Lim Kheng Chye is a respected senior architect and arbitrator. He is also an Advisor to the NAS Board of the
National Archives of Singapore.
K. C. Lim or simply “KC” as he is affectionately known in the numismatic community, started collecting coins in 1972.
His interest in tokens began when he was offered in the early 1970s a large group of Singapore merchant tokens, also
known as “duit ayam” (in the local Malay language) or “cockerel money” because of the design of a cockerel found on
His interests later extended to all types of tokens issued and used in South East Asia, and in particular the
Netherlands East Indies. The difficulty numismatists faced at the time was the dearth of available information relating
to such tokens. KC was not satisfied with just collecting. He went further into researching their purposes, the reasons
for their issue, the various entities that issued them, the places they came from, the types of metal or materials used,
and the various varieties that existed. The many types of tokens in KC’s collection include plantation tokens issued
in British North Borneo and the Netherlands East Indies; tin tokens issued by the Chinese communities in Malaya, Siam,
Sumatra and Java; Singapore merchant tokens; Chinese tin cash tokens issued by Chinese communities that imitated the
copper Chinese cash coins used in China; gaming tokens used in Singapore and Malaya during the Japanese Occupation in
the Second World War; Singapore telephone tokens; Raffles Hotel Sarkies’ and Emmerson’s Pool tokens; tokens used in the
oil refining islands of Pulau Bukom and Pulau Samboe; Singapore Harbour Board tokens, and many others. The collection
was painstakingly built over some 30 years through a quest that spanned continents. It represents one of the best
collections of tokens in this part of the world today.
Tokens were not KC’s only forte. His collection also includes official coinages of this region, as well as rare
patterns, many of which are in choice condition, not to mention some banknotes and rubber export coupons.
Having taken his collection as far as KC feels it can feasibly go, KC has now decided to share his collection with the
rest of the numismatic fraternity. Mavin is privileged to be able to offer in this catalogue an excellent selection of
coins, Malayan tin tokens and plantation tokens from KC’s collection, including some previously unrecorded
Plantation or estate tokens were issued in the plantations (chiefly rubber or tobacco) or “estates” of British North
Borneo and in some parts of the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia), in particular Dutch Borneo, Sumatra and Java,
to pay workers. These estates were mainly managed by British, Dutch and German owners. The tokens were redeemable at
the companies’ stores and served as a kind of local currency.
The plantation tokens of North Borneo were issued probably around the 1890s right up to 1920, when the Government
outlawed their use because of abuse by plantation owners. Numismatists have wondered whether such tokens really were
in use because the majority encountered by collectors are specimens or proofs. However, the few known circulation
examples is testament that they certainly circulated. Plantation workers were poor. It is thus not surprising that few
of these tokens would have been kept aside, especially after their issue had been prohibited. It is likely that this
explains the relative rarity of circulation examples of British North Borneo plantation tokens compared to specimens