In history, fiction often becomes fact. This is certainly true in numismatics, where sometimes reality is overtaken by salesmanship, ignorance, and lack of published materials. One such glaring case is the “Anguilla” counterstamped coins. Attribution and acceptance for these as coins from Anguilla is commonplace. And why not? The coin says “Anguilla” right on it. Yet the actual story, while condemning to the coins, is actually much more historically interesting and challenging.
Anguilla is a small British island territory in the Caribbean measuring 16 miles long and three miles wide. With the British ending colonization and granting independence to its former colonies and territories, Anguilla was grouped with Saint Kitts and Nevis as a three-island state. The island of Saint Kitts held the government in the arrangement and dictated everything from what money would go to each island to controlling the police forces. The people of Anguilla were not happy about the political arrangement. The spark that ignited the revolution was a beauty contest held on Anguilla. The winner of the beauty contest was a woman from St. Kitts rather than a native Anguillan. As a result, the contest ended with a shooting and a death. This caused the Anguillan people to riot and expel the Saint Kitts police from the island. The goal of the Anguillan people was not independence but to become a colony again. A provisional government request was made to the United States but was declined. Finally, on July 11, 1967, a referendum was held for Anguillan secession. The vote was 1,813 for secession and five against.
Scott Newhall, the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and editor and owner of The Newhall Signal newspaper covered this story. Sensing opportunity from these events and aware of the popularity of coin collecting in the United States at the time, Newhall sought to profit. Scott Newhall, a coin collector himself, prepared counterstamped dies and purchased 11,600 mixed world coins measuring the approximate diameter of a silver dollar. In the basement of the Chronicle Building in San Francisco, Newhall would use the presses there to counterstamp the dollar-sized coins he purchased with “ANGUILLA LIBERTY DOLLAR” around the center “JULY 11 1967.” Then with ink, he darkened the impressed lettering to make the counterstamp stand out. Interjecting himself into the events and going against all journalistic codes of ethics, he offered the new government of Anguilla the opportunity to use his coins for currency and reportedly gave them between 2,000 and 3,000 coins of the 11,600 he had produced. Anguilla government officials believed he was trying to cheat them and he in turn sent a briefcase down with $10,000 in one-dollar bills hoping to alleviate their fears of him. For him, the program would be a failure, as the coins were never used and his promotional sale of the remaining coins never took off.
Scott Newhall eventually sold the remaining mintage of the “Anguilla” dollars to a California coin dealer for close to their silver value and washed his hands of the deal. With the bags of dollars purchased by the coin dealer, the coins were sorted, counted, and sold into the coin market. Under the guidance of that knowledgeable dealer, the coins were marketed and the scarcer dollars that were used as hosts were sold for more money. Eventually the coins found their way into the Krause Unusual World Coins book. The general hobby marketplace accepted these coins mainly because few people know the story behind these pieces and believe Anguilla is where they were minted because they bear the name of that country.
Today the “Anguilla” dollars trade based on their host under-types. Most common are coins struck on Mexico 5 Pesos and 10 Pesos, which trade for under $200. Examples struck on Yemen Riyals, Panama Balboas, Peru Sols, and Philippines Pesos are all easily available. Rare host coins such as China Yuan Shih-Kai Dollars are very difficult to obtain and can exceed thousands of dollars when sold publicly. The scarcest Newhall countermark is the gold 100 Dollars struck on a Mexico 50 pesos in which Newhall supposedly only struck two by changing the center of the counterstamp to “JULY $100 1967.”
Today, it is difficult to properly give a status to the “Anguilla Liberty Dollars.” At the time, it was a money-making opportunity that failed for Newhall. But the government of Anguilla commissioned their own numismatic coins for profit in the following years to their success. With the rise of commemorative and collector coins that arose out of the 1960s and that continue today, Newhall’s coins are no different than many fantasy issues that followed. But his actually had contact with the government named on the coins. He also hoped his pieces would circulate, which is not true of countless coins that followed. In the end, it is up to the collector to make up their mind as to what they collect and, hopefully, with the knowledge of what the issues actually are.