Posts Tagged ‘benedetto pistrucci’

Discover the coins that built the Empire

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.

EIC 2019 Empire Gold Proof Nine Coin Set Blog Image2 - Discover the coins that built the Empire

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…

Portcullis Money

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.

EIC 2019 Empire Collection Portcullis Money 280x300 - Discover the coins that built the Empire

Hog Money

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.

EIC 2019 Empire Collection Hog Money 280x300 - Discover the coins that built the Empire

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.

EIC 2019 Empire Collection Elephant Castle 280x300 - Discover the coins that built the Empire

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’.

EIC 2019 Empire Collection Cartwheel Penny 280x300 - Discover the coins that built the Empire

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.

EIC 2019 Empire Collection Rix Dollar 280x300 - Discover the coins that built the Empire

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.

EIC 2019 Empire Collection St Helena Halfpenny 280x300 - Discover the coins that built the Empire

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.

EIC 2019 Empire Collection Nova Scotia 280x300 - Discover the coins that built the Empire

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’.

EIC 2019 Empire Collection Company Rupee 280x300 - Discover the coins that built the Empire

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.

EIC 2019 Empire Collection Trade Dollar 280x300 - Discover the coins that built the Empire

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.

EIC 2019 Empire Gold Proof Nine Coin Set Blog Image1 - Discover the coins that built the Empire

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:


200 years of the Sovereign. Part VI: The UK’s Premier Gold Coin

bicentenary proof sovereign teaser - 200 years of the Sovereign. Part VI: The UK's Premier Gold Coin

2017 sees the Gold Sovereign’s bicentenary, and to mark the occasion a special one-year-only design has been unveiled, recreating Pistrucci’s original 1817 engraving. It’s a truly fitting tribute and acknowledges the rich history of the coin which I’ve been exploring in these blogs. If you missed the previous posts you can start from the beginning here, but now here’s the final chapter in the sovereign’s history so far…

In Part V, I explored the decline in production of Gold Sovereigns as a result of World War I and the worldwide economic crisis, which lead to the end of the Sovereign. Until 1957 when it was revived once again…

Apart from one special limited edition commemorative issue for King George VI’s coronation in 1937, no Sovereigns had been struck since 1932. In 1953, Sovereigns were produced for Queen Elizabeth II for the Coronation Sets but they were for national collections, not collectors.

The Sovereign’s revival

1958 qeii gillick sovereign obverse - 200 years of the Sovereign. Part VI: The UK's Premier Gold Coin

The Mary Gillick Portrait of the Young Queen on the Gold Sovereign

Then in 1957, worldwide demand for the coins became so great that The Royal Mint resumed production of bullion gold Sovereigns for circulation. Not only would this satisfy demand, it would also blunt the premium that was making it so lucrative to counterfeit the coins.

These early ‘restoration’ Sovereigns of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign feature Mary Gillick’s portrait of the young Queen on the obverse, engraved especially for her new coinage.

The portrait design was changed in 1968 prior to Decimalisation in 1971, to a portrait by Arnold Machin. This portrait still features on postage stamps all these years later.

A new market emerges

Queen Elizabeth II’s reign has been a time of change for the Sovereign. A new market has emerged – the collector’s market.

In 1979, The Royal Mint produced the first proof version of the Sovereign of her reign. This higher grade version was limited to just 12,500 pieces and proved very popular with collectors.

With a newfound interest from collectors, it is not surprising that we have seen more design variations of the Sovereign than ever before.

five portraits - 200 years of the Sovereign. Part VI: The UK's Premier Gold Coin

A third portrait design by Raphael Maklouf was used from 1985 to 1997 and a fourth by Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS replaced this until 2015 when Her Majesty’s portrait was updated by The Royal Mint engraver, Jody Clark.

The UK’s Premier Gold Coin

We have also seen the introduction of commemorative one-year-only designs, which started in 1989 with the issue of a special 500th anniversary Sovereign, featuring a design similar to the first Sovereign in 1489. These special commemorative designs have become more and more popular.

Since then, there have been one-year-only designs for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002, the modern St. George and the Dragon in 2005, the Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and the Queen’s 90th birthday in 2016.

These limited editions have seen a surge in Sovereign collecting, cementing its position as the UK’s premier gold coin.

It’s universal appeal shows no sign of slowing. In recent financial crises, people all over the world clamoured for Gold Sovereigns.

The Sovereign’s reputation for quality and reliability remains and will remain for years to come and now the next chapter in the Sovereign story has been written…

Announcing the new UK Bicentenary Gold Proof Sovereign

bicentenary proof sovereign coin - 200 years of the Sovereign. Part VI: The UK's Premier Gold Coin

The UK Bicentenary Gold Proof Sovereign

To mark the Bicentenary of the “modern” Gold Sovereign in 2017, The Royal Mint have just released a brand new Gold Proof Sovereign reprising Benedetto Pistrucci’s original engraving from 1817.

With a low edition limit of just 10,500 worldwide, a special one-year-only design change and a fine proof finish, the 2017 Bicentenary Gold Sovereign has all the elements to be one of the most collectable British gold coins of the 21st century. And now you can own one.

Click here to secure yours today >>

200 years of the Sovereign. Part V: The End of the Sovereign…

In my last blog post, I explored the Gold Sovereign’s incredible success as the most trusted and popular of all gold circulating coins throughout the world during the Empire years until 1931 when its reign as the King of Coins came under threat

The Outbreak of the First World War in 1914, followed by the worldwide economic crisis in 1931 seemed to sound the death-knell for the Sovereign.

Gold Sovereigns were struck annually until 1915, but production dropped dramatically in 1914 and the majority of the 20 million minted in 1915 were for overseas use.

Decline in Production

bicentenary sovereign collection 1925 sovereign coin - 200 years of the Sovereign. Part V: The End of the Sovereign...

The 1925 Gold Sovereign struck in London for overseas use

As part of the emergency measures put in place upon the Outbreak of the First World War, specie payments were suspended and Treasury notes replaced gold. Gold coins disappeared from circulation but they continued to be minted for overseas bullion transactions.

Sovereigns were struck in 1916 and a small amount in 1917, but no more circulating Sovereigns were minted in London, except for a consignment for overseas use in 1925. The overseas branch mints still struck considerable quantities of Sovereigns.

end of the sovereign 2 - 200 years of the Sovereign. Part V: The End of the Sovereign...

Sovereign production continued after the war, but in much smaller numbers. Despite this, another two branch mints were opened. One in Bombay in 1918, which struck Sovereigns for just one year only. The other was opened in South Africa in 1923.

By 1926, only three branch mints were still operating – Perth, Melbourne and Pretoria. However, the worldwide economic crisis in 1931 signalled the end of these remaining branch mints, Britain left the Gold standard and the last Sovereigns were struck in Pretoria in 1932.

This appeared to be the end of the Sovereign. But all was not as it seemed.

Would the Sovereign be revived again?

Find out in the final part of our 200 years of the Sovereign Blog Series – click here to read it >>

Announcing the new UK Bicentenary Gold Proof Sovereign

bicentenary proof sovereign coin - 200 years of the Sovereign. Part V: The End of the Sovereign...

To mark the Bicentenary of the “modern” Gold Sovereign in 2017, The Royal Mint have just released a brand new Gold Proof Sovereignreprising Benedetto Pistrucci’s original engraving from 1817.

With a low edition limit of just 10,500 worldwide, a special one-year-only design change and a fine proof finish, the 2017 Bicentenary Gold Sovereign has all the elements to be one of the most collectable British gold coins of the 21st century. And now you can own one.

Click here to secure yours today >>