Introducing the Saint Helena Standing Lion Guinea Silver Coin

Silver Guinea, St Helena Standing Lion Coin
Image via British Library, public domain.

The East India Company has partnered with Birch Gold to offer an updated version of classic British coin. Meet the 2021 1.25 oz St. Helena standing lion silver guinea coinThis fixed-mintage silver coin is only available from Birch Gold Group.

The standing lion guinea is a modern reimagining of the original British guinea, first minted in 1663 and used worldwide until 1814.

“We are absolutely thrilled we have exclusive rights to sell the silver standing lion guinea. It’s such an iconic coin symbolizing the Age of Sail and the 19th Century, from a time when ‘money’ and ‘precious metals’ meant the same thing,” said Phillip Patrick, Precious Metals Specialist with Birch Gold Group.

A brief history of the guinea

The United Kingdom of Great Britain minted gold guineas (named after the Guinea region of West Africa, where much of the empire’s precious metals were mined) between 1663 and 1814. Each coin was the equivalent of 21 shillings, or one pound and five pence (£1.05). Because the guinea was a high-denomination coin of the time, its use was mostly restricted to the wealthy. Luxury items and services were priced in guineas rather than shillings or pounds. This state of affairs lasted for 150 years, until The Great Recoinage of 1816 replaced the guinea with the pound as the major unit of currency. The guinea was replaced with a lighter-weight coin, the crown, which was worth 20 shillings or 1 pound sterling.

Despite this change, the guinea remained in use as a unit of measure. Because of its connotations of exclusivity and wealth, exclusively-priced products and services like medical and legal fees, antiques and other luxury items and greyhound and horse racing prizes are still denominated in guineas across Commonwealth nations.

And, of course, the British Empire wasn’t just England, Scotland and Wales. The South Atlantic island nation of St. Helena, still a British possession, has released the 2021 1.25 oz standing lion silver guinea as an homage to the history of the Pax Britannica. And what an homage it is…  

St. Helena and the East India Company

The East India Company was chartered in 1600 by Queen Elizabeth I. The company pioneered trade worldwide, to India and Japan and China. In 1733, the Houghton, an East India Company three-masted ship, introduced coffee plants to St. Helena, where they thrived. (It’s rumored that Napoleon Bonaparte, in exile and on his deathbed, asked only for St. Helena coffee as his dying wish.)

Saint Helena is one of the remotest islands in the world, 1,200. For centuries it was an important stopover for ships sailing to Europe from Asia and Southern Africa. Saint Helena is the United Kingdom’s second-oldest overseas territory (after Bermuda). The East India Company governed the island from 1657-1815 and even minted St. Helena’s first local coinage, in 1821.

For nearly three centuries, East India Company ships crossed the globe. The Company’s trademark and flag were second only to the Union Jack in symbolizing the span and wealth of the British Empire. Many of these ocean-spanning voyages included a stop at St. Helena.

St. Helena standing lion guinea silver coin

The reverse of the 2021 Saint Helena standing lion silver guinea coin in detail.

Meet the 2021 silver standing lion guinea

This East India Company fixed-mintage coin is intended to commemorate St. Helena’s vital contribution to the British Empire’s overseas trade. And it shows in every detail.

The reverse in detail

The reverse of the coin features the lion of England rampant gardant (heraldic terms for rearing up and facing the viewer).

The lion, the defender of the Crown and Empire, holds the crown of England and stands on a rope and a globe. This represents the reach of the British Empire.

A shield displaying the Cross of St. George is a reference to the final guinea coin circulated in Britain in the late 1700s.

Crossed scepters in the background represent the four points of the compass (and were also used on the first guineas minted during the reign of King Charles II).

The wreath at the bottom of the heraldic display includes both tea and cotton leaves, vital trade goods the East India Company supplied to Great Britain during the age of sail.

You’ll also note the East India Company’s original trading flag insignia displayed tastefully at the bottom of the coin, and subtly echoed in the background.

The obverse

The obverse displays Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as portrayed by renowned sculptor Raphael Maklouf in the so-called “third portrait” used on English coinage from 1985-1997.

Her Majesty wears the royal diadem, as she normally does for the State Opening of Parliament. Uncharacteristically, The Queen also wears a necklace and earrings. At the time, critics called the portrait “flatteringly young” but Maklouf that he’d simply been striving to, “to create a symbol, regal and ageless.” His portrait went on to appear on 585 different coins minted in across the Commonwealth, from Canada to the Cook Islands.

Both obverse and reverse have backgrounds patterned with the East India Company’s trading flag insignia.

This exquisite piece of cultural history is approved for placement in a Precious Metals IRA, and will make a great addition to any coin collection or retirement savings portfolio.

2021, Featured, silver