A 1729 gold 5-guinea coin minted from gold supplied to the Royal Mint
by the East India Company highlights Dix Noonan Webb’s Dec. 4 and 5
ancient, British and world coins auction.
The coin, which bears the head of George II, is expected to fetch
£8,000 to £12,000 ($12,908 to $19,362 U.S.).
The source of the gold is identified by the letters ‘E.I.C.’ on the
obverse of the coin, below the king’s head. In identifying the
metal's source, the coin reflects the heritage of guinea coins.
Guinea coins were first issued in 1662, when the recently restored
Charles II decreed that the Mint would abandon hand-hammered coinage
in favor of money produced in screw presses. The presses could produce
symmetrical coins with milled edges to deter clipping. Gold for this
new issue came to England in ships of the Africa Company from Guinea
in West Africa, and the new coins soon became known as guineas.
The Africa Company’s badge of an elephant and howdah, more commonly
called an elephant and castle, was depicted on the coins under the
The practice of acknowledging the source of the gold continued into
the 18th century, even after the EIC coins; some guineas were marked
with the word LIMA to reflect their gold's source in British-captured
Spanish treasure ships that had sailed from the city of Lima in Peru.
The East India Company originally received its Royal Charter from
Elizabeth I in 1600.
The exact origin of the gold obtained by the company is unclear,
although it may have come from Japan, according to Will Bennett, a
representative for the auction firm.
Treasury records indicate that on Nov. 4, 1729, an EIC
representative wrote to the Lords of the Treasury requesting the
preparation of dies with the capital letters ‘E.I.C’ under the King’s
head to distinguish the coins minted from its gold “as hath been
granted to the Royal African, the South Sea Company and others.”
The request was granted, and many of the gold coins from early in
Charles II’s reign feature the EIC mark, according to Peter Seaby in
The Story of English Coinage.
Three denominations of gold coins feature the EIC mark, but 5-guinea
coins with the mark (then an enormous sum, Bennet said) were issued
only in 1729.
The auction house did not provide a grade for the coin.
To learn more about the sale, telephone the firm at (011) 44 20 7016
Dix Noonan Webb or visit its website.