British North Borneo Estate Tokens are something that is very interesting to talk about since they came in different sizes & shapes; square, triangular, pentagonal, octagonal, rectangular, oblong, oblong with clipped corners, oval and eye-shaped ones. They also struck on a different kind of metal; brass, copper, bronze, zinc, aluminium, silver and nickel. There is no mintage history recorded on any Borneo tokens but the initial K.B on some tokens might be a mint mark for The Kremnica Mint situated in Kremnica, Slovakia. K.B stand for Hungarian Körmöcz-Bánya or German Kremnitz-Bergstadt (mean=Kremnica Mint). Nowadays, it is a bit hard to find a tokens with high grade because they're many collectors who already start to collect them. Most nof the tokens are for plantation estate but there is also one token issued in a coal mines.
British North Borneo Company start to allowed private estate tokens around 1882 at various tobacco, rubber and timber estates in the State of North Borneo. They said currency shortage as a main reason to use private tokens but the actual reason is that it will be easy to control coolies (labourers) with private money. The coolies cannot easily run away from the plantation since they don't have any normal circulating money (Mexico dollar, Hong Kong dollar, British Trade dollar etc) for them to live outside the plantation. The coolies received monthly payment for their wages and each one of them have their own “debt record book”. The book will record all their purchases at the shop (Kedai) in the plantation as well as their gambling debts and fines. The fines are for insufficient productivity on the plantation or for unauthorised absence from the plantation.
Many of the plantation tokens were issued at the end of the 19th century. During that time, fast and quick development of tobacco estates in the Netherlands East Indies can be seen with the cultivation of first-class tobacco. Many of the coolies were recruited from the southern Chinese, that's why most of the tokens have chinese writing on it. In 1890, United States increasing the import tax on tobacco and this make the tobacco price declined very strongly. Around 1920, most of the tobacco estates had changed their production from tobacco to rubber.
Due to various abuses, these tokens were brought under Government regulations of 1903, 1906 and 1912. Any individual estate or Company employing more than 100 labourers was empowered to issue monetary tokens after seeking prior approval from the Government. Each token was not to exceed five dollars per issuer. A specimen was required to be deposited at the Treasury at Sandakan as well as at the nearest District Office. Vide Gazette Notification No. 207 of 1920 the issue of these private token money was abolished. All employers in the various estates were required to forward to the local District Office at least 20 per cent of their total authorised issue of tokens for cancellation by the 31st December of each year henceforth. Thus by 31st December 1924 the use of private tokens in the State of North Borneo came to an end.
Complete list: British North Borneo Tokens
1. Borneo Labuk Tobacco Company Limited
2. Labuk British North Borneo
3. Labuk Planting Company Limited
4. London Borneo Tobacco company
5. NLBTCL Estate Shop (New Labuan Borneo Tobacco Company Limited)
6. Rotterdam Borneo Company
7. Sandakan Tobacco Company Limited
8. Tenom Rubber C0. Ld.
9. Cadei Pitas Estate
10. Ramie Fibre Company Ltd Borneo
11. Pitas and Nicolina Estate
12. London & Amsterdam Borneo Tobacco Co. Ltd.
13. Sandakan Tobacco Company Limited, Batu Puteh Estate
14. The New Darvel Bay (Borneo) Tobacco Plantations Ltd.
15. Melalap estate
16. Kimanis Rubber Ltd.
17. The Cowie Harbour Coal company limited, Silimpopon.
Source: The coins of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Book written by Saran Singh, www.plantagegeld.nl