An example of a classic English coin from four centuries ago has
received new life on a modern commemorative from the modern firm that
shares its name with what was once among the most powerful business
entities in the world.
The East India Company’s newest coin celebrates the testern. One of
Britain’s rarest coins, the historical currency was nicknamed
“portcullis money” for its design showing a heavy vertically-closing
gate, typically found in medieval fortifications. The gate appears on
the reverse of the antique Proof .999 fine silver 25-penny coin issued
for St. Helena. The obverse features the Raphael Maklouf effigy of
Queen Elizabeth II.
The classic coin was originally minted for the historical British
East India Company’s 1601 maiden voyage, to use in overseas trade
during the reign of Elizabeth I, and qualifies as Britain’s very first
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Queen Elizabeth I insisted that the company take specially minted
coins on each voyage, as set out in the company’s charter of 1600,
according to the modern EIC. To demonstrate her power she needed her
own trade currency that, to be effective, would need to be based on
the existing international trade coin of the time — the Spanish real —
in both size and weight. For these reasons, the classic testern was
minted to the exact same specifications as the Spanish 8-real coin.
Slightly more than £6,000 worth of Portcullis money was loaded onto
four East India Company ships leaving Woolwich, England, in February
1601. Approximately £20 worth of coins were struck for presentation to
dignitaries, and many of these compose the limited number of the
original coins that are available to collectors today, many of the
rest being melted for use in local currency.
The modern coin matches the classic weight of 26.7 grams, and
measures 38.6 millimeters in diameter. Each coin comes in a capsule
and presentation box, with a certificate of authenticity.
The coin has a mintage limit of 10,000 pieces and retails for
$138.60 U.S. at press time Aug. 10.
To order, visit the issuer website.