The Gold Guinea coin was the most popular coin during the time Britain became the world’s major colonial power. 2013 marked 200 years since the last Guinea was officially struck.
To celebrate this anniversary, a £2 coin was issued in 2013 featuring an interpretation of the original ‘Spade Guinea’ design using the Arms of George III.
2,990,000 Anniversary of the Golden Guinea £2 coins were issued and the coin has a score of 21 on our Scarcity Index, making it less common.
But how did the very first Guinea come to pass?
The history of the Guinea
At the end of the civil war in the 17th century, 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.
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.
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.
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Just over 200 years ago, Britain’s coins changed forever.
The change was as big as Decimalisation, if not bigger. In fact, there were barely any further changes to Britain’s coinage until Decimalisation in 1971.
It’s known as the ‘Great Recoinage’
The ‘Great Recoinage’ was the British government’s attempt to re-stabilise the currency of Great Britain following economic difficulties caused by both the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
On the 22nd June 1816, the Coinage Act was passed and was given Royal Assent. Silver coins were reintroduced into circulation, the Guinea was scrapped and the Gold Sovereign returned to become the symbol of Britishness across the Empire.
The time when money was really worth something
What’s the money in your pocket really worth? Some paper. A few pieces of steel and copper…
At the time of the ‘Great Recoinage’, coins were worth their weight in gold and silver. The Royal Mint struck nearly 40 million shillings between 1816 and 1820, fixing standards for the coins and their silver content and weight.
There was also a change in the gold coinage from the guinea valued at 21 shillings to the slightly lighter sovereign worth 20 shillings. However, the value of the shilling remained unchanged at twelve pence.
Britain’s Last Silver Circulating Coins
That all stopped in 1946 when the very last British circulation coins were struck in silver. The British Government completely banned precious metal from circulating coinage in 1947 .
Britain as we know today, is one of the worlds strongest economies, but this wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the ‘Great Recoinage’. The event didn’t just stabilise currency, it also stimulated the British economy.