“What is a Guinea? Tis a splendid thing”
The East India Company celebrates the Guinea, the most famous gold coinages of all time.
The East India Company, London is pleased to announce the unveiling of their most recent gold coins: The Guinea Bicentenary Collection. A series of historically accurate and authentically crafted golden Guineas which pay special tribute to the coin that became the pride of Britain during an era which lasted from the Restoration of the Monarchy to the Napoleonic Wars.
“What is a Guinea? Tis a splendid thing” is taken from a collection on odes and lyrics by Stephen Kemble, written in 1809. The story of this ‘splendid’ coin began in 1663 at the start of the Restoration when Charles II instructed his treasury to create a new gold coinage to counter economic instability caused by civil war and satisfy the need for a stable and reliable gold coin to fund the increasing expansion of international trade. It saw King Charles II seek to implement a new coinage based on a machine-struck method he had witness while in exile in France. Its value was to be one pound.
The name ‘Guinea’ was initially a colloquial term and referred to the use of gold provided by The Royal African Company who undertook most of its mining of gold and silver in the Guinea region of West Africa. This nickname became widely used by the people of Britain and by 1720, in the reign of King George I, was officially adopted as the name for this pound coin.
The machine-struck coins could be minted in large quantities and quickly satisfied the country’s demand for gold. The value of the Guinea during the first fifty years, was to fluctuate as it mirrored the value of gold, until 1717 when the Master of the Mint Sir Isaac Newton, fixed its value at 21 shillings, (or £1.05 in decimal currency), with the adoption of the gold standard in Britain.
Its reputation for purity and accuracy resulted in the Guinea becoming the most acceptable trading commodity in Britain’s growing Empire. The East India Company ships would take the Guinea on a journey around the world as they sought to trade in exotic luxuries such as spices, tea and fine silk.
On 22nd June 1816, the 21 shilling Guinea was finally superseded by the 20 shilling Sovereign, as Britain faced economic turmoil following the devastating Napoleonic Wars. However, the legacy of the Guinea remains to this day, with horseraces and trading and livestock auctions still using the term to award prestigious prizes, quote auctioneers fees and name races.
On 22nd June 2016, 200 years to the very day that the Guinea was officially replaced by the Sovereign with the introduction of the 1816 Great Re-coinage Act, The East India Company will release for sale a series of five gold Guineas in commemoration of the gold coin that built Empires, won wars and served Britain for over 150 years.
Each gold Guinea is minted to the exact same specification as the last struck coin of its type to be used in circulation, and features the motif from that Guinea updated with delicately frosted and highly polished sections to create the most significant tribute to the Guinea minted to date.
Five Bicentenary Guineas in total have been issued in Five, One, Half, Third and Quarter Guinea denominations. The coins are available from The East India Company as a five or three coin set or alternatively collectors can buy the majestic Five Guinea and One Guinea individually, with each minted to exceptionally low limited editions.
This is the first time in Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s reign that the Five Guinea and Third Guinea coins have been minted under permission from the Royal Household and each Guinea features the effigy of The Queen on the obverse with pound and pence denominations. As a special tribute the letters ‘EIC’ are inscribed under the effigy of Her Majesty, echoing the Guineas struck with gold supplied by The Company from 1729 -1739. Of particular interest is the majestic Five Guinea coin which includes the traditional edge lettering DECUS ET TUTAMEN ANNO REGNI SEXAGESIMO QUARTO (An ornament and a safeguard, in the 64th year of the reign) in recognition of the 64th year of reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
These special Guineas are issued under the authority of the Government of St Helena, who have been issuers of collector coins with The East India Company since 2012.
This special 2016 Bicentenary Guinea Collection is expected to sell out very quickly with demand for the Five Guinea and One Guinea already reaching unprecedented levels showing that the Guinea still remains close to the heart of the British nation.