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English Coins IV

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Hanover To House Of Windsor

On the death of Queen Anne in 1714 the crown was offered to George Louis, elector of Hanover, and on his accession to the English throne he placed his German titles on some of the English coins. These somewhat lengthy titles are abbreviated as follows: GEORGIUS.DG.M.S.FR.ET.HIB.REX.FD. and continue on the reverse BRVN.ET.L.DVX.S.R.LA.TH.ET.EL meaning `George, by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Duke of Brunswick and Luneburg, Arch Treasurer and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire'. The royal arms on the coins were also changed so that the Hanoverian arms could be included in the fourth quarter.

On some crowns, half-crowns, shillings and sixpences struck in 1723, the letters ssc were placed in the angles of the cross on the reverse. This was to denote that the silver was brought to the mint by the South Sea Company of `South Sea Bubble' fame. Two other companies supplied silver to the mint, the `Welsh Copper Company' whose initials wcc were placed below the king's bust and the `Company for smelting down Lead with Pitcoale and Seacoale', denoted by roses and plumes in the angles of the cross on the reverse.

Halfpennies and farthings were again issued between 1717 and 1724. Halfpennies issued in 1717 and 1718 and farthings issued in 1717 were struck on a rather dumpy flan whereas later issues have a large one.

Coins struck from captured Spanish bullion were again issued in 1745 and 1746. These have the word LIMA below the bust of George II indicating that the bullion was provided by Admiral Anson mainly from a captured Spanish plate ship, the "Nuestra Senora de Covadonga" encountered en route from Acapulco to Manila.

The coins struck during the reign of George II, generally speaking, may be divided into two types, those bearing a youthful portrait of the king and those struck later with an older head.

Gold coins from the five guineas to the half-guinea, together with the silver from the crown to the sixpence were struck with both portraits. The halfpennies and farthings also bear both portraits but on the Maundy Money the portrait does not change and retains the young bust throughout.

George III succeeded his grandfather in 1760 and during his long reign several innovations were made in the coinage. The highest denomination to be struck was the guinea; patterns for five and two-guinea pieces were struck but no specimens were issued for circulation. Third-guineas were struck for the first time in 1797 and again an issue of quarter-guineas (the last had been made in 1718 under George I) was made in 1762 but the denomination was not a success and was only issued in the one year. Two new copper coins were also struck. Copper twopences and pennies dated 1797 were struck by Matthew Boulton on a steam press produced in collaboration with James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine. These coins, weighing two ounces and one ounce respectively, were so expertly produced that forgery of them was made virtually impossible. Pennies and halfpennies of a different design were again issued in 1806 and 1807.

Between 1775 and 1797 no copper coins were struck at all and again the private traders and industries took it upon themselves to produce their own tokens to alleviate the difficult situation. Vast numbers of these eighteenth-century tokens were produced, many of them being made payable in more than one city and many of them were not in fact genuine traders' tokens at all, but were produced for collectors, the collecting of coins being rather fashionable at this time. Following the issue of copper coins in 1807, the price of copper became high and prevented Boulton from obtaining it at an economic figure. Again, therefore, copper tokens made their appearance in 1811 with legends such as ONE PENNY PAYABLE AT BILSTON/BRADLEY BILSTON & PRIESTFIELD. COLLIERIES & IRON WORKS, reflecting the growth of industry during the early nineteenth century.

One of the commonest gold coins of the reign of George III is the `spade' guinea. These coins, struck between 1787 and 1799 are so named because of the spade-like shield that is used as the reverse design. Many brass counters exist, made in imitation of the spade guinea, and bear such inscriptions as IN MEMORY oF THE GOOD OLD DAYS. These have been made for use at card games.

The age-old problem of how to prevent the export of silver to the Continent was by no means settled in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and to alleviate the critical shortage of silver coins the mint decided in 1797 to buy a quantity of Spanish eightreal pieces and to counter-stamp them with a punch bearing the head of George III. The fact that these pieces were lighter than the English crown and circulated at 4s 9d gave rise to the saying, `two king's heads not worth a crown'. Later, when the price of silver rose, these countermarked dollars were revalued at Ss and it was decided not to continue countermarking the Spanish coins but to overstrike them with an entirely new design, the coin being known as the Bank of England dollar.

In 1816, in order to straighten out the somewhat complicated situation, it was decided to have a re-coinage. The Royal Mint was re-equipped with the new steam-powered machinery and moved from its cramped quarters in the Tower to a new site on Tower Hill. The gold coinage was revalued and coins to the value of 20s and its fractions instead of 21s were struck. These new coins were called sovereigns. Patterns for five-and two-pound pieces were struck but were never adopted and the sovereign issued between 1817 and 1820, together with the half-sovereign, became the highest denominations issued. The silver crown was not struck until 1818 but half-crowns, shillings and sixpences of the new design had been struck since 1816 and were struck each year until the death of the king in 1820.

A pattern for a five-pound piece was produced during the reign of George IV but the design was never adopted. Two-pound pieces were, however, issued together with sovereigns and half sovereigns.

Silver coins of the same denominations as the previous reign were again issued, together with the Maundy Money which was struck in every year with the exception of 1821. Pennies, halfpennies and farthings were also coined and also two new denominations, copper half- and third-farthings. These, strictly speaking, are not English coins as they were intended for use in the colonies, the half-farthings being struck in 1828 and 1830 and the third-farthings only in 1827.

George IV was an unpopular king; during his early years he had been strictly disciplined, a fact which no doubt led him into the somewhat tortuous romantic intrigues in which he became involved. Despite the fact that he was commonly called the `first gentleman of Europe', news of his death was received by many people with some feelings of relief and during subsequent reigns his extravagances were remembered with disgust.

William IV, `the sailor King', altered the coinage but little from his predecessor. The largest gold coin, the two-pound piece, was never issued for circulation and only appears in the proof sets of 1831. The crown too, only appears as a proof, but some specimens turn up in rather worn condition nowadays, indicating that they may have slipped into circulation by mistake. Owing to the fact that the crown completes a `type' set of crown pieces for the collector of English coins, it is now a much sought after coin and commands a high price.

Groats (fourpenny pieces) bearing the figure of Britannia seated, were struck in 1836 and 1837 and continued to be struck with the same design during the early years of Victoria's reign.

Half- and third-farthings were again struck for use in the colonies together with a new coin, the three-halfpence, that first appeared in 1834. This latter coin was only struck between 1834 and 1837 during William's reign, but was also issued between 1838 and 1843 and in 1860, 1862 and 1870 by Victoria.

The reign of Victoria may be divided into three periods; coins struck between 1838 and 1887, bearing the young head of the queen, from 1887 to 1893 with the `Jubilee' head and from 1893 to 1901 with an older portrait. During the first period the highest denomination issued for circulation was the sovereign. The crown was first struck in 1839 but only as a proof and it was not until 1844 that large numbers were issued for circulation. The year 1847 saw the striking of a rather unusual coin which is a typical example of Victorian art but which is nevertheless a rather delightful coin; this was the so-called `Gothic' crown. These coins were never issued for circulation, but a comparatively large number of proofs were struck and so examples of this coin can today be obtained at a reasonable figure. A similar design was adopted for the florin in 1851 and since the date appears on the obverse of the coin in Roman numerals, it is often thought by the uninitiated to have no date at all. The first florin had been struck in 1849 with a bust similar to that on the Gothic crown and had earned itself the name `Godless' florin because the letters D:G: or Dei Gratia (By the Grace of God) were omitted from the design.

The other silver denominations together with the copper coins bear the uncrowned young head of the queen which was altered in 1887 to that of the crowned `Jubilee' head; no copper coins were struck with this type, however. In 1860 bronze coins were introduced to replace the large copper coins which were rather clumsy and soon became worn because of the softness of the metal and the amount of circulation they received. The young head was maintained until 1894 on the pennies and halfpennies, 1895 on the farthings and 1885 on the third-farthings.

The obverse design for the `Jubilee' coins was by Sir J. Boehm, the engraving for the dies being executed by L. C. Wyon who also designed the reverse. Although the general design for the obverse is a good one, the result is spoilt by an over-small crown balanced none too securely on top of the Queen's head. Five-pound and two-pound pieces, together with sovereigns and half-sovereigns were produced in large quantities and today these are some of the commonest gold coins in the English series. Double-florins or four shilling pieces were struck for the first time in 1887 and continued until 1890, by which time they had become so unpopular that the issue was discontinued. The reverses used for both gold and silver during the period 1887 to 1893 did not alter with the exception of the sixpence. The original design for this coin had been the usual crowned bust of the queen on the obverse whilst the reverse bore a crowned shield. The result was a marked similarity to the half-sovereign, a fact which was noted by some unscrupulous members of the public who proceeded to gild the sixpences and pass them off as half-sovereigns. During the latter part of 1887 therefore, the reverse design was altered by putting the word sixpence within a laurel wreath.

In 1893 the Jubilee type was replaced by a portrait more suited to the queen who was now in her seventy-fourth year and depicts a much older bust wearing a coronet from which flows a long veil (PLATE IX, 4). The letters uNm:nvm are also included in her titles on these coins; she had become Empress of India in 1876 but this fact had not previously been noted on the coinage.

Edward VII who succeeded Victoria in 1901 continued to issue the same denominations as his mother and no new values were struck.

George V also followed the same pattern of coinage as his predecessor but more variety of types occurs during the reign due to there being two different reverse designs for most of the coins and some slight variations in the bust on the obverse.

Following the 1914-18 war, the price of silver rose alarmingly until in 1920 the coins were worth more for the metal than their face value. Consequently a debased silver coinage containing only fifty per cent silver was issued. George V's Jubilee was celebrated in 1935 and to commemorate this a crown piece with a new design was issued. The reverse design is St George on a spirited horse rearing over a dragon. This design by Percy Metcalfe is a very modernistic one and has earned little admiration from collectors.

Some of the pennies struck in 1912 have a small H in the exergue, whilst some dated 1918 and 1919 have a small H or HN on them; this denotes that they were struck by either Messrs Heaton & Co., or the Kings Norton Copper Company.

After the death of George V in January 1936 new dies were prepared for the coinage of Edward VIII. It is believed that a few of the twelve-sided threepenny pieces were sent to slot machine manufacturers to obtain their comments on this coin, the shape of which was new to the English coinage and a very few of these were not returned to the mint and have since got into the hands of collectors.

Edward VIII coins struck for the various Commonwealth countries (East and West Africa, Fiji and New Guinea) are quite common. Since these coins are pierced with a centre hole there is naturally no portrait of Edward on them.

The coins issued by George VI were originally struck in fifty per cent silver but in 1947 the coinage was debased still further to its present composition of cupro-nickel. One other important change took place in the reign: this was the relinquishing of the title Emperor of India in 1947 which title was therefore subsequently omitted from the inscription on the coins in 1949.

Sets of gold coins consisting of proof five- and two-pound pieces together with sovereigns and half-sovereigns were issued in 1937. Proof sets of the silver and copper coins were also issued in this year. Two types of shilling were struck; the English type with the royal lion standing on a crown and the Scottish type, issued as a compliment to the queen's Scottish ancestry, which has the Scottish lion seated facing holding a sword in one paw and the sceptre in the other.

The crown piece was only struck in two years-1937 and 1951, the latter being in commemoration of the Festival of Britain-a national exhibition of British achievements and industry. It also commemorated the centenary of the great exhibition of 1851 and incidentally the four hundredth anniversary of the introduction of the silver crown into the British coinage. The edge of the coin is lettered and reads MDCCCLI CIVIUM INDUSTRIA FLORET CIVITAS MCMLI (1851 By the industry of its people the State flourishes 1951).

In the reign of our present queen, only two types have as yet appeared. In 1954 the words axM: oraN were omitted from the coins since they were considered as not being entirely in keeping with the modern conception of royalty. Both English and Scottish types of shillings have been issued each year and two crown pieces have also been struck; the coronation crown of 1953, the obverse type of which is reminiscent of the first crown of Edward VI since the queen is depicted as an equestrian figure. The crown dated 1960 reverts to the customary profile of the queen's head. With the exception of sovereigns struck in 1957, '58 and '59 as part of a 10,000,000 order from the Treasury, no other gold coins have been struck during the reign of Elizabeth II. The reverse of these coins bears the St George and dragon design which was originally produced by Pistrucci for the 1818 crown.