5 guinea coin of Charles II
England, AD 1675
The embossed elephant indicates that this English coin is made from gold mined in Africa. Large quantities of African gold were brought to England by the Royal Africa Company, which dealt in gold, ivory and slaves. Guinea coins were named after the Guinea Coast of west Africa.
From at least the eighth century, west African gold was traded for salt, cloth and other goods at centres like Djenne and Timbuktu (in Mali), and then sent north and east on camel caravans across the Sahara. A 1526 description of Timbuktu reads: 'Instead of coined money, pure gold nuggets are used; and for small purchases, cowrie shells which have been carried from Persia.'
J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)