withdrew from the currency union the following year. Grenada, which had used the Trinidad and Tobago dollar from 1964, rejoined the common currency arrangement in 1968. Barbados withdrew from the currency union in 1972, following which the ECCA headquarters were moved to St. Kitts. Between 1965 and 1983, the Eastern Caribbean Currency Authority issued the EC$, with banknotes from 1965 and coins from 1981. The EC$ is now issued by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, based in the city of Basseterre, in Saint Kitts and Nevis. The bank was established by an agreement (the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank Agreement) signed at Port of Spain on 5 July 1983. The exchange rate of $4.80 = £1 sterling (equivalent to the old $1 = 4s 2d) continued until 1976 for the new Eastern Caribbean dollar. For a wider outline of the history of currency in the region see Currencies of the British West Indies.
CoinsUntil 1981, the coins of the BWI$ circulated. In 1982, a new series of coins was introduced in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10 and 25 cents and 1 dollar. The 1- and 5-cent coins were scalloped in shape while the 2-cent coin was square. These three were struck in aluminum. The 10- and 25-cent coins were round and cupro-nickel. The dollar was aluminum bronze and also round. The round, aluminum bronze dollar coin was replaced in 1989 with a decagonal, cupro-nickel type. In 2002 new and larger round-shaped 1-, 2-, and 5-cent pieces were introduced, along with a new 1-dollar coin which was also round. The effigy of Queen Elizabeth II was also changed that same year on all coin denominations to the Ian Rank-Broadley design, making it the last commonwealth currency up to that date to discontinue the Arnold Machin portrait. Their compositions remained aluminum and cupro-nickel, respectively. Higher denominations exist, but these were issued only as medal-coins. 1- and 2-cent coins were withdrawn from circulation in July 2015, and remained legal tender until 30 June 2020.
BanknotesIn 1965, the Eastern Caribbean Currency Authority issued banknotes in denominations of 1, 5, 20 and 100 dollars, all featuring Pietro Annigoni's 1956 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II in regalia of the Order of the Garter. The first issues in the name of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in 1985 were of the same denominations, with the addition of 10-dollar notes. The last 1-dollar notes were issued in 1989 and 50-dollar notes were introduced in 1993. On 1 April 2008, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank issued a new series of banknotes which are like the preceding issues, except for omitting both the barcode and the country code letters which form part of the serial number on current notes. In 2012, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank issued a series of banknotes with Braille features in an effort to provide notes which are easier for blind and visually impaired persons to use. The raised Braille characters on the upgraded notes feature a cricket theme in the form of balls and stumps. These characters have been added to the 10-, 20-, 50-, and 100-dollar notes. In 2019, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank is set to introduce a new family of notes produced in polymer substrate and are to be presented in a vertical format.
Previous issuesThe 2012 issue included raised braille elements for the visually-impaired in the form of a cricket ball and stumps. These were added to the EC$10, $20, $50, and $100 banknotes.
See also* Amero * Sterling area * Economy of the Caribbean * Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange * Currencies of the British West Indies * Central banks and currencies of the Caribbean * Currency union * CARICOM * SUCRE (currency)