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.
On 4th May Buckingham Palace announced that HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, after 70 years at Her Majesty’s side, would be retiring from public duty. To mark this record-breaking achievement, and celebrate his 70 years of service to Her Majesty the Queen, The Royal Mint have today released a brand new design in tribute to Prince Philip.
The design features Humphrey Paget’s (1893-1974) portrait of The Duke of Edinburgh. Paget’s legacy was much more than just this portrait though – he is now considered to be one of the most exceptional coin artists of the 20th century.
The Royal Mint’s coin designer Lee R. Jones has added to the portrait to include a table inscription and an edge inscription. The final design has been officially approved by Prince Philip himself.
The coin is available in Gold Proof, Silver and Brilliant Uncirculated Base Metal. Here’s your guide to the new 2017 United Kingdom Prince Philip £5 coin range:
Perfect Quality. Very Affordable.
The Royal Mint is releasing a brilliant uncirculated base metal version of the Prince Philip £5 coin. These coins have been specially struck and carefully handled to ensure that they are free of scratches and chips found amongst circulating coins.
Known as Brilliant Uncirculated (BU), they are available for £13.00 in a Royal Mint Presentation Pack or £10.99 in a Change Checker Certified Brilliant Uncirculated Collector Card.
Silver Proof – the Collector’s Favourite.
The Silver Proof £5 coin is firmly established as the most sought-after coin amongst collectors because they have all the qualities that collectors really desire.
- Precious metal content – struck from 925/1000 Sterling Silver
- Strictly Limited Edition – just 3,000 coins. That’s EVEN LESS than the last UK Prince Philip coin issued for his 90th birthday. With a mintage of 4,599 it was, at the time, the most limited Silver Proof UK £5 coin ever issued.
- The perfect Proof Finish – even better than Brilliant Uncirulated. Proof coins are struck several times using specially polished dies to create a flawless finish with a perfect mirrored background. The ultimate coin quality.
The Gold Standard
For the ultimate limited edition, a Gold Proof coin has also been issued. Struck in 22 carat Gold, just 300 of these coins have been authorised for release.
If you’re interested …
Update, 27th June: It has now been confirmed that the Gold Proof Piedfort Sovereign has completely SOLD OUT at the Mint, in just 24 HOURS. It’s still available at The Westminster Collection, click here >>
2017 marks the bicentenary of the ‘modern’ Gold Sovereign – the most important numismatic anniversary for decades. To mark this occasion a number of special limited edition Gold Sovereigns have been released, including what might be the most important gold sovereign of them all – the first ever Gold Proof Piedfort Sovereign.
The Gold Sovereign is undoubtedly the United Kingdom’s most famous gold coin, and has been struck from 22 Carat Gold to the exact same specification since 1817.
To mark the 200th anniversary of the ‘modern’ Gold Sovereign, The Royal Mint has created a milestone in numismatic history by issuing the first ever Piedfort Sovereign.
Piedfort coins are some of the finest examples of British craftsmanship and the Gold Proof Piedfort Sovereign is no exception.
The very first Piedfort can be traced back to the 12th century. First minted in France, the name directly translates to ‘heavy measure’. The striking of Piedfort coins began later in England, however examples are known to date back to the reign of Edward I.
Piedforts were considered prestige pieces and ownership was often used as a means to signify a person’s wealth and power.
Today, Piedforts continue to be limited issues and striking of such pieces is reserved strictly for the most important events. Therefore, it seems fitting the UK’s first Piedfort Sovereign has been struck to mark 200 years of the Sovereign.
From today, for the first time ever, collectors will be able to own the Piedfort Gold Sovereign and with an edition limit of just 3,500, this new release is sure to be one that will be treasured in years to come.
You can now own the First Ever Gold Proof Piedfort Sovereign, but with such a tiny edition limit, they won’t be available for long. Sign up below if you’d like to be contacted about owning this UK first: