Coins of the Comoro Islands

The Comoro Islands are a group of four main islands and a number of smaller islets located in the western Indian Ocean midway between the coast of Mozambique and northern Madagascar.

They were probably uninhabited until the early first millenium of the Christian era; thereafter they were settled by immigrants from East Africa, South West Asia and Indonesia.

Until the nineteenth century the islands were divided between a number of independant sultanates: up to twelve on the island of Ngazidja (known in French as Grande Comore), usually one but occasionally two on the island of Ndzwani (Anjouan), and one each on the islands of Mwali (Mohéli) and Maore (Mayotte). Both of these latter two islands were often under the domination, real or nominal, of Ndzwani.

There is as yet no evidence of coins being brought to the island in the pre-European era, although coins from the graeco-roman world have been found in East Africa, and Kilwa, a city state on the coast of modern Tanzania, minted coins at an early date. Contacts with Portuguese (in the sixteenth century) and French, English and Dutch (from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) ships would undoubtedly have seen the first use of coins in the islands, particularly Ndzwani.

Contacts with India also developed, and a wide range of coins came to be used in the islands, including Spanish, Portuguese, English and Indian coins. The famous Marie Theresa dollar was also used, as were, in the late pre-colonial period, German coins.

In 1841 the sultan of the island of Maore (Mayotte) offered his island to the French government; the offer was formally accepted in 1843, and the island became a French colony. In 1886 the three remaining islands, having been subjected at various times to English, German and Zanzibar-Omani influences, became French protectorates.

Ngazidja, under the protectorate, was the only island to issue its own coins: a series of three denominations minted on behalf of Sultan Said Ali.

In 1908 responsibility for the administration of the islands was transferred to the French colony of Madagascar and in 1912 all four islands became a province of the Colony of Madagascar and used the French coinage circulating in that colony. However, shortages of coin during this period led to the principal colonial company on Ngazidja issuing a series of tokens. A sugar plantation on Mayotte did likewise. More recently the operator of the two resort hotels on the island of Ngazidja (Grancde Comore) have also issued a token for use in their casinos.

Despite the fact that the islands regained administrative autonomy in 1946 as the French territory of the Archipel des Comores, they continued to use the coins of Madagascar. It was not until they were granted self-government in 1962 (an event that followed the independence of Madagascar in 1960 and saw the islands using the coinage of foreign country for four years) that the French administration felt it necessary to issue a colonial series of specifically Comorien coins in 1964.

In 1975 the government of the islands unilaterally declared independence following a referendum which indicated that the majority on three of the islands supported it; on the fourth island, Mayotte, the majority were against independence, and when the French administration finally recognised Comorien independence and severed all colonial links, they did so only on the three western islands.  Mayotte remains under French control to this day and uses French coins and notes.

In the independent republic, however, new coins were issued almost immediately, and a new series of post independence coinage gradually replaced the colonial series over a number of years.

There have also been some non-circulating issues.  In 1976, as a revenue-raising exercise, a prestige series of silver and gold coins were produced. This exercise was repeated in 2002.

Note: all coins are identified by numbers based on those attributed to them in Gadoury and Cousinié's Monnaies Coloniales Françaises, with the addition of a lower case letter to indicate variants where necessary.

Thanks to Olivier Baret, Laurent Giboin and Eric Milan for assistance in developing this site.

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last updated 30/07/04