Saint Helena is a small island in the South Atlantic Ocean which is part of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. The currency of the island is the Saint Helena pound, fixed at parity with the pound sterling. The island has authorised some private mints to issue coins under its jurisdiction, which come in a variety of sizes - including in the popular gold quarter ounce (1/4 oz gold) format, usually denominated as £2.
This coin (denominated as £1 and slightly heavier than a quarter ounce) is part of The 2017 Empire Collection gold proof set issued by The East India Company, which features nine English monarchs, and is dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I (1533 - 1603).
Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, the childless Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty.
The Mint says about the set:
“Whosoever commands the sea, commands the trade, whosoever commands the trade of the world, commands the riches of the world and consequently the world itself.”
– Sir Walter Raleigh
From its very first voyage in January 1601, until it was dissolved and absorbed into the British Crown in 1874, The East India Company laid the foundation of the British Empire in the East. Overtime "The Company" rose to account for half of the world’s trade including cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, saltpetre, tea and bullion. It had its own army and navy, its stocks were central to London’s financial markets and at one point it ruled over 400 million people. Learn the story of the world’s most famous Company through its coins. The 2019 Empire Collection is a series of nine silver proof coins which tell the story of a band of merchants who created an Empire through the monopoly, privilege and power bestowed on them by the Monarchs that ruled.
In 1600, Queen Elizabeth I awarded a band of merchants the monopoly on trade with the East, and so began a voyage that was to transform the world. On the insistence of Elizabeth, aboard the first ships were specially struck testern coins - nicknamed "portcullis money" for their design - meant to demonstrate to the world the power of the British. This coin features the portrait of Queen Elizabeth I from her seventh issue crown, inset with the Red Dragon, one of four EIC ships that sailed on the first voyage, along with an image of a pepper leaf, which was fundamental to the success of the first voyage, and the crowned portcullis taken from the portcullis money.
Within a beaded border, the reverse of the coin shows the crowned bust of Queen Elizabeth I of England, facing left. In the background, a sailing ship of the period - the Red Dragon, one of four EIC ships that sailed on the first voyage to India; below it, a pepper leaf. Above, a crowned portcullis - a symbol used on trade coinage issued at the time.
To the right of the portrait, the EIC mint mark of the East India Company; the letters are separated by arrows radiating from the centre around which they are situated.
Around left, the inscription : ELIZABETH I : ROYAL CHARTER, referring to the Queen granting the charter to the East India Company in 1600.