GUINEA, a gold coin at one time current in the United Kingdom. It was first coined in 1663, in the reign of Charles II., from gold imported from the Guinea coast of West Africa by a company of merchants trading under charter from the British crown - hence the name. Many of the first guineas bore an elephant on one side, this being the stamp of the company; in 1675 a castle was added. Issued at the same time as the guinea were five-guinea, two-guinea and half-guinea pieces. The current value of the guinea on its first issue was twenty shillings. It was subsidiary to the silver coinage, but this latter was in such an unsatisfactory state that the guinea in course of time became over-valued in relation to silver, so much so that in 1694 it had risen in value to thirty shillings. The rehabilitation of the silver coinage in William III.'s reign brought down the value of the guinea to 21S. 6d. in 1698, at which it stood until 1717, when its value was fixed at twenty-one shillings. This value the guinea retained until its disappearance from the coinage. It was last coined in 1813, and was superseded in 1817 by the present principal gold coin, the sovereign. In 1718 the quarter-guinea was first coined. The third-guinea was first struck in George III.'s reign (1787). To George III.'s reign also belongs the "spade-guinea," a guinea having the shield on the reverse pointed at the base or spade-shaped. It is still customary to pay subscriptions, professional fees and honoraria of all kinds, in terms of "guineas," a guinea being twenty-one shillings.
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