The Chartered Mercantile Bank of India, London & China
Ceylon Branch : Colombo - Kandy - Galle

The Mercantile Bank of Bombay founded in 1853. It began operations at a branch in Colombo in 1854, and soon expanded by opening up-country agencies. It was named The Mercantile Bank of India, London & China in 1857 and has issued notes in Colombo before it received its Royal Charter on 1857 September 15. It moved it's Head Quarters to London in 1868. It issued notes as The Charted Mercantile Bank of India, London & China in its Colombo and Kandy Branches in 1858 and by 1880 were also issuing notes from its Galle Branch opened in 1863.

Before charter currency notes were signed by the the Directors. With Royal Charter the currency was signed by the Court of Directors. The notes issued by branches outside Colombo had additional phrase or at Colombo.

Only the value of the note appears in Sinhala and Thamil, the name of Bank is not printed in the local languages, on any of the Charted Mercantile Bank of India, London & China notes.

Until 1870 the bank issued notes denominated in sterling; pursuant to monetary reform in 1869 it then commenced a note issue in rupees. In March 1884 the Mercantile Bank's currency in circulation was Rs 921,000. In 1888 the bank's charter to issue currency was not renewed, and it reconstructed as Mercantile Bank of India on 1893 January 1st.

The Mercantile Bank of India, London & China (MBILC)
Printed by Batho & Co London, with Britannia Design
1857 :         Colombo 5s note
The Chartered Mercantile Bank of India, London & China - Ceylon Branch
Sterling Era : Pounds
1858-1863 Colombo - 10s, £1, £5, £10
1858 :         Kandy - 5s, 10s specimens (in English Only)
Printed by Perkins Bacon & Co London, with Royal Crest Design
1864-1869 Colombo - 10s, £1, £5, £10, £50 notes
1864-1869 Kandy - 10s, £1, £5 notes
Decimal Era : Rupees
1870-1884 Colombo - Rs 5, Rs 10, Rs 50, Rs 100, Rs 500, Rs 1000 notes
1870-1884 Kandy - Rs 5, Rs 10, Rs 50 notes
1880-1884 Galle - Rs 5, Rs 10, Rs 100 notes

According to Spink, issued notes for the Chartered Mercantile Bank are exceptionally rare. As the Mercantile continued in existence after the institution of the Ceylon Currency Board in 1885 nearly all of its outstanding circulation was paid either by itself or by the Board.

All notes are exceptionally rare, whether proof, specimen, or issued. The Colombo 5 shilling with the bank's original name prior to receiving it's charter is of exceptional rarity and importance.


The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) first established a branch in Colombo, Ceylon in 1892 but did not issue notes. The Mercantile Bank became part of the Hongkong Bank Group in 1959.

According to Joe Cribb the HSBC "Banks Money Collection has a rich array of notes issued for Ceylon by the Chartered Mercantile Bank of India, London and China." from the merger.

In 1961 Government of Ceylon forbade foreign banks to accept deposits from Ceylonese nationals. HSBC sold Mercantile Bank of India's branches in Kandy, Galle and Jaffna to Commercial Bank of Ceylon (CBC) as part of a deal that would remove the government's limit on deposit taking in Mercantile's remaining branches in Colombo and Pettah, which were subsequently acquired by Hatton National Bank (HNB) in 1974.

Text and Images mostly from Auction listings, particularly the 2011 April Spink Auction of 19th Century Ceylon Notes. On the day of this Spink Auction, the anonymous owner of collection cancelled it. It listed Uniface Specimen Proofs on card of Chartered Mercantile Bank of India, London and China, Ceylon Branch, of Colombo, Kandy and Galle in Shillings, Pounds and from 1870 in Rupees.

Text also from
Money in the Bank, by Joe Cribb, An Illustrated Introduction to the Money Collection of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, Spink & Son Ltd., London, 1987. p 185