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Cook’s first voyage marked by coins

Reverses of Britain’s BU base metal, silver, and gold proofs struck to mark the 250th anniversary of the commencement of Lieutenant James Cook’s first voyage. (Images courtesy & © The Royal Mint)

On Aug. 26, 1768, HMB Endeavour set sail from Plymouth on a three-year voyage of discovery. On board were a crew of 73 sailors and 12 Royal Marines plus assorted scientists and their assistants. They were commanded by 40-year-old Lt. James Cook. Today, that Voyage of Discovery along with Cook and his Endeavour are a cherished part of world history.

Britain’s Royal Mint has commenced a three-year series to mark the 250th anniversary of Cook’s epic voyage. This past month saw launch of the first £2 coin.

The 28.40 mm piece comes in three finishes: a BU cupronickel core with a nickel brass ring (12.00 g), a .925 fine silver proof with a .999 fine gold-plated ring (12.00 g), and a proof .9167 fine yellow gold core with a .9167 fine red gold ring (15.97 g). All coins bear the edge inscription OCEANI INVESTIGATOR ACERRIMVS [Most intrepid investigator of the seas], the legend that appeared on Lewis Pingo’s 1784 Royal Society medal honoring Cook. Mintages are unlimited, 7,500 and 1,000, respectively.

The reverse designs for the entire BRM series is by Gary Breeze. They combine to create a single image that tells the story of Cook’s first voyage. That of the first coin shows his departure.

One little-known fact about this first voyage concerns Cook’s return on July 12, 1771. It was quite unexpected. The media of the time had long given up the Endeavour and its crew as either lost at sea or destroyed by the French.


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