Another of the pleasant surprises from Coin Invest Trust’s huge 25-coin release run for the 2016 World Money Fair was this perfect example of just how impressive SmartMinting can be when applied to high relief on a relatively small coin, and to how a very small coin can still keep all the detail and size of a bigger one.

The Great Tea Race of 1866 was one of those events that captured the public imagination of the day and was a race between some quite beautiful sailing merchant vessels, the thoroughbreds of their day, between China and London. Those of you who have seen the Cutty Sark moored at Greenwich in London as a museum ship will have a great idea of what these vessels looked like. Under full sail, they must have been a phenomenal sight, and it’s fair to say that CIT have captured that look very well with this superb new coin.

Available in an ultra high-relief 2 oz or a high-relief 8g (approx ¼ oz) format, both coins exhibit a level of detail and relief that belies their size. Take a look at the image of the 8g coin below and note the relief. It’s quite impressive for a standard 38.61mm 1 oz coin. This is a ¼ oz 38.61mm coin! The idea that a coin of that diameter, yet weighing so little and carrying that much relief, would not have seemed possible just a month ago, a quite extraordinary demonstration of the SmartMinting process. The 2oz coin, obviously with more metal to work with, has taken the relief to its full potential and given the sails of this ship and the dolphins, a three-dimensionality that brings it to life. If these are the first releases of their kind from CIT, we can’t wait to see what comes next.

Sailing vessels seem to be a well-liked theme for coins, and this is the best we’ve ever seen. Having had these in hand we can safely recommend any collector that likes the look of these to seek one out. Packaging is the usual custom printed wooden box with an enclosed Certificate of Authenticity. Early pricing has the 2oz around the €120 mark, and more dealers will no doubt have it up shortly.

GREAT TEA RACE OF 1866

In the middle third of the 19th Century, the clippers which carried cargoes of tea from China to Britain would compete in informal races to be first ship to dock in London with the new crop of each season. The Great Tea Race of 1866 was keenly followed in the press, with an extremely close finish. Taeping docked 28 minutes before Ariel – after a passage of more than 14,000 miles. Ariel had been ahead when the ships were taken in tow by steam tugs off Deal, but after waiting for the tide at Gravesend the deciding factor was the height of tide at which one could enter the different docks used by each ship. The third finisher, Serica, docked an hour and 15 minutes after Ariel. These three ships had left China on the same tide and arrived at London 99 days later to dock on the same tide.

The next to arrive, 28 hours later, was Fiery Cross, followed, the next day, by Taitsing.

Given the close finish, and fearing that the consignees might find reason to avoid payment, the prize, or “premium”, was claimed by Taeping but shared between them and Ariel, by agreement of their agents and owners. 1866 was the last time that a premium was written into the bill of lading of a tea clipper for docking in London with the first of the new crop. Though clippers raced with cargoes of tea for a few more years, the only commercial advantage was in the reputation as a fast ship, thereby securing a better rate of freight in the future.

Whilst the outcome thrilled its followers, it was clear to some that the days of the tea clipper were numbered. The auxiliary steamer Erl King had sailed from Foochow 8 days after Ariel, carrying both passengers and a cargo of tea. She arrived in London 15 days before the sailing ships. The SS Agamemnon, a much more fuel efficient ship than her contemporaries, had just made the fastest ever outward passage to China of 65 days and was on her way to London with a cargo of tea that was 2 or 3 times larger than a clipper could carry. The Suez Canal was under construction (and opened in 1869). This would give a much shorter route (a reduction of about 3,300 NM or nearly a quarter less distance), so favouring the steamships, as the Canal was not a practical option for sailing vessels.

MINTS DESCRIPTION

Smartminting allows unprecedented dimensions of high reliefs. This new technology has been impressively used to create the coin editions dedicated to the 150th anniversary of “The Great Tea Race”. In 1866, some of the fastest clippers carrying cargo competed in a legendary sailing race. The aim was to transport the eagerly awaited tea crops from China to Great Britain in the shortest possible time.

After 99 days on their home-bound journey, the two fastest ships – the “Taeping” and the “Ariel” – arrived with a mere time difference of 25 minutes. The design of these coin issues is based on the oil painting by famous British maritime artist Jack Spurling. It shows the close finish between the two ships in the English Channel after a three-month head-to-head race, depicting their full sails with an astonishing high relief.

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SPECIFICATION

DENOMINATION COMPOSITION WEIGHT DIAMETER FINISH MINTAGE BOX / COA
$2 COOK ISLANDS 0.999 SILVER 8.0 g 38.61 mm PROOF 2,500 TBC / YES
$10 COOK ISLANDS 0.999 SILVER 62.2 g 38.61 mm PROOF 999 YES / YES
COIN INVEST TRUST