Historical information

The coin was discovered by Julie Wilkins, a Victorian scuba diver who had already experienced more than 500 dives in Australia and overseas. She was holidaying in Peterborough, Victoria, and looking forward to discovering more about the famous Loch Ard ship, wrecked in June 1878 at Mutton Bird Island. The fast Glasgow-built clipper ship was only five years old when the tragedy occurred. There were 54 people on board the vessel and only two survived

Julie's holiday photograph of Boat Bay reminds her of her most memorable dive. Submerged in the calm, flat sea, she was carefully scanning around the remains of the old wreck when, to her amazement, a gold coin and a small gold cross suddenly came up towards her. She excitedly cupped them in her hands, then stowed the treasures safely in her wetsuit and continued her dive. She soon discovered a group of brass carriage clock parts and some bottles of champagne. It was a day full of surprises. The items were easily recognisable, without any build-up of encrustations or concretion.

Julie secretly enjoyed her treasures for twenty-four years then packed them up for the early morning train trip to Warrnambool. After a short walk to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village. Her photograph was taken as she handed over her precious find, she told her story to a local newspaper reporter, lunched a café in town then took the late afternoon train home. Her generous donation is now part of a vast collection of Loch Ard shipwreck artefacts, including the gold watch and the Minton Majolica model peacock.

The coin is a British 1793 George III Gold Spade Guinea. It was already 83 years old when the Loch Ard had set sail. The loop and ring have been added, perhaps as a pendant, pocket watch accessory or similar purpose. It may have been worn for ‘good luck’ on the long journey to Australia, where ships had to carefully navigate the treacherous Bass’s Strait before arriving at their destination of Melbourne. Sadly, many met their fate on that short stretch of ocean aptly named the Shipwreck Coast.

The coin is very recognisable even though it was exposed to the wrecking of the ship, its consequent movement, and the sea's turbulence. Its bent, scratched, buckled, split, dinted and worn condition is part of its story. The red-brown-black discolouration is similar to that found on other gold coins, sometimes called the ‘corrosion phenomena’. Studies suggest the possible cause is contaminants in the minting process reacting to the coins’ environment.

The British Guinea was introduced in 1663 and was circulated until 1814. It was made of 22 carat gold, was 25 to 26 cm in diameter and weighed 8.35 grams. It had a value of 21 British shillings. The guinea coin ceased circulation after 1816 and was replaced by the one-pound note. However, the term ‘guinea’ continued to represent 21 shillings.

King George (1738-1820) had six gold guinea designs minted during his reign from 1760 and 1820. Each of the six had different obverse portraits, all facing the right. There were three different reverse sides. The Spade Guinea was the fifth issue of the coin, introduced in 1787 and produced until 1799. The reverse shows a royal crown over a flat-topped shield with the Royal Arms of Great Britain, used in Scotland between 1714 and 1800. The shield images are, from left to right, top to bottom, the Arms of England and Scotland, the Arms of France, the Arms of Ireland, and the Arms of the House of Hanover.

The Gold Guinea is also part of Australia’s history. It was the first coin mentioned in the announcement of Governor King of New South Wales his Australian Proclamation of a limited variety and denomination of coins accepted for use in the Australian Colony.

The historic and decorative George III Spade Guinea has been reproduced for special collections of coins. However, replicas and imitations have also been made as souvenirs for tourists, as gaming tokens and chips for gamblers, and as ‘fake’ coins for profit. These coins differ in many ways; they may be only half the weight of the genuine coin. Often have a small stamp on the obverse with “COPY” or the manufacturer’s name or initials. Some have scalloped edges, some have dates that are different to the original dates of issue, and some even have text in Latin that translates as something very different to the original coin.


The King George III Guinea was only produced from 1663 to 1814 and was the first English coin to be mechanically minted.
The coin is the fifth edition of the King George III Guinea, the Spade Guinea, was only produced between 1787 and 1799. It is the only edition with this portrait of King George and the only one with the Royal Coat of Arms of Great Britain in Scotland on the reverse side. This edition was also the last guinea in circulation, because the sixth edition was reserved as the Military guinea. This edition of the Guinea is unique;
This coin is the only guinea in our collection. It was minted in 1793, so it is now over 230 years old.
The Gold Guinea is part of Australia’s history; it was the first coin in the list of coins for use in the Australian Colonies, mentioned by Governor King of New South Wales in his Australian Proclamation speech of 1800.
The George III Spade Guinea was included in the Limited Edition Sherwood 12 Coin Collection of Notable Coinage of Australia.
This coin is the only known guinea coin recovered from the wreck of the Loch Ard. It was already 85 years old when the ship was wrecked.

Physical description

Gold coin; British. 1793, King George III of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1760-1820), Spade Guinea. Yellow gold coin with gold metal loop mount and a gold ring through the loop.
The design is the fifth issue of the George III Gold Guinea. The obverse relief is a portrait of George III facing right. Reverse relief is a crown above the Coats of Arms (1801-1816) of flat top spade-shaped shield divided into four quadrants that depict crowned lions, fleur de lies, a harp. These images are identified as, from left to right, top to bottom, England and Scotland, France, Ireland and Hanover.
Inscriptions are minted around the rims of each side.
The coin is dated 1793. Its surface has dark areas on both sides and the reed edge and surfaces are well worn. The loop mount is bent and the ring is buckled.
The coin was recovered from the wreck of the ship Loch Ard.

Inscriptions & markings

Obverse text; 'GEORGIVS III DEI GRATIA' (translates to George the Third, by the Grace of God)
Obverse relief; (King George III bust, facing right, laurel wreath on head)
Reverse text; 'M.B.E.ET.H.REX.F. D.B.ET.L.D. S.R.I.A.T.ET.E' '1793' (translates to: King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Duke of Brunswick and Lüneburg, Arch-Treasurer and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire)
Reverse relief; a spade-shaped image i.e. (Crown with fleer de lies, above Shield with crowned lions in different postures, a harp, and other details)