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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 >>
The story behind England’s first colonial coinage is one that few people know about. It begins with the most influential company in world history – The East India Company…
The East India Company today are producers and distributors of quality, exclusive and exotic goods with a 400 year legacy through its trade history, which built the British Empire.
Originally, the East India Company was a band of pioneering merchants who were granted a Royal Charter by Elizabeth I in 1600 to explore the East Indies and bring back exotic goods to the Regal West. In doing so they established new trade routes and broke down the barriers of the world. They established Singapore and Hong Kong, held Napoleon captive in St. Helena and sent the tea that was destroyed at the Boston Tea Party.
The consequences of the Company’s actions are the very fabric of our Commonwealth.
England’s very first colonial coinage – struck for the company’s first voyage
In 1601, Queen Elizabeth I signed a Royal Charter awarding The East India Company the right to monopoly on trade in the East.
On signing the Royal Charter, Queen Elizabeth I instructed The Royal Mint to strike England’s very first colonial coinage – the Testern coin. Struck specifically for The Company’s first voyage to the East, the Testern was the very first currency that was minted specifically for trade outside of England.
Following the defeat of Spain in the Spanish Armada in 1588 and after the death of Prince Philip of Spain, the British colonial era of empire commenced and the start of 270 years of trade and conquest began.
It’s believed that Queen Elizabeth I insisted on her own trade coinage as means of demonstrating that she was just as powerful as the King of Spain, which would only be effective if it was based on the prevailing international trade coin of the time – the Spanish Real. So, she introduced a coin that was minted in the exact same specification as the Spanish 8 Real denomination, commonly known as ‘Pieces of Eight’. This coin was formally named the Testern but came to be known as ‘Portcullis Money’ due to its unique Portcullis design.
The end of the Testern
Elizabeth I insisted that The East India Company carried the new Testern coins on each voyage, as means of exhibiting her power overseas. Just over £6,000 worth of ‘Portcullis Money’ was loaded onto the vessels of Sir James Lancaster VI’s fleet – the first fleet of The Company. When the fleet arrived in the East many of the coins were melted down, and very few returned to England. In fact, those that did were presented to The Company’s shareholders.
A coin found only in museums
Today, you will only find these coins in museums and even then only a very small number of the Testern ‘Portcullis Money’ coins will be exhibited across the world.
This year, The East India Company and St Helena government have issued the Testern coin in Silver featuring a design based on the original ‘Portcullis money’ and struck in the same weight specification as the Testern coins. Only the second ever minting of Portcullis Money, the design features the iconic portcullis engraving just as its 1601 predecessor.
If you’re interested…
Fully approved by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and strictly limited to just 10,000 coins worldwide, you can own the 2017 Testern Silver coin today if you’re quick.