The Royal Mint Guinea – an association with a right Royal sport

Horse racing is often described as ‘the sport of kings’, but did you know that coin collecting is called ‘the hobby of kings’?

This year marks 200 years of the horse races most commonly and most closely connected to a Royal Mint coin, The 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.

The 350th Anniversary of the Guinea 2013 UK £2 BU
The 350th Anniversary of the Guinea 2013 UK £2 coin

This year is a special one for The 1,000 Guineas, as it was first run in 1814, just one year after the last guinea was struck by The Royal Mint. Interestingly, 2013 marks not just the 350th Anniversary of the first minting of the guinea, but also both the 200th Anniversary of the last striking of the guinea and the 200th running of the 1,000 Guineas.

The history of the guinea in racing

The Royal Mint’s guinea became forever associated with racing when the first 2,000 Guineas was run on 18 April 1809. It would not be for another five years that the 1,000 Guineas would provide an equivalent race for fillies.  The races were named after the prize fund on offer for the winner, paid using the guinea which was in general circulation at the time.

The National Horse Racing Museum website describes the origins of the name as follows;

The name of this race derives from the fact that a prize of 2000 Guineas was originally guaranteed, irrespective of the number of subscribers. The inaugural race was won by Wizard, belonging to the Yorkshireman Christopher Wilson who was for many years the senior member of the Jockey Club. The first horse to complete the double was Smolensko in 1813.

The guinea was the standard currency for buying and selling horses for hundreds of years and even to this day the tradition persists. Tattersalls in Newmarket are the oldest horse bloodstock auctioneers in the world, having been established in 1766. To this day bids at Tattersalls are still made in guineas; each guinea representing a value of £1.05. They are the only bloodstock auctioneer to still use guineas.

The sale ring at Tattersalls
The Sale Ring at Tattersalls houses an arena to auction some of the most valuable Thoroughbred horses in the world.

Many people forget that the guinea played a prominent role in British life even beyond the world of horses. Until the late 1960s  it was often the case that solicitors, accountants, hoteliers and other professional services could provide your receipt in guineas. The custom was upheld to add gravitas to the service provided and had the added benefit of making the bill look smaller!

Celebrate 200 years of the 1,000 Guineas with Newmarket Racecourses at The Royal Mint

This year, spectators were able to join in an exciting hunt for one of 200 replica guineas hidden around ‘the Rowley Mile’ at Newmarket Racecourses.

Everyone who found a coin won a prize, and five extra lucky people won 350th Anniversary of the Guinea 2013 UK £2 coin packs. The overall winner received a 2012 Collector Proof Set as well!

We loved being involved, even if it was only in a small way. Amy Starkey, Regional Director of Jockey Club Racecourses, said:

We are delighted that The Royal Mint has become involved with the QIPCO Guineas Festival at Newmarket Racecourses on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 May and especially with the celebration of the 200th running of the QIPCO 1,000 Guineas on the second day.  It is wholly appropriate because the two classic races were given their names in the early years of the 19th century because of the original prize fund for each – 1,000 and 2,000 guineas.

Own the 2013 tribute to this classic coin

The 350th Anniversary of the Guinea 2013 UK £2 BUIf you weren’t lucky enough to win a coin at Newmarket, you can treat yourself to this classically beautiful commemorative coin in luxuriantly illustrated packaging, or as part of one of our annual sets.

Prices from just £10 plus P&P.

Buy the 2013 350th Anniversary of the Guinea £2 coin at The Royal Mint website

 

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