World Coins

British trade coinage for Indies predates American Trade dollar

A circa 1600 to 1601 silver 2-testern coin was struck in Elizabethan England for trade to the East Indies. This About Very Fine example sold Dec. 16 for a hammer price equivalent to about $1,475 U.S.

Images courtesy of St. James’s Auctions.

Collectors of United States coins are aware of a special issue of U.S. coinage in the 1870s that was meant for use thousands of miles from the home country.

England has America beat by 172 years in resorting to that concept.  

Though the American Trade dollar (minted for use in trade with Asia) entered circulation in 1873, the idea of issuing a special silver coin for English trade dates as least as far back as Queen Elizabeth I. In 1600 and 1601, four denominations of coinage — the 1-, 2-, 4- and 8-testern pieces — were coined at the Tower Mint for the first voyage of the incorporated “Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies.”

An example of one of the coins was sold Dec. 16 by St. James’s Auctions in London.

The Portcullis money is named for the portcullis composing the reverse design. A portcullis is a gate with a heavy, sliding grate, used in fortifications. The obverse shows the royal arms.

Portcullis coins were struck to the same weights of equivalent Spanish 1-, 2-, 4- and 8-real coins.

A 1600 to 1601 2-testern piece identified by the auction house as About Very Fine realized a hammer price of £940 (about $1,475 in U.S.  funds) in the Dec. 16 auction. The buyer’s fee varies from 20 to 24 percent, depending on the method of payment. 

Portcullis coins are usually found well-worn, despite the fact that coins of this design were used only briefly.

For more information about other lots in the auction, visit its website.

Keep reading about world coins:

Big Ben silver £100-for-£100 coin sells out from Royal Mint

Rough-Scaled Python $1 penultimate issue in Perth Mint series

Canada upgrades finish on gold bullion Maple Leaf coins

More from

Here are 12 photos from Tuesday's opening of the Boston time capsule

Pawn Stars' Rick Harrison spotted at Heritage's FUN Platinum Night auction

Q. David Bowers: A few things for collectors to think about when making 2015 New Year's resolutions

1792 Birch cent another coin to top $2 million at Heritage FUN auctions

American Eagle gold bullion sales in 2014 were the lowest in 7 years

Keep up with all of's news and insights by signing up for our free eNewslettersliking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram!

Community Comments