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:
Do you believe in luck? Have you ever owned an item you consider lucky, such as a piece of clothing or perhaps a coin?
Money in general has been considered a source of luck for hundreds of years, such as the lucky penny or the action of throwing money into a fountain to bring fortune. Now let me tell you about a very special ‘lucky’ coin.
The Lucky Angel Coin is one of the most impressive and desirable of all European gold coins, not only due to its beautiful design, but because it is thought to bring such great luck.
- The angel depicted on the obverse represents the Spirit of France and is shown writing the French Constitution.
- A rooster appears next to the angel as a symbol of vigilance.
- Behind the angel stands the fasces – previously carried by Roman magistrates as a representation of power.
- On top of this is the Cap of Liberty.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Legend has it that an earlier version of this coin accompanied Napoleon in his rise to power in France and on each heroic campaign, until he arrogantly flung his coin into the river… on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, in which he was defeated and ended his rule as the French Emperor!
This coin was then re-created during the French Revolution and Augustin Dupré was commissioned by King Louis XVI to design it. He was a firm believer in the power of guardian angels and incorporated this theme into his design.
Years later he fell out of favour with the king and was condemned to death. Dupré claimed that the Angel coin saved him from the guillotine because he had it in his pocket. He said a quick prayer as he knelt beneath the deadly blade and rubbed his coin for good luck. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck nearby, causing a panic and halting his execution! Before it could be rescheduled, Dupré was granted a pardon, his life saved.
From that moment on it became known as the ‘Angel Coin’ and many stories were told of the wonders of the coin.
Fishermen never went to sea without it, WWI French pilots never flew without it.
Even pilots from Britain and the United States carried the French coins into battle with them. US pilots continued to put their faith in the coin’s protective powers during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
In fact, the legend of these coins carried such weight that Hermann Goering, the engineer of Hitler’s evil vision, ordered his soldiers to round them up and had them buried in a location that has never been discovered.
The legend continues.
To this day, many pilots, rescue and police heroes proclaim the Angel’s power of luck and protection.
Some blame the coin’s remarkable good fortune on coincidence, others luck, and others a reward for faith. Who knows what these coins actually do, but their legend in itself is enough to want to own one!
If you’re interested…
You have the unique chance to own the world’s luckiest coin… will you be lucky enough to secure one? Click here to find out more
Ancient Greek civilisation provided the foundations for Western culture. One of the empire’s most recognised legacies is Greek mythology, which had an extensive influence on arts and literature in the West. Greek myths tended to describe the lives of Greek Gods including their births, victories in battle, love affairs and their connection to certain city-states.
One artifact which pays homage to Greek mythology is Ancient Greek coinage. Greek currency was the first to be minted on an imperial scale and has influenced commerce across the world.
Coins were hugely important as a medium of exchange and an important store of value and source of prestige. Greek coins used a combination of figures, symbols and inscriptions to symbolise each ruler’s territory. Each city state in Ancient Greece was said to be protected by a certain character from Greek mythology and one of the most identifiable features of Greek coinage are the Gods and Goddesses which are struck on many of the coins of the time.
I have taken a look at some of the most famous myths that were struck on coins from the time, some over 2,000 years old!
Zeus ‘King of the Gods’
Issued in the 2nd century BC this coin depicts Zeus the chief of the gods and believed to be the ruler of mankind. It’s believe that Zeus saved his brothers, Poseidon and Hades, after they had been eaten by their father Cronus. The three of them divided creation between them. As the Father God, Zeus was the dispenser of good and evil and the upholder of morality.
Hercules ‘Son of Zeus‘
Alexander the Great often issued coins depicting himself dressed as Hercules, wearing a headdress made of the scalp of the Nemean lion – one of Hercules’ “12 tests”. Hercules is famed for being the strongest of all mortals. However, his physical power was offset by a lack of intelligence and strong emotions. Many of Hercules’ great deeds occurred while doing penance for stupid acts done in anger or carelessness.
Apollo ‘God of Music’
This coin is an example of one of many coins issued depicting Apollo, the son of Zeus. Apollo is considered a complex god of many things including music, poetry, art, oracles, archery, plague, medicine, sun, and knowledge. He is often depicted playing the lyre and is represented as an ever youthful god.
Ares ‘God of War’
Issued in the 1st Century BC this coin depicts Ares, the God of war and violence. Fittingly the reverse of this coin features a sword. Ares was a superior fighter in battle and caused great bloodshed and destruction, but he also had a reputation for being cowardly.
The Dioscuri ‘Patron Saint of Sailors’
This coin features the Dioscuri; the twin brothers of Castor and Pollux. Pollux, the son of Zeus, was immortal but Castor was mortal. When Castor was murdered, Pollux asked his father Zeus if he could share his immortality with his brother. So they transformed into the constellation Gemini, able to travel back and forth between Olympus and Hades. They are also known as protectors of sailors, able to calm the seas and winds in storms.
Medusa was the only mortal of the three powerful winged Gorgon sisters. It is believed that Medusa was transformed into a monster by Athena. Medusa’s hair was made of snakes, although it is depicted as wild leaves on this coin, and she was said to be able to turn people to stone with a glance. She was killed by the hero Perseus, who used the metal of his shield as a mirror to avoid eye contact with Medusa.
Histiaea ‘Patron Saint of Histiaea’
This small silver coin is known as a “tertobol” and weighs just over 2 grams. It pictures Histiaea, the nymph, on both the obverse and reverse. Histiaea was named after the ancient city of Histiaea on the second largest Greek island, Euboea. Mythical Naiads lived in the lakes here and being immortal, were invited to the assemblies of the gods on Mount Olympus.
Poseidon ‘God of the Sea’
Poseidon was worshipped as the god of the sea, earthquakes and horses. Poseidon is often portrayed with his best known weapon, the trident, which he used to shake the earth and create storms, causing devastating earthquakes and tsunamis. It is this trident that is featured on the reverse of this coin. The coin was issued by the Syracuse in the 3rd Century BC, as Poseidon was greatly important to them as a maritime city/state.
Tyche ‘Goddess of Cities’
Tyche was the personification of fortune and controlled the luck and prosperity of a city. On this coin she is depicted with a crown of city walls and the reverse depicts a cornucopia, a symbol of good fortune. Tyche was said to have carried a large horn containing riches, which she would sporadically spread to individuals and cities. When no cause could be discovered for events such as floods, droughts or political upheaval, they were often attributed to Tyche.
If you’re interested…
Now you have the chance to own The Zeus ‘King of Gods’ Bronze Coin, which is over 2000 years old. How many people can say they own a piece of ancient history whose story has had such impact on the world today?
So if you want one, click here for details before they sell out.