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Guinea

In 1660, the only experiment in the history of England with republican rule ended: after two decades of civil wars and political chaos, the king returned to the country.

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The new monarch was in a hurry to erase all memory of the time when the country was ruled by the murderers of his father. In particular, he was impatient to oust the money minted by them from circulation and replace them with new ones, with his own image.

The problem was that the Royal Mint was constantly short of raw materials. England’s own natural reserves of silver were small, and it was unprofitable to mine it, since the market was flooded with cheap silver from the Spanish colonies in America. There were no own gold deposits in England at all. That is, in order to mint coins, one had to either buy metals abroad or buy old coins from their own population.

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Shortly after accession, Charles established the Company of Royal Businessmen trading with Africa. It quickly unfolded in Guinea, a region in western Africa, from where Europeans exported slaves, ivory and gold. From Guinean gold, Charles began to mint a new coin, nicknamed the guinea (guinea).

The history of English money in the second half of the 17th and early 18th centuries is mainly the history of the struggle to maintain the bimetallic standard, that is, a monetary system based on a firm ratio of gold to silver. In Amsterdam, then the world center of foreign exchange and trading in precious metals.

one weight unit of gold was equal to 15 units of silver. In England, gold was valued higher – at least 15.5 units. The point was mainly that there were a huge number of old, roughly hand-punched silver coins in circulation (many of them were issued 40, 50, or even 100 years ago), worn and cut off at the edges, as well as fakes. Nobody trusted silver money, while guineas, relatively rare and well protected from forgery (they were minted by machine), enjoyed universal confidence and therefore went with a premium to the nominal price.

The guinea had a denomination of £1.

(20 silver shillings), but in fact it was never given less than 21 shillings. This meant that if silver money was alloyed into bullion, taken to Amsterdam and sold by weight there, one could make a profit of five percent minus production and transport costs (silver as a commodity was more expensive than as English coins).

By the 1690s, the guinea had reached 30 shillings. Profits from the export of silver from England grew so much that the silver money that came out of the Royal Mint in the Tower often did not have time to cool before being floated to be sent to Amsterdam.

Another attempt to save English bimetallism was the Great Reclining of 1696: the treasury bought old silver money from the population at the market rate, and in return produced new, full-weight, machine-made products. After reclining, the guinea fell from 30 to 22 shillings.

The mint at that time was led by Isaac Newton. In 1717, he proposed that a guinea be exchanged for more than 21 shillings by law. But even after that, a unit of silver in the Netherlands or France was still worth more than in England, and its outflow never stopped. The British government abandoned further attempts to establish a firm ratio of gold to silver and actually switched to the gold standard (however, this was not legally fixed until a century later).

Guineas ceased to be minted in 1813, and in 1817 the £1 sovereign was issued as the new standard gold coin. Nevertheless, the guinea as a unit of account, equal to 21 shillings (1.05 pounds), lasted until the conversion of the pound to decimal exchange in 1971. It is as a counting unit that it is found every now and then in Victorian literature, including stories about Sherlock Holmes.

Efimkas with a sign

The main problem of money circulation in Russia since ancient times was the lack of its own precious metals. There are no large deposits of either gold or silver on the East European Plain, and Siberian deposits began to be truly developed only from the middle of the 18th century. Prior to this.

money was minted only from imported silver. In the 16th-17th centuries, as a rule, it was brought in the form of thalers – large European coins with which foreign merchants paid for Russian export goods. The oldest of these coins was Joachimsthaler from the early 16th century.

 In Russia, he was called efimkas. The same name subsequently spread to other thaler coins.

 

In Russian money yards, efimkas were melted, and kopecks were minted from the resulting silver (the ruble existed only as a counting unit, in physical form it was represented by a pile of 100 kopecks). From one efimkas came out an average of 64 kopecks. At the same time, the official exchange rate from the middle of the 17th century was 50 kopecks per efimkas – the difference was the profit of the treasury.

In 1654, under Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, a major monetary reform was carried out in Russia: they began to mint copper kopecks, and also introduced a silver ruble modeled on the thaler.

which still formed the basis of circulation, contained about 47 grams of silver, and the new ruble only 28-29 grams. The commodity price of the old money turned out to be significantly higher than the nominal one, and the people began to hide them. The new ruble was not viable.

Already in 1655, the tsar’s advisers invented a new technique: they did not melt the thalers, but simply struck them with a penny stamp (this was called a “sign”) and put into circulation at face value 64 kopecks. At the same time, the treasury did not lose anything, saving on waste (losses in the weight of silver during melting) and on the wages of monetary masters.

However, the efimkas with the sign also did not last long: copper money soon almost completely ousted all silver from circulation, prices began to rise, and the matter ended with the Copper Riot of 1662 and the abolition of all innovations in the monetary sphere. The ruble, modeled on the thaler, appeared in Russia only half a century later at the initiative of Peter I.