- Written by Louise Thraves
In 1699 a certain Sir Isaac Newton became Master of the Mint. Employed originally as Warden of the Mint from 1696, he was tasked with eliminating counterfeiting and improving the overall quality of Britain’s coins. Applying his scientific genius, he developed new assaying techniques which enhanced the standard to which all coins would be measured against, ensuring all types of coins were uniform in weight, size, and fineness, with as little variance as possible.
But in 1718 a new problem arose. The price of silver had risen globally to such an extent that the intrinsic value of silver in British silver coins was actually worth more than its face value, resulting in the lower denominations being melted down, creating a shortage of silver coins in circulation. With these lower denomination silver coins becoming scarce, there needed to be a replacement to avoid an economic catastrophe.
Sir Isaac Newton’s idea would be to create a new gold coin, the quarter guinea, which would be the equivalent to the silver crown (at the time a silver crown was worth five shillings, while the new quarter guinea would be worth five shillings and three pence). Measuring in at 16mm in diameter and weighing just 2.1 grams, the coin was impractically small and was easily lost (not great when its value is around £30 in today’s money!).
Despite the unpopularity of the coin, it served its purpose and the British economy survived, and would help the British Empire to expand across the globe and become a global superpower.
Struck during the reign of King George I, for one year only in 1718, and with a mintage of only 37,380, the history and significance behind this coin is truly remarkable. Over 300 years old, the brainchild of a British icon, the 1718 quarter guinea is definitely a coin to add your collection
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