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Letter outlining Britain's first lottery up for auction

Insider BuzzInsider Buzz: Letter outlining Britain's first lottery up for auction

The British tradition of national lottery has been traced back to the 16th century — when a jackpot of £5,000 was up for grabs and participants had to wait three years to find out if they were winners.

A letter has emerged from Queen Elizabeth I, written in 1566, which gives instructions for collecting money, commanding that persons of 'good trust' be entrusted with the prizes.

The letter was written to Sir John Spencer, advising of 400,000 lots, each costing 10 shillings, with prizes to be paid in a combination of gold and merchandise, including tapestries, linens and fine fabrics.

The jackpot of £5,000 is equivalent to £850,000 pounds today (US$1.3 million), and part of the money raised from ticket sales went to good causes, as is the case in today's lottery.

The letter states: 'Where we have com[m]anded a ceratine carte of a Lotterie to be published by our Shirif of Countie in the principall townes of the same...' And continues: '...it is expedient to have somme persons appointed of good trust to receave such particular sommes as our subjects shall of their owne free disposition be ready to deliver upon the said lotterie.'

Monies raised, it states, shall be 'employed to good and publique acts and beneficially for o[u]r Realme and o[u]r Subjects.'

The letter states that out of every pound sterling, Spencer was allowed sixpence to pay the collectors.

It also stated that he was to issue books of numbers and tickets.

As a final incentive to Spencer, for every £500 pounds sent to London, a further 50 shillings was promised to him.

The draw was not held until three years later 1569, due to a lack of support and the logistics in selling the tickets around the country.

This lottery died out but there were similar draws held between 1750 and 1826.

The letter, which is signed with Elizabeth's distinctive flourishing signature, is expected to sell for £20,000 - four times the original jackpot — at auction.

Richard Davie, from International Autograph Auctions, who is selling the letter, said: 'This letter shows that the idea of a lottery to raise money is nothing new.

'Tickets were sold and a jackpot was drawn and the money raised was intended for good causes.

'It was exactly like the one we have today, although they didn't have scratch cards.

'This was not an instant success because the draw did not happen until three years after Elizabeth sent her instructions to Sir John Spencer.

'The letter includes a good blind embossed paper seal and is two pages long with her distinctive, flourishing signature.

'It is a unique item and highly collectable. It has been put up for sale by a collector and there will be interest from a number of enthusiasts.'

The sale is on Sunday at the Edwardian Radisson Hotel at Heathrow in London.

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

Thanks to myturn for the tip.

Daily Mail

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4 comments. Last comment 6 years ago by time*treat.
Page 1 of 1
fwlawrence's avatar - Yavill
United States
Member #9378
December 6, 2004
210 Posts
Posted: June 14, 2010, 10:50 am - IP Logged

Anything about who won the prize and what they did with it? It would be interesting to see if they invested it and now have decendants living off the interest. Probably not though.


    United States
    Member #85338
    January 13, 2010
    143 Posts
    Posted: June 14, 2010, 12:26 pm - IP Logged

    3 years to find out if they won?    Why couldn't they just check on LotteryPost? Wink LOL

      ThatScaryChick's avatar - x1MqPuM
      United States
      Member #56506
      November 21, 2007
      6537 Posts
      Posted: June 14, 2010, 1:56 pm - IP Logged

      Oh wow, that would really be cool to own. But I don't have an extra £20,000 to buy it. LOL

      "No one remembers the person who almost climbed the mountain, only the person who eventually gets to the top."

        time*treat's avatar - radar

        United States
        Member #13130
        March 30, 2005
        2171 Posts
        Posted: June 14, 2010, 2:04 pm - IP Logged

        Had me at "with prizes to be paid in a combination of gold and merchandise"Lover


        In neo-conned Amerika, bank robs you.
        Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms should be the name of a convenience store, not a govnoment agency.