Saint Helena pound

The Saint Helena pound is the currency of the Atlantic islands of Saint Helena and Ascension, which are constituent parts of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. It is fixed at parity with the pound sterling and as such both currencies are commonly accepted and circulated. It is subdivided into 100 pence.

Saint Helena pound
ISO 4217
Banknotes£5, £10, £20
Coins1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 pence, £1, £2
User(s) St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (only in Saint Helena and Ascension Island), alongside Pound sterling
GovernmentGovernment of Saint Helena
SourceThe World Factbook, 1997 est.
Pegged withpound sterling at par

Tristan da Cunha, the third part of the territory, officially adopted the pound sterling. However, there are occasionally commemorative coins minted for the island.[1]


Initially, the British pound sterling circulated on Saint Helena, with the pound subdivided into 20 shillings, and each shilling into 12 pence.

This was supplemented by occasional local issues of paper currencies. One coin, a copper halfpenny, was also struck specifically for use in the islands in 1821, which intermingled with British coinage. The notes were denominated in pounds and shillings and valued to the British pound at par.

Prior to February 1961, the South African pound, which was then equal in value to sterling, was also accepted on the island, but this stopped with the introduction of the new decimal South African rand, such that one rand was worth only ten shillings sterling.

In 1976, the St. Helena government began issuing new, decimal denominated banknotes for use on the island, with the introduction of circulation coins intended for use on St. Helena as well as Ascension beginning in 1984. The use of these coins and notes was extended from St. Helena and Ascension island later on to Tristan da Cunha as well.

For a more general history of currency in the South Atlantic region, see The Sterling Currency in the South Atlantic and the Antarctic.


The first coins were introduced in 1821, in which copper half pennies were issued for Saint Helena by the East India Trading Company and these were used for a majority of the Company's influence in the area. During this period the island was also used as a penal ground for high-ranking political prisoners, including Napoleon Bonaparte. Circulating coinage for St. Helena would not be issued again for another 163 years, in 1984.

Prior to 1984, both Saint Helena and Ascension Island had issued non-circulating commemorative coins but officially used British circulation coins. The St. Helena issued banknotes circulated alongside British coins and banknotes.

In 1984, circulation coins were first introduced in the names of St. Helena and Ascension in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10 and 50 pence and 1 pound. The coin series was designed by engraver and coin designer Michael Hibbit. All of the coins are the same size and composition as the corresponding British coins and valued with the British pound at par. Each coin depicts flora and fauna unique to the islands. Both the coins and notes of St. Helena and Ascension are also in use on the Island of Tristan Da Cunha, along with British coins and notes. It is not included on the series by name as the Tristan da Cunha chain was originally not politically incorporated into the St. Helena and Ascension Colony at the time of the currency's official release. Later issues have also yet to include Tristan da Cunha's name as an incorporated territory. Tristan da Cunha still considers the British pound as its official currency.

There are also non-circulating commemoratives and unofficial coin issues separately under the name of Tristan da Cunha as well as the uninhabited Gough Island but are not recognised tender.

Queen Elizabeth's effigy was redesigned on most of the denominations in 1991, followed by the rest in 1998. Seven sided 20 pence coins were also first introduced in 1998, and older 5 and 10 pence were replaced by downsized issues featuring new animal designs that same year. However, the 50 pence was not actually downsized until 2003. Until that time the original, larger sized 50 pence continued to circulate before being phased out. In 2002, nickel-brass 2-pound coins were introduced to replace the note, and bimetallic 2-pound coins were also first introduced to the islands the following year. The edge inscriptions of the 2-pound coins are (in capitals) "500th Anniversary" for the 2002 coin and "Loyal and Faithful" for the 2003 coin.

All circulation coins have on the obverse side a portrait of the head of Queen Elizabeth II, "Queen Elizabeth II", "St. Helena • Ascension" and the year written. Many of the commemorative coins over the years however only have written either "St. Helena" or "Ascension Island".

Some of the coin reverse designs have changed since 1984. The five pence pieces issued prior to 1998 showed the Saint Helena plover (the wirebird, which is the national bird of St Helena), whilst the ten pence coins issued prior to 1998 showed orchids. The following table shows the current designs:

Depiction of St Helena and Ascension coinage (reverse side)
£0.01 £0.02 £0.05
Tuna Donkey with firewood Jonathan the giant tortoise
£0.10 £0.20 £0.50
Dolphin Ebony Green sea turtle
£1.00 £2.00
Sooty tern Coat of arms of Saint Helena  


St. Helena has had a very long history of its own currencies which have come and gone over extended up and down economic periods, especially in comparison to other British colonies.

From 1716, the Governor and Council of the Island of St Helena issued notes for 2 12 and 5 shillings and 1 and 2 pounds. These were issued up until the late 18th century.

The next issue of notes occurred sometime after 1917. It was produced by the St Helena Currency Board in denominations of 5, 20 and 40 shillings.

In 1976, the currency board of the Government of Saint Helena began issuing £1 and £5 notes, followed by 50p and £10 notes in 1979.[2]

The 50p and £1 notes were withdrawn and replaced by coins in 1984, with £20 notes first being introduced in 1986.

A redesign of the £5 note was introduced in 1988.

In 2004, a new series of £5, £10, and £20 notes was introduced featuring a redesign and newer security features, produced by De La Rue Banknote and Engraving Company. At the issuance of this new series, the £1 note was discontinued and withdrawn from circulation.

Bank account money

The only bank on Saint Helena and Ascension is the Bank of Saint Helena. All accounts in this bank use pounds as currency, which can be considered Saint Helena pounds since SHP banknotes are given on withdrawal. All international transfers have to be done in British pounds, euros, South African rands, or United States dollars.[3] Credit card usage by visitors on the island will have GBP as currency. This means that SHP does not exist as transfer currency outside the islands.

Exchange rates

The Bank of St Helena publishes the exchange rates it uses for its currency exchange. The exchange rate of SHP against GBP is by definition 1:1 although exchange or transfer fees can take place.

Indicative rates for other currencies can be obtained as follows:

Current SHP exchange rates

See also



  1. Tristan da Cunha Coins
  2. Linzmayer, Owen (2012). "Saint Helena". The Banknote Book. San Francisco, CA:
  3. International Payments


  • Numismondo St Helena banknotes (historic and current)
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