The East India Company

The 200 Year Old Story Of The Coins That Created The Modern Pound Coin

Few things mature well with age. Wine is one of them. Iconic coins from our past are another. Marking the 200th anniversary of Britain’s historic Guinea and Sovereign gold coins (the Great Recoinage Act of 1816-1817), The East India Company has released limited edition collector sets – for a ticket price of $1800. There are only 100 bicentenary collections available worldwide, making them a valuable and sought-after investment.

The quarter ounce proof collection, struck in 22 carat gold, contains modern releases of The East India Company 2016 Guinea (featuring a struck-on-the-day mark and the famous ‘spade’ motif) and The Royal Mint’s 2017 Sovereign (complete with Benedetto Pistrucci’s iconic design of St George slaying the Dragon).

To celebrate this special bicentenary anniversary each 2016 Guinea coin carries a ‘CC’ punch mark, denoting their creation exactly 200 years to the day since the 1816 Great Re-coinage Act was issued. Only 300 such coins were ever struck.

Rare Coins of the Highest Quality

Historic Guinea and Sovereign coins were considered ground-breaking in numismatic circles at the time, using the latest  machine technology rather than the unreliable hammering technique of their predecessors. They couldn’t be clipped (the illegal practice of shaving the edge of a coin, punishable by death) and could be produced to exact specifications in high volume satisfying the increasing demand of Britain’s growing international trade in spices, tea and fine silk, building trust in the nation’s coinage.

By embracing new techniques in coinage, the Guinea and Sovereign set modern-day currency in motion. “The new 12-sided pound coin continues the evolution of what is regarded by many as the world’s oldest living currency. Using new technology to improve the security of a coin is at the very heart of the Guinea story,” comments Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman and Managing Director of The East India Company.

Each set is presented in The East India Company luxury presentation box, accompanied by a numbered scroll of authenticity certifying the two coins and historical reference information.

The Bicentenary Guinea & Sovereign Proof Set

The Historical Guinea

At the start of the Restoration, King Charles II instructed his treasury to create new gold coinage to counter the nation’s economic instability. Together they introduced an innovative machine struck technique (the King had witnessed a similar technique in France, while in exile). A new gold coin came into being a little later, commonly referred to as a ‘Guinea’ – a colloquial reference to the source of much of the gold used in its minting. For the first time, the edge of the coin was milled or lettered to prevent clipping.

Originally worth one English pound or 20 shillings, the Guinea value fluctuated during its lifetime, mirroring the value of gold, until it was eventually fixed at 21 shillings with the adoption of the gold standard.

The Sovereign ushers in the Gold Standard

After serving Britain and its Empire for 150 years, the Guinea was replaced by the lighter 20-shilling Sovereign on 22nd June 1816, even as the Gold Standard was introduced, fixing the price of gold. The Re-coinage and exchange of 1816 – 1817 would transform the nation’s coins. The standard to which the coins were struck was under great scrutiny. The lighter 20-shilling Sovereign featured Benedetto Pistrucci’s celebrated design of St George and the Dragon. The reinstatement of this 20-shilling piece would be known as the pound or Sovereign. Circulating alongside the 21-shilling gold Guinea for a time after 1817, the Sovereign design was purposefully distinctive from existing Guineas.


Coin specifications:

The 2016 Guinea
Metal: 22 carat gold
Quality: Proof
Weight: 8.4gm
Issuing Authority: St Helena
Denomination: £1.05
Year of issue: 2016
Presentation issue limit: 100

The 2017 Sovereign
Metal: 22 carat gold
Quality: Proof
Weight: 7.98 gm
Diameter: 22.05 mm
Issuing Authority: Issuing Authority
Denomination: Sovereign

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