The Stamp and Coin Place Blog: connecting the past and present of stamp and coin collecting, and looking to the future.

Currency of Hawaii

The dollar or dala was the currency of Hawaii between 1847 and 1898. It was equal to the United States dollar and was divided into 100 cents or keneta. Only sporadic issues were made, which circulated alongside United States currency.

King Kamehameha III

The creation of large plantations and the adoption of a Western style economy beginning about the 1820s created a demand for coined money. At first, this money consisted of coins carried in from a variety of countries having interests in the islands. This source proved unreliable, and coins were in chronically short supply. As dissatisfaction grew, King Kamehameha III (1825-54) set out to rectify this shortage by including a provision for a Hawaiian monetary system in his new legal code of 1846. The first official coinage issued by the Kingdom of Hawai’i was in 1847. This coin was a copper cent bearing the portrait of King Kamehameha III on its obverse.

It was originally anticipated that the 100,000 pieces included in this initial delivery were to be just the first of many, yet the overwhelming rejection of the copper coinage meant that no more would be struck.  The King Kamehameha III copper cent proved to be unpopular due to the King’s portrait being of poor quality. After 1862, the Hawaiian Treasury seized disbursing the unwanted cents, and a mere 11,595 pieces remained outstanding at that time.

In 1883, Kingdom of Hawai’i official silver coinage were issued in the denominations of one dime (umi keneta in Hawaiian), quarter dollar (hapaha), half dollar (hapalua) and one dollar (akahi dala). 26 proof sets were struck by the Philadelphia Mint and contained the umi keneta, hapaha, hapalua, and akahi dala. 20 proof specimens in the denomination of an eight dollar (hapawalu) were also struck. The Kingdom of Hawai’i desired to conform to the United States silver coinage denominations and selected the umi keneta over the hapawalu. The silver coins issued for circulation in the Kingdom was struck by the San Francisco Mint


Hawaii 1883 One Dollar silver coin with effigy of King Kalākaua

Hawaiian coins continued to circulate for several years after the 1898 annexation to the United States. In 1903, an act of Congress demonetized Hawaiian coins, and most were withdrawn and melted, with a sizable percentage of surviving examples made into jewelry.

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