Left: 5 guinea of James II, struck at London, 1685. Gold, diameter 3.5 cm. American Numismatic Society, New York, 1957.172.19. Right: 1 guinea coin of James II, 1688, struck at London. Gold, diameter 2.5 cm. Photograph courtesy of the American Numismatic Society, New York, 0000.999.596
The Dutch and English vied for lucrative trade along Africa’s West Coast in the mid- seventeenth century. In this period the English produced guinea coins marked with an elephant-and-castle motif below a bust of the English king, James II. The motif was stamped only onto coins made from West African gold acquired by the newly established Royal Africa Company, which was granted monopoly on this trade by the British crown in 1672. This iconography illustrates the continuing importance of gold and ivory as commodities, even as trade shifted away from the Saharan routes.