Up until the early 16th century, when the Spaniards colonised Jamaica, there had been little occasion for the use of a regular currency. Although there was a small amount of gold on the island, the Taino Indians, Jamaica’s first inhabitants, used it for decorative purposes rather than for trade, which was conducted by barter.

The first units of exchange used by the Spaniards (who came with Columbus in 1494) in their dealings with the Tainos, were items such as glass beads and trinkets, scissors and mirrors.