The Great Tea Race of 1866

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June 16, 2016 – Unforgettable is the final of the 1866 tea race from Chinese Fuzhou to London that came down to the wire. For the Cook Islands, Coin Invest Trust dedicates a new coin to this special historical moment. The coin reaches an unprecedented relief height on a proof background and minute details thanks to smartminting© technology.

Cook Islands / 10 Dollars / Silver .999 / 2 oz / 38.61mm / Mintage: 999.

The obverse shows the Ian Rank-Broadley portrait of Elizabeth II as well as her name, the name of the issuing nation, and the nominal value. Minted in high relief, the reverse depicts two clippers at full speed as well as the inscriptions THE GREAT TEA RACE OF 1866, BE THE FIRST TO DOCK IN LONDON, and 150th ANNIVERSARY 2016. The coin’s motif is inspired by a Jack Spurling painting.
The coin is also available in the weight of 8 grams and with a face value of 2 dollars. 

The impressive relief height of “The Great Tea Race of 1866”.

This year witnesses the 150th anniversary of the most suspense-packed finale of the great “tea races” of the 19th century, in which English clippers competed to bring home the new tea crop from China. In 1866, nine clippers set off from Chinese Fuzhou to London. After 99 days and a more than 14,000-mile-long nip-and-tuck race, the “Taeping” was the first to dock, only 25 minutes before the “Ariel”.

“Taeping” and “Ariel” in the final of the 1866 tea race.

The captain of the “Taeping”, which carried a cargo of 1,108,709 pounds, did not only win a good reputation and lucrative commissions but also a prize money of 10 shillings for each ton of tea. Not only the ship’s captain was happy about the victory, but also those who had bet money on the ship – after all, gambling has always been a favourite pastime of the English. The local tea retailers, however, were not so pleased. The market was flooded with 45 million pounds of tea and prices plummeted. 

But soon the days of the tea clippers were over: When the Suez Canal was opened in 1869, they were no longer needed as transport ships. They were replaced by steamboats, which transported more cargo in the now short-cut route between China and England at a speed that the clipper captains could only dream of. 

The coins were minted by B. H. Mayer’s Kunstprägeanstalt GmbH. Collectors can purchase the issues through specialty dealers.

Please find more information on these coins here and here.

This is the website of Coin Invest Trust.

The tea race of 1866 has its own Wikipedia entry.

And here you can watch a BBC documentary on tea.