The coin that built the British Empire

The Gold Guinea coin was the most popular coin during the time Britain became the world’s major colonial power. This year we celebrate the Guinea bicentenary, marking 200 years since the Guinea was officially taken out of circulation.

At the end of the civil war, when Charles II was restored to the throne he was desperate to restore faith in the British currency. The British currency  had literally taken a battering during the war and people would clip bits of silver off coins to make money.

A more trustworthy coinage was needed. 

In exile Charles II had observed coins being produced on a machine – a mill and screw press. The coins created had greater definition and a more regular shape and size compared to the medieval process of hammering.

The new process was employed and a new coin “the Guinea”, worth 20 shillings, was born.

17 george iii rose guinea mt - The coin that built the British Empire

The ‘Rose’ Guinea is so called because of the coin’s reverse design which features the Royal Arms elaborately decorated in a way which is compared to an open rose.

The Guinea was a world first

The ‘Guinea’ is one of the world’s most famous coins and was minted in the United Kingdom between 1663 and 1813.

The Guinea takes its name from the African country of Guinea, the source of the Gold used to mint the coin.

The Guinea was actually the very first machine-made British coin and is still one of the most-renowned British coins of all time. It was a coin that could be trusted.

charles iii guinea - The coin that built the British Empire

The George III Spade Guinea was the predecessor of the modern Sovereign and the last guinea to be issued for general circulation.

The foundation of the British Empire

The East India Company is historically the most famous company ever. At one time it occupied over half of all global trade and, at its peak, it kept a private army of 27,000 soldiers.

They did not set out to change the world but they laid the foundations of the British Empire and its trading success was founded on the Guinea.

The legacy of the Guinea

The designs of the Guinea coin varied widely during the 150 years of production and captured many of the turbulent political changes of the times.

Even after the coin ceased to circulate, the name Guinea was long used to indicate 21 shillings or £1.05 in decimalised currency.

It was finally replaced by the Sovereign with the Great Recoinage of 1816.

1 Comment

  1. John Brown on September 12, 2016 at 10:52 pm

    I am lucky to have a George 111 1799 gold guinea, fantastic coin, the draw back is they were prone to a lot of forgeries.