On September 3, 2014, Greg Reynolds published a
nice article in CoinWeek about the rare 1681 silver
Halfcrown of King Charles II, with the mark of the Royal African
Company. I wasn't familiar with this mark. Here's an
excerpt. Be sure to read the complete article online - it's
an interesting story. -Editor
A relatively small number of Charles II silver coins of any
denomination survive with the mark of an elephant, which relates
to a semi-private company that dominated British business
activities in Africa.
Soon after his ascension to the throne in 1660, King Charles
II granted a charter to the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading
to Africa, which was renamed the Royal African Company (RAC) in
1672. This company was given a monopoly over British trade with a
region in western Africa. The RAC lasted until 1752.
From 1688 to 1722, the RAC supplied gold to the Royal Mint and
many British coins struck from such gold featured a hallmark of
an elephant. In another words, a small portrait of an elephant on
a British gold coin, as part of the design, indicated that it was
struck with gold that was mined in West Africa and then brought
to England by the RAC.
An elephant and a castle was part of the emblem of this
company, and many gold coins struck in London by the Royal Mint
featured an ‘elephant & castle,’ though a substantial number
had just a portrait of an elephant. Each elephant mark, with or
without a castle, is found below the bust on the obverse (front
of the coin).
These are regular issue coins
of the Royal Mint of England, not atypical strikings elsewhere.
Such elephant marks are not mintmarks in the sense that the term
‘mintmark’ is employed in the U.S. The Royal African Company did
not produce coins.
British gold coins of the era were called Guineas because much
of the gold used to strike them came from West Africa. The word
Guinea has more than one meaning. Undoubtedly, the British traded
in the area that is now known as the Republic of Guinea, a former
French colony. Over the centuries, however, the name Guinea
generally referred to a particular region of West Africa, not to
any one specific kingdom, nation or colony.
The RAC brought gold from the region of Guinea to England and
the gold denominations that began in 1663 came to be known as
Guineas. Soon, gold coins were issued with denominations of
Half-Guinea, One Guinea, Two Guineas and Five Guineas. Much
later, One-Third-Guinea coins were minted as well.
Only a miniscule percentage of silver coins of the era had
elephant (or ‘elephant & castle’) marks. During the reign of
Charles II, some Shillings, Halfcrowns and Crowns, dated 1666
and, later, 1681, had elephant (or ‘elephant & castle’)
marks. No other silver coin issues in the 1600s had such marks,
as best I can recollect at the moment. There are more than a few
gold issues, though, during the reigns of James II, William III
& Mary II, and Anne, that have such marks
To read the complete article, see:
Rare 1681 silver Halfcrown of King Charles II, with mark of the
Royal African Company
Wayne Homren, Editor
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