The Saint Helena pound is the currency of the Atlantic islands of Saint Helena and Ascension, which are constituent parts of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. It is fixed at parity with the pound sterling and as such both currencies are commonly accepted and circulated. It is subdivided into 100 pence.
Tristan da Cunha, the third part of the territory, officially adopted the pound sterling. However, there are occasionally commemorative coins minted for the island.
Initially, the British pound sterling circulated on Saint Helena, with the pound subdivided into 20 shillings, and each shilling into 12 pence.
This was supplemented by occasional local issues of paper currencies. One coin, a copper halfpenny, was also struck specifically for use in the islands in 1821, which intermingled with British coinage. The notes were denominated in pounds and shillings and valued to the British pound at par.
Prior to February 1961, the South African pound, which was then equal in value to sterling, was also accepted on the island, but this stopped with the introduction of the new decimal South African rand, such that one rand was worth only ten shillings sterling.
In 1976, the St. Helena government began issuing new, decimal denominated banknotes for use on the island, with the introduction of circulation coins intended for use on St. Helena as well as Ascension beginning in 1984. The use of these coins and notes was extended from St. Helena and Ascension island later on to Tristan da Cunha as well.
For a more general history of currency in the South Atlantic region, see The Sterling Currency in the South Atlantic and the Antarctic.
The first coins were introduced in 1821, in which copper half pennies were issued for Saint Helena by the East India Trading Company and these were used for a majority of the Company's influence in the area. During this period the island was also used as a penal ground for high-ranking political prisoners, including Napoleon Bonaparte. Circulating coinage for St. Helena would not be issued again for another 163 years, in 1984.
Prior to 1984, both Saint Helena and Ascension Island had issued non-circulating commemorative coins but officially used British circulation coins. The St. Helena issued banknotes circulated alongside British coins and banknotes.
In 1984, circulation coins were first introduced in the names of St. Helena and Ascension in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10 and 50 pence and 1 pound. The coin series was designed by engraiver and coin designer Michael Hibbit. All of the coins are the same size and composition as the corresponding British coins and valued with the British pound at par. Each coin depicts flora and fauna unique to the islands. Both the coins and notes of St. Helena and Ascension are also in use on the Island of Tristan Da Cunha, along with British coins and notes. It is not included on the series by name as the Tristan da Cunha chain was originally not politically incorporated into the St. Helena and Ascension Colony at the time of the currency's official release. Later issues have also yet to include Tristan da Cunha's name as an incorporated territory. Tristan da Cunha still considers the British pound as its official currency.