While I was watching “Civilisations” on the Beeb last week they mentioned how the introduction of the Trade Dollar was the first step in globalisation – this got me thinking, so I made a cup of tea and looked into the history of the Trade Dollar and it truly is a fascinating tale.
Way back in the 16th Century, the first trading currency came to be because of the popularity of the silver Spanish dollar (better known as pieces of eight – yes those!) in China and they created the “Dragon Dollar” or “Silver Dragon” which were not only used in China, but also became the preferred currency for trade with their neighbours.
In the 19th Century, the Chinese were defeated in the First Opium War and forced to open their ports to foreign trade. The British merchants from The East India Company were now able to take advantage of the silk, porcelain spice and tea trade in the Orient.
The Rise of the British Trade Dollar
Now, with so many routes to trade it made sense for each country’s traders to mint their own coins, from their own supplies of silver. BUT these new silver trade coins all had to be minted to the same specification as the famous Spanish Dollar weighing in at approximately 27g and minted in 0.900 silver. The trade dollar was truly born and trading was made easier for the world – hence the movement of goods (and people) became more prevalent and “globalisation” started.
Our British Trade Dollar was first minted from 1895 and designed by George William De Saulles – a British coin with an eastern feel, it was exclusively for use in the Far East. For the first time on a coin, it showed a helmet-wearing Britannia holding a trident and the British shield with a merchant ship in the background.
Although The East India Company had been trading since the early 1600s, the introduction of the British Trade Dollar secured them as the single most powerful economic force of its time – tea, silks, spices and so much more travelling across the world on their ships not only for Britain, but also the rest of the Empire and Commonwealth. Without the original version of this coin we would be waiting for a cup of tea for a very long time!
A 21st Century spin on a 19th Century coin
This year, The East India Company is launching a coin that has been faithfully inspired by the original British Trade Dollar – The East India Company 2018 Trade Dollar 1oz Silver Proof Coin features Britannia surrounded by an oriental pattern. The obverse for the first time, displays the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II surrounded by an arabesque cartouche.
A Faithful nod in these modern times to the coin that started it all.
If you’re interested:
You can own the 2018 East India Company 1oz Silver Proof Trade Dollar, but you’ll have to be quick as just 2,500 have been issued worldwide! Click here to secure yours now >>
It is hard to imagine a scandal taking place today where the political leaders of our country are arrested for causing the financial markets to crash. But that is exactly what happened when the ‘South Sea Bubble’ burst.
The ‘South Sea Bubble’ was a political and financial scandal that led to the arrests of leading members of Parliament and the near collapse of the stock market. From this turmoil one of the 18th Century’s most interesting coins was produced. Let me tell you how it happened…
The South Sea Bubble
The South Sea Company at the heart of the scandal was a trading company with a monopoly on trade in South America. The company was heavily linked with the government of the day, and a number of MPs owned large shares in the company.
Because of their shares in the company, members of the government began using phoney insider information to convince investors of the huge potential in South American trade, and therefore the profitability of the South Sea Company.
However, once investors realised that there was insider trading taking place, the company’s share price collapsed causing a catastrophic loss of money and property.
Frantic bankers and members of the gentry who had lost their life savings stormed Parliament and the Riot Act was read to restore order. An enquiry found that more than 500 members of Parliament had been involved in the crash and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was imprisoned.
The South Sea Company Shilling
On the brink of collapse, the South Sea Company luckily stumbled across a horde of silver in Indonesia and sold the precious metal to The Royal Mint.
The silver was minted into coins in 1723 with distinctive ‘SS’ and ‘C’ notations on the reverse. The proceeds from this silver helped enable the South Sea Company to recover from the scandal and ultimately continue operating for another century.
The shillings struck with this silver are now almost 300 years old and are a relic of a financial and political disaster which shook the whole country.
If you’re interested…
Historic silver issues are extremely difficult to source, however we have a small stock of just 50 South Sea Shillings available for collectors. Click here to find out more >>
Today I would like to tell you a fascinating story about a very limited edition United Kingdom coin struck in New York almost 60 years ago.
It is extremely rare that United Kingdom coins are struck anywhere other than in the UK, however the New York Exhibition in 1960 presented a rare opportunity for The Royal Mint to take their minting expertise overseas.
New York Exhibition
Still struggling to recover from post-war austerity, the height of Great Britain as the dominant trading nation of the world seemed a distant memory in 1960.
Britain was desperate to revive its ability to trade internationally and so the New York Exhibition was organised to demonstrate the best of British manufacturing to the American market with the hope of increasing British exports to the United States.
The New York Exhibition Crown
A brand new coin was struck for the occasion and although it was somewhat overlooked in Britain at the time, it stands out today as one of the most interesting Royal Mint coins ever struck.
That is because although just over a million New York Exhibition crowns were minted in the UK, a very small number were struck at the exhibition in New York so that visitors could see the best of British manufacturing before their own eyes.
This limited edition coin was minted especially for the visitors to the exhibition and only 70,000 coins were struck – that is less than 7% of the mintage of the ordinary circulation version!
Could I own a limited edition New York crown?
Although they were struck with a specially polished die, there were no special mintmarks on the coins struck in New York making them extremely difficult to distinguish from the ordinary uncirculated version.
However, as the ordinary uncirculated coin was somewhat overlooked at the time in Britain it too has a surprisingly low mintage – less than a fifth of the 1953 Coronation Crown and less than 6% of the 1965 Churchill Crown.
Some of the unsold crowns minted at the exhibition were brought back to the UK by The Royal Mint, meaning that there are likely to be a small number of rare crown coins which were struck in New York buried in collections across the country.
This coin played a key role in boosting Britain’s trade relationship with the United States, and the fact that a very limited number were actually minted at the exhibition in New York makes it undoubtedly one of the most interesting UK coins of the 20th century.
If you’re interested…
We are offering collectors the chance to own the New York Exhibition Crown struck in uncirculated condition (who knows, it might even be one of the rare coins that came back from New York!). To secure your New York Exhibition Crown for just £19.99 (+p&p), click here >>