The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Width: 137.000 mm
Height: 128.000 mm
Coins and Medals
1 guinea note, Royal Bank of Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland, AD 1777
One of the first British notes printed in colour
In 1777 the Royal Bank of Scotland introduced this note, printed in red, and known as the 'red head guinea' after the portrait of George III as he appeared on the guinea coin. As far as we know, it was the first time any British banknote had been printed with colour. In addition to the red head, the value of the note is shown in white letters against a blue background. Red and blue inks were also used on higher denomination notes in New Jersey in the United States at around this date.
Most early paper money carried very simple designs, printed in black ink on white or off-white paper. Using colour was one way of making them harder to forge. However, the expense and difficulty of colour printing may have outweighed the benefits, for the Royal Bank of Scotland did not use it for any other issues at this time - though some other notes had the serial number handwritten in red. With few exceptions, colour printing did not become a standard feature of paper money until the second half of the nineteenth century, as a result of the wider circulation of banknotes and the introduction of more sophisticated printing technology.
J. Douglas, Scottish banknotes (Stanley Gibbons Publications Ltd, 1975)
V.H. Hewitt and J.M. Keyworth, As good as gold: 300 years of (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)