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Portcullis testerns

Started by Deeman, November 25, 2021, 10:59:50 PM

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Portcullis Money was introduced in 1600 by Elizabeth I. She chartered the 'Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies,' and granted it a monopoly. Known as the East India Company (EIC), it largely traded on the Indian subcontinent. By the mid-18th century, the EIC was the most profitable company in the world and the most powerful private company ever known.

The unit was the dollar, divisible by 8 testerns. The coins were struck in silver in four denominations of 1, 2, 4, and 8 testerns in equivalent sizes and weights as the era's dominant trade coin, the Spanish real. As trade coins the issue was too little and too late.

One testern, nominal weight 3.5gms

Two testerns, nominal weight 7gms

Four testerns (half-dollar), nominal weight 14gms

Eight testerns (one dollar), nominal weight 28gms


Relative sizes of the coins.


Gorgeous pictures, Deeman!

I'd argue that these coins were too little too early. England hadn't a hope to be able to compete with the silver mines of South America. However, the pesos were in the long run not of constant weight and quality. By the time Newton researched them, they were significantly underweight and worsened in silver content, due mostly to hanky-panky at the colonial Spanish mints (IIRC, they were officially devalued only once).

A century later, British coins and trade coins of the Republic could compete internationally with the Peso because they were of constant quality and weight and - even more important -because trade generates far more wealth than silver and gold mining. After the Napoleonic wars, the UK was in a position to take over world trade financing. If the British trade dollar would have been issued at that time, it would have been a success, not just in the Straits Settlements, but everywhere where Spanish colonial silver was used in the recent past. It was this coin that - with perfect hindsight - was too little too late. However, the effect was more than compensated by the vastly increased use of banknotes and trade financing, making London a leading financial marketplace.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.