Alterations in the designs of these first Jamaican coins were made when British sovereigns changed, the sizes were reduced in 1937 and an up-dated version of the coat of arms was used in 1964 following independence in 1962. The first bank notes used in Jamaica were issued by private commercial banks in the mid 19th century. The Bank of Jamaica (no relation to the present central bank), the first commercial bank to operate in Jamaica was established in May 1836 but did not issue any notes. The Colonial Bank, incorporated in England by Royal Charter in June 1836 began operations in Jamaica in May 1837. The first notes issued by this bank were payable in British pounds, Spanish dollars and local currency.
The Planters' Bank, established in 1839 to serve the needs of the sugar planters also issued bank notes. However, the Planters' Bank was wound up in 1851 and the Bank of Jamaica in 1864. Another bank, the London and Colonial Bank started operations in January 1864 but by April 1865 it was closed. With the failure of the London and Colonial Bank in 1865, the Colonial Bank enjoyed a monopoly in the banking system. In 1925, it was incorporated with Barclays Bank in London and in 1926 there was a further amalgamation with the Anglo Egyptian Bank Ltd. This group became known as Barclays Bank, Dominion, Colonial and Overseas - Barclays, D.C.O. Following this merger, notes were issued in the name of Barclays Bank, D.C.O. During the late 1800s, with the increasing trade between Jamaica and Canada, branches of Canadian banks were established in Jamaica.
The Bank of Nova Scotia was the first to begin operating here. Although the first branch was established in August 1889, it did not issue currency notes until 1900. A branch of the Royal Bank of Canada was opened in 1911 and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce began operations in 1920. These chartered banks continued to issue their own notes in denominations of 1and 5 pounds until 1940 when they were demonetized and withdrawn from circulation. In 1904, the Currency Notes Law was passed "constituting a Board of Commissioners to issue notes called currency notes for the value of 10 shillings each." This law was amended by Law 17 of 1918 which authorized "the issue of currency notes for such denominations as may be approved…" The Commissioners of Currency issued the first notes under these laws on 15 March 1920, in the denominations of 2/6, 5/- and 10/-. They bore the portrait of King George V and the signature of C.C. It was the scarcity of silver coins of the lower denominations which made it necessary for these notes to be issued. Only the smaller denominations were issued as the chartered banks operating in Jamaica were still issuing 1 and 5 pound notes. However, the 2/6 note was destined to have a very short life as it was withdrawn from circulation in 1922. The Currency Notes Law of 1937 gave additional responsibilities to the Board of Commissioners and in 1940 they began issuing 1 and 5 pound notes. Although Queen Elizabeth II became the British monarch in 1952, the first note to bear her portrait was the 5-pound note issued on 17 March 1960 and which carried the signature of E. Richardson, chairman of the Commissioners of Currency. When the Bank of Jamaica Act came into force in October 1960, it gave to the Bank the sole right to issue notes and coins in the island. Bank of Jamaica notes made their first appearance on 1 May 1961 in the denominations of 5/-, 10/-, 1 and 5 pounds. They bore the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and the signature of the first governor of the Bank, Stanley W. The notes retained the same colours as the notes issued by the Government of Jamaica, in that the 5/- was red, the 10/-, purple, the 1 pound, green and the 5 pound, blue. One significant difference was that the notes were no longer dated. The only changes occurred when there was a change of Governor. These notes continued to be used until 1969 when Jamaica changed to a decimal system of currency. On 30 January 1968, the House of Representatives unanimously approved the report of the Select Committee of the House, which had been appointed to study and make recommendations on the decimalization of Jamaica's currency.
The chief recommendations were that: The currency should be decimalized on the basis of the 10/- unit; The names of the major and minor units should be 'dollar' and 'cent' respectively; and The change should take place some time in September/October 1969. The Committee also recommended that, as far as was possible, the new coins should be the same size and weight as the denominations in the pounds, shillings and pence, to which the public had become accustomed. With regard to the notes, it was recommended that portraits of national heroes should replace the portrait of the Queen and that the motto should be incorporated in the design of the new notes. It was also felt that there would be some advantage to be gained through association, if the new notes could be the same size and have the same basic colours as their equivalents in the sterling denominations.
The denominations decided on were: COINS NOTES 1c = 1.2 pence 50c = 5/- Red 5c = 6d $ 1.