This day in Caribbean history, 8 September 1969, the currency of Jamaica was changed to the decimal system. Banknotes of 50 cents (5 shillings), $1 (10 shillings), $2 (£1), and $10 (£5) were introduced. The $5 note was introduced on 20 October 1970, followed by the $20 in June 1976, when the 50 cent note was replaced by a coin. $100 notes were added on 2 December 1986, followed by $50 notes on 27 July 1988. The $2 note was dropped in 1994, whilst the $1 note was replaced by a coin in 1990. In 1994, coins replaced the $5 notes and $500 notes were introduced. In 1999, $10 coins replaced notes, whilst, in 2000, $20 coins replaced the notes and $1000 notes were introduced.
In adopting the Jamaican dollar, Jamaica followed the pattern of South Africa, among other regions, in that when it adopted the decimal system it decided to use the half pound unit as opposed to the pound unit. The Jamaican dollar was used not only by Jamaica, but also by the Cayman Islands, a former dependency of Jamaica, until 1972. In that year, the territory stopped using the Jamaican dollar and adopted its own currency, the Cayman Islands dollar.
The earliest money in Jamaica was Spanish copper coins, however, following the revolutionary wars in Latin America, the source of these silver trade coins dried up. The United Kingdom had adopted a very successful gold standard in 1821, so 1825 was an opportune time to introduce the British sterling coinage into all the British colonies.
An imperial order-in-council was passed in that year for the purposes of facilitating the sterling coinage as legal tender in the colonies at the specified rating of one Spanish dollar to four shillings and four pence sterling.It had the effect of actually driving sterling coinage out, rather than encouraging its circulation.