2017 Testern Silver Coin – ‘Portcullis Money’
About the Testern
One of Britain’s rarest coins, the Testern was nicknamed ‘Portcullis Money’ for its notable design and was minted originally for the British East India Company to use in overseas trade. The 2017 issue is only the second ever minting of the Testern, with a design based on the iconic portcullis engraving of its seventeenth century predecessor.
The Testern coin (also spelled Testoon) was Britain’s very first colonial coinage. Minted under the direct instruction of Queen Elizabeth I in 1601 by the Royal Mint in the Tower of London (then known as the Tower Mint), specially for The East India Company’s maiden voyage, it was the very first currency minted specifically for trade outside Britain. Following the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the death of King Phillip of Spain, the English colonial era of exploration and empire began in earnest.
Queen Elizabeth I was not to see the full consequences of her action when she granted The East India Company its first monopoly of trade with the East. It was to begin over 270 years of Empire, trade and conquest, stretching from India, Singapore and Hong Kong in the Far East to the Americas.
The monarch insisted that The Company take specially minted coins on each voyage as set out in its Charter of 1600. According to legend she wanted the world to know that she was just as powerful as arch rival, the King of Spain. To demonstrate her power she would need her own trade currency which, in order 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.
Thus the Testern was minted to the exact same specification as the Spanish 8 Real denomination – the internationally recognised Spanish trade coin, commonly known as ‘Pieces of Eight’ and considered to be the ‘first world global trade coin’.
Just over £6,000 worth of ‘Portcullis Money’ was loaded onto four East India Company ships leaving Woolwich, England in February 1601. Minted by the Royal Mint in the Tower of London they were the first British coins to feature the legendary Portcullis motif. Interestingly, not all the coins were shipped and The Company opted to strike an extra £20 worth for presentation to the Lords of the Council and other dignitaries. It is probably these coins that make up the few available to collectors today. Most that sailed to the East on Company ships were likely to have been melted down and re-minted to local currency.
2017 marks the second-ever minting of the Testern silver coin, featuring a design based on the original Portcullis money and issued to the same weight specification as the 8 Spanish Real and 8 Testern coins. The coin is issued by the Government of St Helena for The East India Company with full Royal Approval of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
- Alloy: 0.999 Ag Silver
- Diameter: 38.6 mm
- Weight: 26.7g
- Denomination: 25p
- Finish: Proof
- Special Features: Antique Finish
- Issuing Authority: St Helena
- Year Date: 2017
- Issue Limit: 10,000
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