The Northumberland Shilling . . . Eventually!

10th May 2019 — 6 Comments


In the late 1950’s, when I was but a spotty callow youth, scared of girls and inexperienced in the ways of the world, the silver shilling was of a higher quality. Maybe my memory fails me but did I handle Victorian copper coins still in circulation in the 1940’s? The condition was very poor. Here are some well-worn examples from my own collection.

© JW

Decimalisation has robbed Britain of what I consider to be a series of fine-looking coins. As well as the rabbit’s foot, my mother kept a fine Victorian florin ( two bob-bit ) in her purse as a good luck charm. I coveted that coin. Below – are two of my uncleaned coins, a half crown on the left and two-shilling piece found whilst metal detecting. You can see the quality compared to modern silver decimal coinage.

© JW

… and below,  a 1915 George V silver shilling (bob)

George V 1915 Silver Shilling © JW

When I found this shilling, I placed it in my special foam-lined finds’ tin as a good luck coin intended to bring me success in my searches. Didn’t work. When I showed it to my mate Dave, an experienced and knowledgeable detectorist, he made encouraging noises followed by, “What a pity it wasn’t a Northumberland Shilling.”


Dave went on to say that it was very unlikely that I would find a Northumberland shilling in Buckinghamshire, because not many were minted and they were distributed in Ireland. Figures. But I was intrigued and this is why . . .

The Northumberland Shilling is so called because the Earl of Northumberland as the new Lord Lieutenant of Dublin in 1763, distributed £100 worth of these new coins, some two (or three?) thousand pieces, whilst parading on the streets of Dublin. The shilling was intended to be a special issue commemorating the event. Owing to the scarcity of silver, no other shillings were struck until 1787. That explains why the Irish swinger has a better chance of finding one from 1763.

The first shillings of George III, dated 1763, are known as Northumberland shillings . . . Creative Commons



The term ‘bob’ is the subject of great debate, as the origins of this nickname are unclear although we do know that usage of ‘bob’ for shilling dates back to the late 1700s. Brewer’s 1870 Dictionary of Phrase and Fable states that ‘bob‘ could be derived from ‘Bawbee’, which was 16-19th century slang for a half-penny. Wikipedia



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6 responses to The Northumberland Shilling . . . Eventually!

  1. Any idea as to why there was a scarcity of sliver John??Seems an unusual reason since silver was/is a [comparatively] common metal..

    As usual.. a very good post.. and one last question; do you know if any Northumberland coins have been found?


  2. John from Ontario (AKA Geobound) 11th May 2019 at 5:27 AM

    Wouldn’t that be a spectacular find to make…………..and profitable too!

    I should have brought my detector with me when I toured Alnwick Castle a few years back. LOL……

    Your posts often send my brain into different directions John, and I find that I spin myself deeper and deeper into the web researching things that I didn’t know I was interested in at the time.

  3. Ray Swinnerton 11th May 2019 at 7:52 AM

    John, have you came across anyone who has dug one of the rare shillings in the UK?
    I guess a mention in The Searcher would find someone who has.

  4. nice read john, never heard of a northumberland shilling before

  5. Thanks John for a very informative read on these Northumberland Shillings, I see that there is some very authentic looking replicas of the same coin on ebay for around the £6 mark and there is also on ebay what is described as an original Northumberland Shilling for £1500 from Australia and this one looks no better than the replica type.

  6. Very first signal on my very first field in Lincolnshire was a spit ball mint Roman fibula brooch , couldn’t believe my luck
    I thought this is it, today is written I’ll find amazing things..
    I kissed the fibula and set back off …
    7 hours later, Nowt, not a thing hahahaha.
    Mint! I love this hobby .

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