The East India Company is living proof of adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh’s (1614) prophetic words: “whosoever commands the sea, commands the trade, whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world and consequently the world itself,” as they rapidly became a trading force to be reckoned with after Queen Elizabeth I granted the company a royal charter in 1600 to explore the mysteries of the East.
Since then, the company has come to have a lot to answer for regarding the commodities we have available to us today. At its peak the company was single handedly responsible for half the world’s trade, including cotton, silk, spices, opium and tea, transforming the cuisine and social customs of the West in the process.
The British Empire was undoubtedly built on international trade, which meant is was necessary to produce new coins so merchants could trade with bullion in foreign lands and bolster local economies to strengthen the British Empire as a whole. The East India Company was responsible for introducing new coinage in many of the new territories it voyaged to, and it is this currency which helped shape the Empire and extend Great Britain’s reach across six continents: from India to Bermuda, Africa to Canada and Britain to the Orient.
The 2019 Empire Collection is a complete set comprising of 9 Gold coins which were instrumental in building the British Empire. You can register your interest by completing the form here and we’ll make sure to contact you to discuss owning this impressive set.
Read on to discover some of the most influential coins for yourself…
Prior to its first voyage in 1601, Queen Elizabeth I ordered the Royal Mint to produce silver coins specifically for the occasion, with the purpose of facilitating increased commerce on behalf of the British Crown. Another by-product of the striking of these new coins was the happy coincidence that it rivalled the dominant European currency, the Spanish Real, and demonstrated to the world the Queen’s rising power. The new silver coins were produced to the same specifications and fractions of the Spanish Real but, not wanting the coins to be identical to foreign currency, the notable great crowned iron gates was chosen to be engraved on the reverse, gifting the coins their name ‘Portcullis Money’. These were the first coins issued for the British Empire outside of England’s normal coinage.
Bermuda, formerly known as the Sommer Islands, was originally claimed in the name of Spain but the Spanish never settled on the island, leaving it open to be colonised and brought in to the British Empire a century later in 1609. In order to develop the island’s prosperous economy King James I granted permission to mint coins, which resulted in the issuing of Hog Money, aptly named due to the creature engraved on the obverse which was inspired by the wild hogs previously introduced to the island by the Spanish and Portuguese explorers. Hog Money holds a special numismatic distinction as being the first English coins to be minted specifically for use in North America. The legacy of this coinage continues today as the hog motif migrated its way on to the Bermudan 5 cent coin introduced in 1970 and remains in circulation.
The Elephant and Castle Guinea
Next we look at a coin which quickly rose to prominence as the principle gold coin of the colonies: the guinea. Created in 1663, the guinea is regarded as the most successful trade coin, exponentially increasing British and local trade wherever it was introduced. The guinea’s reputation was known throughout the world and was sought-after for its reliable weight and finesse. It was the first British machine-struck coin, and adopted its name from the gold used in their minting, which was brought to Britain by the Royal Africa Company from the Guinea Coast of West Africa. The Elephant and Castle Guinea featured the portrait of King Charles II below which sat the emblem of the Royal Africa Company, an elephant. The motif denoted the provenance of the metal and was used on guineas until 1722. The guinea experienced a rich history spanning 150 years, until it was replaced by the pound during the Great Recoinage of 1816.
The Cartwheel Penny
Taking a turn down under, the Cartwheel Penny was the first British coin to be exported to Australian Colonies. It was introduced in 1797 to help curb Britain’s chronic coin shortage which was impacting the growth of the economy. The coin shortage came about due to the small amounts of silver coinage in circulation in the latter half of the 18th century, meaning the burden of small change fell to the copper currency. The highest denomination at the time was the halfpenny, but many were melted down and re-forged as lighter-weight counterfeits, with The Mint estimating a maximum of 8% of the halfpennies in circulation were genuine. As a solution Matthew Boulton was contracted to produce copper pennies at his state-of-the-art Soho Mint in Birmingham. His patented machinery produced the very first British coins minted by a steam-powered coining press, churning out 70-84 coins per minute which at the time was remarkable. The new pennies were specially designed to prevent counterfeiting. The thick rim and inscription punched in to the coin rather than raised from it led to the pennies being informally named ‘The Cartwheel Penny’.
The Rix Dollar
Long before it came to be known as Sri Lanka, it was referred to by the British as Ceylon and was subjected to Portuguese, Dutch and finally British colonisation in 1796 as a direct result of the Napoleonic Wars. Great Britain sought to develop the island’s economy and increase trade to and from Europe, and as a part of this aim new coins were struck specifically for use in Ceylon. Following on from his success with the Cartwheel Pennies, Matthew Boulton was contracted to produce these new coins at the Soho Mint, vastly improving the quality of circulation coinage previously introduced by Dutch-rule. It wasn’t until 1821 that the British government decided to introduce a new coin and the Rix Dollar was created, making it the first silver coin minted in Great Britain specifically for use in Ceylon. The new silver coin was designed by Benedetto Pistrucci, whose work you may already be familiar with since he is responsible for the now iconic rendition of St. George slaying the Dragon which features on British Sovereigns.
The St Helena Halfpenny
The East India Company’s original charter granted by Oliver Cromwell was reaffirmed as a Royal Charter by King Charles II in 1600, giving them the sole right to secure and colonise St Helena. The island then became a key strategic port within the British Empire, enabling British ships to refuel on long and arduous journeys to the Far East, the Caribbean and South America. In 1815 St Helena’s economy benefited from the arrival of the former French Emperor, Napoleon, during his second exile, as the famous prisoner brought with him an entourage of British troops, effectively doubling the islands population and prosperity. As the economy swelled, St Helena’s first local coins were introduced in 1821, but by a cruel twist of fate Napoleon’s death and subsequent migration of the military and their families meant the population reduced and took the island’s fortunes with it. This downward trend continued for some time, and the East India Company passed the direct administration of the island to Great Britain as a crown colony.
The Nova Scotia Penny
In 1867 Queen Victoria declared “the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, shall form and be One Dominion, under the name of Canada,” resulting in the Canadian Confederation. Prior to this many provinces issued their own coinage, and though local legislation allowing the issuing of coins was passed in Britain in 1817 by King George III’s government, it failed to obtain final Royal Assent. However in 1823, without seeking official approval from the Home Office, the province of Nova Scotia ordered the issuing of coins from the private Mint of John Walker & Co in Birmingham. The coins were issued, in denominations of one pennies and halfpennies, and contributed to the expansion of local commerce in Nova Scotia.
The Company Rupee
The Rupee, first introduced in 1540 as the Rupiya, is one of the world’s oldest systems of money. It was adopted by the East India Company upon its arrival in the East, and soon became one of the company’s most important coins and means for trade. The presence of the East India Company in India made a lasting European impression on the East, likewise the exotic luxuries discovered by the East India Company permanently altered life in the West. The stronghold in the East led to the British Empire widening its reach in to Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. In 1833 reforms to the Indian weights and measures were advocated by the East India Company, and a uniform coinage based on their new standard silver rupee was proposed. These proposals were adopted and the coinage in India transformed from Sicca Rupees (issued under the authority of local Indian rulers) to the standard ‘Company Rupee’.
The British Trade Dollar
By the end of the 17th century business was booming for the East India Company, and they established a trading post in Canton, China, to facilitate the trade of their most lucrative commodities, namely tea and opium. This increased trade resulted in two Trade Wars fought from 1839-1843 and 1856-1860, with the British walking away from both victorious. During the Trade Wars Great Britain found itself having to rely more and more on its own silver coinage, and this paved the way for one of the most distinctive silver British coins in numismatic history to be struck: the British Trade Dollar. The new silver coin featured for the first time a standing Britannia, helmeted with a trident and British shield. The issuing of this coin cemented the East India Company as the single most powerful economic force of its time.
The 2019 Empire Collection
Following on from The Empire Collection issued in 2017 which celebrated the prestigious East India Company and its legacy, the company is set to issue a new Empire Collection for 2019. Collectors will be taken on a journey to the far flung corners of the world, retracing the steps of the East India Company, to discover some of the most significant coins which have helped build an empire stretching across three centuries from 1600 to the Victorian Era.
Finished to an exceptionally high standard, the 2019 collection truly represents the global resonance of The East India Company and these significant coins. Similar to its sister set from 2017 there is no doubt the 2019 Empire Collection is going to become a future collector priority. With just 94 available though, you’ll have to act fast to secure yours and get swept up in the exploits of the East India Company.
Due to its very limited nature, we will contact you directly to discuss owning the 2019 Empire Collection if you are interested – please complete the form below:
Today His Royal Highness Prince Charles celebrates a huge landmark birthday – his 70th!
It seems that his birthday festivities have already begun – back in May, he attended a Buckingham Palace garden party laid on in his honour; he has curated a special exhibition called ‘Prince and Patron’ at Buckingham Palace, featuring some of his favourite artworks; and for the first time he has scheduled a tour of Gambia, Ghana and Nigeria with his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall.
What’s more, it is believed that Her Majesty the Queen is planning an extravagant party to honour this momentous occasion, at which members of his family as well as European royalty will come together and pay tribute to the Prince of Wales’ long and fruitful life so far.
And what a interesting life it has been! As the longest-serving heir apparent in British history, he has a number of notable accomplishments well beyond the call of duty. He became the first ever heir apparent to earn a university degree when he graduated from Cambridge in 1970, and in 2011 surpassed his great-great-grandfather Edward VII as the longest-serving Prince of Wales in history, after being awarded the title at the tender age of 9.
After university he served in several branches of the British military until 1976, in particular the Royal Navy, during which time he rose to the rank of Lieutenant and commanded the minesweeper HMS Bronington with a crew of 32. In 2011, Her Majesty awarded Charles the honorary rank of Admiral of the Fleet.
It seems fitting then, that a brand new portrait has been specially commissioned to recognise the 70 thoroughly active years of Prince Charles’ life – a portrait created by none other than renowned artist and sculptor Luigi Badia and officially approved by Her Majesty the Queen.
Special portraits like this are few and far between, and therefore are always popular with collectors – especially portraits as detailed and remarkably accurate as this one. The stunning design has been painstakingly hand-engraved by Badia, with particular attention being paid to retain the circular shape of the wording accompanying the portrait – “HRH The Prince of Wales – 70th Birthday”.
If you’re interested…
This brand new design has been issued in a number of specifications, from a Proof £5 right up to a stunning Gold Proof One Pound Coin, which are all available from The Westminster Collection. However, with their surprisingly low editions and the significance of this Royal birthday, I suggest you act now if you’re looking to mark the occasion with a very special new coin.
It is always exciting to see new, innovative products coming out of the numismatic industry, and there is nothing quite like the test token set issued by the Royal Canadian Mint’s Research and Development lab. When you see this set it’s no surprise that the Royal Canadian Mint is a market leader in security. Looking to be at the forefront of new minting technologies this latest collection showcases some never before seen minting techniques which are guaranteed to impress both seasoned and budding collectors alike.
So what exactly is a ‘test token’ I hear you ask? A test token is a prototype of next generation currency, and is created purely to test new technologies and minting techniques before giving the green light to produce future coins with the technology. Since the tokens are test pieces their designs and technologies will not necessarily be replicated in future currency, perhaps only some of the techniques or designs will be taken forward,so the test pieces are one of a kind.
Chief Technology Officer at the Royal Canadian Mint, Dr Xianyao Li, says “the products in our R&D Lab Collection are tried,tested and true examples of forward-thinking technology that could re-define the future of domestic and foreign coins.”
Now we’re suitably intrigued about the new technologies featured in the set, let’s take a closer look at the tokens…
At first glance this perhaps looks to be the most unassuming token of the set, but looks can be deceiving as this token is an example of the advances currently being made in coin production to prevent counterfeiting. If you inspect the surface of the coin closely you will notice it resembles a pie-chart, with the surface subtly split up in to segments which are only just distinguishable. The slices are differentiated by the orientation and size of micro text which varies between segments. Micro text is one of the advancements in minting technology which has emerged in the last few years with the aim of preventing counterfeit coins, as the tiny text is difficult to replicate. Not only is the text extremely difficult to reproduce, it is also virtually indiscernible to the naked eye!
Caribou and Moose
The Caribou and the Moose instantly spring to mind when contemplating iconic Canadian imagery, so it would seem only natural they make an appearance in this set. Each token is crafted from multi-ply plated steel and includes both raised and incused maple leaf designs, instantly creating a noticeably three-dimensional textured surface. The depictions of the creatures on each coin have micro text hidden in their fur as an added security feature, and the maple leaf above the shoulder of each creature is also composed of micro text.
The maple leaf is synonymous with Canada and is instantly recognisable as one of its national symbols dating back to the 18th century. Considering this it is unsurprising then that The Royal Canadian Mint also uses this iconic leaf as its logo, creating a strong identity link between country and coinage. Two pieces in the set celebrate the maple leaf with both sides of the tokens featuring raised and incused leaves in a circular pattern with the Royal Canadian Mint’s logo at the centre. The combination of raised and stamped elements create a unique texture on the token which adds an extra layer of security because forgers will struggle to perfectly mimic it in counterfeits.
The clue is in the title with this one, as it has been produced from a Canadian patented tri-metal compound, consisting of a carefully balanced combination of multi-ply plated steel, brass plated steel, nickel plated steel and copper plated steel. Complex multi-metal compound technology is a security feature to prevent counterfeiting as the exact compound composition is patented and unknown so cannot be easily recreated in a replica.
Own a piece of history in the making
What makes this test token set truly remarkable is the fact that pieces included in the set are the real trial pieces which have been used in calibration and laboratory testing, so each one has been tried and tested making the collection truly unique – no two will be the same!
If you’re interested…
You can now own a piece of numismatic history in the making as we have secured 149 of these unique sets from the Royal Canadian Mint. Be ahead of the curve and add this sneak peek at the next generation of coinage to your collection today!