About K. C. Lim

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 them.

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 examples.

About Plantation Tokens

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 or proofs.