Great Britain 1729 5 guineas

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photo courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries
photo courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries
This specimen was lot 24918 in Heritage sale 3015 (Long Beach, September 2011), where it sold for $9,200. The catalog description[1] noted,
"George II gold 5 Guineas 1729-E.I.C., Young Laureate Head, TERTIO edge, rare, XF40 PCGS, a pleasing and affordable example of this, the only year of issue of this famous type, bearing the hallmarked initials 'E.I.C.' for the East India Company trading venture long headquartered in London. A famous issue, this example better than average and yet showing the small abrasions naturally acquired in commerce. In fact, this issue was very much a commercial piece, not made for collector or sentimental reasons, but for use. Judging by the degree of wear on this specimen, it circulated among banks and wealthy traders for perhaps two decades, maybe a bit more. What its surfaces show is what is often called 'honest wear' -- no huge marks, just the signs of its having been money. The portrait and shield are both nicely detailed with sharp features. Edges are not bumped. No cuts, no wiping, nothing to upset the collector eye. Attractive old-gold color. In all, quite a handsome piece. The origin of the rare pieces bearing this hallmark dates to the company's being given royal approval to exist in 1600, by Elizabeth I, after more than one attempt by the governors of the company to become chartered. The East Indies in the 17th century encompassed the Indian subcontinent and most of southeast Asia, including today's Malaysia and Indonesia. The name 'Indies' was taken in antiquity from the Indus River. Initially, the company traded spice acquired in India and returned to Great Britain on the company's well-fitted ships. Over time, the goods dealt in included various agricultural products but especially cotton. By the time of the Act of Union of 1707 in the reign of Queen Anne, tea was being acquired by the company at its trading post in Canton, China, bought with silver specie. From this venture developed the famous disposition of the English people to 'take' this drink as a cultural custom. All over southeast Asia, the company also traded for silk, saltpeter, indigo dye, and opium, which became mainstays of the company's trading and imports. It is thought that by 1720, just nine years before the presently offered coin was minted, some 15% of all British goods were being imported into the UK by the company, which by that time traded officially under the name Honourable East India Company. The gold used to create this coin was provided to the Royal Mint by the company for the first time in this year. In the following year, 1730, the company's royal charter was extended, perhaps in part due to its influence upon the Crown's need for gold specie. For several more years, the E.I.C. hallmark appeared on some of the guineas and half-guineas coined by the Royal Mint, something on the order of a pledge or an endorsement being acknowledged to the company by the Crown and its sole legal ability to coin money. In the decades to follow 1729, the East India Company's vast wealth and influence expanded considerably throughout the geography in which it operated, its presence becoming military in nature in India during the decade of the 1750s, in which Great Britain forcefully expanded the Empire throughout this territory and indeed the globe. A hundred years later, by the time of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the East India Company became so powerful that it shared military and legal prowess with the Crown itself across the subcontinent. It might be argued that, without the influence it 'purchased' in the 1720s by supplying gold for Britain's commerce, it might have faded and by now have been long forgotten to history. This 1729 5-guineas coin, the largest of the gold coins struck bearing the E.I.C. hallmark, assuredly played a real role in the history of Britain's commercial and military success, indeed in the formation of the Empire itself."

Recorded mintage: unknown but rare.

Specification: 41.75 g, .917 fine gold, 1.230 troy oz AGW.

Catalog reference: S3664, KM 571.2.


  • Krause, Chester L., and Colin R. Bruce II, Standard Catalog of World Coins: Spain, Portugal and the New World, Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2002.
  • [1]Cristiano Bierrenbach and Warren Tucker, Heritage World Coin Auction 3015, Dallas, TX: Heritage Auction Galleries, 2011.

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