1 – Victorian Sixpence and Gold Half Sovereign
The Victorian sixpence issued in 1887 had to be withdrawn half way through the year because they were so similar to half sovereigns that people were gold plating them and hoodwinking traders. They would buy something small and receive from the benevolent shopkeeper the change due from 10 shillings. Naughty
Victorian silver sixpences have always been very popular coins and it appears that this coin has been gilded in a gold colour – presumably to make it look like a half sovereign.
2 – Edward III Halfpenny
The Black Death started in 1348 during the reign of Edward III, and swept across Europe killing a third of the population. It is said to have arrived in Weymouth on the 25th June of that year (via a sailor) and quickly spread to surrounding villages in Dorset.
Geoffrey Chaucer was a young lad at the start of the Black Death pandemic and is recorded as not thinking much of the profession because of their inability to treat the disease. In the Canterbury Tales he indicates that his ‘doctor of phisyk’, although exceedingly well read, was a charlatan relying on astrology to treat his patients.
You can see a rather worn example of a medieval silver half penny of Edward III (dating to 1344 to 1351) on the PAS Database.
3 – Henry VIII Groat
The Henry VIII groat (4d) was minted in Bristol in 1547 and consisted mainly of copper with only a small silver component. The blanched silver surface soon wore away to reveal the copper alloy underneath earning Henry the nickname of Old Coppernose!
By the end of his reign in 1547, Henry VIII and the country were bankrupt. He debased the coinage and set up several mints to keep up with the demand for money.
0A Henry VIII Testoon (or shilling) – these debased coins earned him the nickname ‘Old Coppernose’ Courtesy of The Royal Mint
See my blogpost of 2016 – The Silver Threepence via Coppernose & Mr. Barford
4 – George I Gold Guinea
Guineas were introduced as coins of the realm in 1663 and were the first English machine-struck gold coins, and were originally worth one pound sterling or 20 shillings. Rises in the price of gold caused the value to increase to as high as 30 shillings, but it was eventually set to 21.
The coin was unofficially named after the region in West Africa where much of the gold was mined. Although the guinea is no longer circulated the term survives, noticeably in horse-racing.
5 – The ‘Godless’ Florin
Did you know that politicians first discussed the possibility of converting British currency to a decimal system in the 19th century? No, neither did I. It was in 1849 that they made the first step with the introduction of a ‘new’ florin inscribed with the words one tenth of a pound. Good try, but the public proved resistant to any tampering with pounds, shillings and pence (LSD), and it took well over another 100 years to change the system.
My friend Alistair Mackay has just sent me this interesting snippet of information . .
One of the series of patterns produced by William Wyon from which the ‘Godless Florin’ was selected is even more overtly decimal in nature! Interesting that, despite public resistance to decimalisation, the florin proved very popular and remained in production and is still with us in the form of 10 pence.
In 1966 Jim Callaghan announced a plan to chop the pound into 100 equal pieces. There were impassioned objections to no avail. The Decimal Currency Act was passed the following year.
I’ve re-joined FaceAche
Yes, I know. Just leave it, will yer!