British History

Discover the coins that built the British Empire

The East India Company is living proof of 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.

And coins were one of the key ways the company managed trade across the globe.

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At its peak the EIC was single-handedly responsible for half the world’s trade, including cotton, silk, spices, opium and tea.

Remarkably, the East India Company is still trading today. And they have just authorised a set of limited edition Gold coins paying tribute to the most important coins in their history.

Here is the story behind the coins…

EIC 2019 Empire Collection Gold Proof Nine Coin Set Blog Images - Discover the coins that built the British Empire

Portcullis Money – 1601 (Throughout the Empire)

Ordered by Queen Elizabeth I to facilitate increased commerce on behalf of the British Crown and to compete against the widely used Spanish Real. These were the first coins issued for the British Empire outside of England’s normal coinage.

The Cartwheel Penny – 1797 (Australia)

The Cartwheel Penny was the first British coin to be exported to Australian Colonies. It was introduced to help curb Britain’s chronic coin shortage which was impacting economic growth. Specially designed to prevent counterfeiting, and the thick rim and inscription led to the pennies being informally named ‘The Cartwheel Penny’.

The Elephant and Castle Guinea – 1663 (Throughout the Empire)

The guinea is regarded as the most successful trade coin, exponentially increasing British and local trade wherever it was introduced. This Guinea was the first British machine-struck coin, and adopted its name from where the gold was mined from.

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The Company Rupee – 1833 (India)

The Rupee 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. In 1833 reforms to the Indian weights and measures led to coinage in India changing from the Sicca to the standard ‘Company Rupee’.

The Rix Dollar – 1821 (Sri Lanka)

Great Britain sought to develop Ceylon’s (Sri Lanka’s) economy and increase trade to and from Europe. As a part of this aim The Rix Dollar was struck specifically for use in Ceylon. Designed by Benedetto Pistrucci, who is also responsible for the now iconic rendition of St. George slaying the Dragon which features on British Sovereigns. 

The British Trade Dollar – 1839 (The Orient)

To facilitate the trade of their most lucrative commodities, namely tea and opium a trading post in Canton, China was established. 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.

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Hog Money – 1609 (Bermuda)

In order to develop Bermuda’s prosperous economy King James I granted permission to mint coins, which resulted in the issuing of Hog Money, inspired by the wild hogs previously introduced to the island, it’s the first English coin to be minted specifically for use in North America.

The St Helena Halfpenny – 1821 (St Helena)

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.

The Nova Scotia Penny – 1823 (Canada)

Prior to the Canadian Confederation in 1867 many provinces issued their own coinage. However in 1823, without seeking official approval from the Home Office, the province of Nova Scotia ordered the issuing of coins. The coins, issued in denominations of one pennies and halfpennies, contributed to the expansion of local commerce in Nova Scotia.

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The 2019 Empire Collection

For this exceptional 2019 issue 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. There is no doubt the 2019 Empire Collection is going to become a future collector priority.


If you are interested…

Out of a Worldwide edition limit of just 100 we have a small stock of the 2019 Empire Collection available. If you are interested in owning a set – please complete the form below and we will contact you directly.

 

The 100 year old tin that was delivered to ‘every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front’…

As they left for war in Autumn 1914, the soldiers, and the country, believed that it would all be over by Christmas of that year. We know now that the brutal conflict was to drag on for another 4 years, but Christmas 1914 became famous for being the first respite from the war

Many felt the need to show give a small token of appreciation to those who had put their lives on the line. And so, on 30th October 1914, Princess Mary launched her Christmas Gift fund. She asked the public: 

“I want you now to help me send a Christmas present from the whole nation to every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front.”

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Princess Mary embossed on the top of the tin

And they did. Her appeal was met with an enthusiastic response, eventually raising over £162,000 (an incredible sum at the time). This led to the memorable Princess Mary’s Gift Box. It was a beautiful embossed brass box, 128 x 84 x 30mm (5 x 3.3 x 1.2 inches), containing one ounce of pipe tobacco, 20 cigarettes, pipe, a tinder lighter, a Christmas card and a photo of Princess Mary.

On Christmas Day 1914 alone, almost 500,000 Christmas tins were distributed to British service personnel. The boxes were sent to “every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front” in accordance with Princess Mary’s wishes.

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‘Christmas 1914’ embossed on the tin – the date the tin was given to soldiers

A large number of these tins were subsequently damaged in the war, with many being blown apart by shells or rusting away in the wet conditions in the trench. However, the boxes that have survived are now distinctive mementoes of the war’s first Christmas.

They are also absolutely fascinating historic artefacts  – each tin is totally unique and may have even been there in the trenches 100 years ago protecting a young tommy’s keepsakes. They each tell their own story, and just looking at them you can see the small bits of damage, the smells and stains that tell the story of how they survived 100 years to remind us of the soldiers who suffered the extreme conditions of the Great War.

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The Princess Mary Christmas tin

As the end of the First World War Armistice Centenary year approaches, it is especially important to remember those soldiers who would have received one of these tins. It’s hard not to think about a young tommy, sitting in his trench on Christmas Day, opening his Princess Mary Christmas tin as carols drifted across No-Man’s Land. 


If you’re interested…

We have 50 genuine Christmas Tins available and ready to deliver for Christmas, with 5 coins all from 1918. But with such a limited number available you will need to be quick to own this ultimate Armistice Christmas gift…

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Click here to order yours now >>>

Happy Birthday Prince Charles!

Today His Royal Highness Prince Charles celebrates a huge landmark birthday – his 70th!

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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.

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Brand new specially commissioned portrait 

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…

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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.

View our range here >>>