Royal African Company Provenance Marks on British Coins

Author: Lawrence Chard - Director and Expert Numismatist

Published: 3 Dec 2018

Last Updated: 20 Aug 2019

An 'Elephant' Mark below the King's Portrait Denotes Gold Supplied by the Royal African Company

Provenance marks on English/British coins are unusual, but not unknown. There are several different provenance marks which indicate the source of the metal used to strike certain coins.

The Royal African Company

The original company was founded in 1660 as 'The Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa' by Charles II, who was restored to the throne in that year. The Company ensured profits by excercising a monopoly on the trade from the West African coast. It enforced this trade monopoly by seizing other English merchant ships who tried to trade illegally with the locals. 

The original company collapsed in 1667 when England lost the Second Anglo-Dutch war, which the company had helped to provoke by attacking nearby Dutch merchant outposts. Re-Emerging in 1672, the Company merged with the Gambian Merchants Company to form the Royal African Company.

The Slave Trade

In addition to mining gold and silver, the Company's most important trade 'good' was in human beings. Manufactured goods were traded with local chieftains in return for captured fellow Africans, who were transported across the Atlantic to supply the new world with cheap labour. Millions of Africans were traded this way between 1672 and the end of the company's involvement in slaving in 1731.

Origin of the Guinea

The Guinea, originally a gold coin tarrifed at 20s (but eventually fixed at 21s) was so named because much of the gold used to strike these originated in or around Guinea. Coins struck from gold mined in this region (or nearby) the Royal Africa Company's logo (the Elephant or Elephant and Castle) underneath the King's portrait. Coins struck with these provinance marks were issued between 1664 and 1726. The Company itself was finally dissolved in 1752.

'Elephant' Mark Below King's Portrait on a  Charles II Two Guinea Piece

Other Provenance Marks

Other provenance marks used on British coins were:-

Mark Origin
Plumes / Feathers Wales
Roses & Plumes Company for Smelting Down Lead with Pit Coale and Sea Coale
Roses Silver from the West of England Mines
WCC Welsh Copper Company
SSC South Sea Company
LIMA Lima, Peru
VIGO Captured from the Spanish at the Battle of Vigo Bay

We also have a page dedicated to Provenance Marks on British Coins


If you want to find the value of a coin you own, please take a look at our page I've Found An Old Coin, What's It Worth?

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