Coins. Did You Know?

23rd August 2019 — 21 Comments

1 – Victorian Sixpence and Gold Half Sovereign

(L) Sixpence & Half Sovereign (R)

The Victorian sixpence issued in 1887 had to be withdrawn half way through the year because they were so similar to half sovereigns that people were gold plating them and hoodwinking traders.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.

Edward III Silver Halfpenny

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.

Charles II (1660-85), gold Guinea, 1663, struck from 22 carat gold supplied by the African Company, elephant below first laureate head right, Latin legend and toothed border surrounding both sides, Courtesy of Charles II (1660-85), gold Guinea, 1663, struck from 22 carat gold supplied by the African Company, elephant below first laureate head right, Latin legend and toothed border surrounding both sides, Courtesy VCoins

Read the story of the Royal African Company mark by clicking on this link

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.

The 1849 ‘Godless’ Florin. The obverse features the crowned head of young Victoria facing left, with hair in a plait around her ear. The legend reads:’ VICTORIA REGINA’, and the date. The reverse shows four crowned shields in cruciform, each with coats of arms representing UK union members: (England, Scotland, Ireland). Surrounding the design are the words ‘ONE FLORIN’ and ‘ONE TENTH OF A POUND’ This, the first issue, is known as the “Godless florin” (or, in some earlier sources, the ‘Graceless florin’) because the legend omitted the traditional ‘DEI GRATIA’ (By the Grace of God). After much public outcry, the second (‘Gothic’) issue starting in 1850 included it again.


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.

Picture supplied by Alistair

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!

Сир Јохн Винтер, one of my 4321 rather special friends, has just invited me to join the Arsey Camo Excavators (ACE Polish Division), a new metal defecting group. I was thrilled (and just a little curious) when the request arrived and realised this was a rather special unit when I was asked to attend the inaugural dig. “You are invited to ACE’s Special Dig for celebrities and Old Gits”, it read, ‘CONFIRM PASSWORD to RSVP’.The following text reassured me that registration was easy peasy.

Scene from Detectorists

At this stage, I should have binned the email, but didn’t. Yes. I am also a Stupid Old Fart with memory problems. If I ever had a password, I’d forgotten it, so I clicked on the arrow button in the box that asked: ‘FORGOTTEN YOUR PASSWORD.

Up came a message saying ‘REGISTER’. I could remember my email, so I easily managed to fill in the first box. I was feeling on top of things. But then the next box said ‘PASSWORD’ . . . and I was flummoxed once again.

I felt like Alice in Wonderland trapped in her bliddy rabbit hole. I filled . . . and dropped a glass of precious Pinot. Then I was confronted by nine widows and asked to tick how many contained a traffic sign, thus assuring them that I wasn’t a robot. Failed. Poured another glass of wine.

I was then asked to provide my grandmother’s maiden name, postcode, name of first car, passport number and favourite football team.  After half an hour, I still hadn’t registered. “Bloggocks”, I murmured, and gave up.

This was intended to be a follow-up to my earlier ‘password’ blog-post, but I’ve now lost the will to live. Let’s call it  ‘a work in progress’.


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21 responses to Coins. Did You Know?

  1. I remember in a past life buying forged £1 coins for 25p each, and forged £20 for £7 each …. it’s something that will always happen .
    Great times my friend hahaha

  2. Some great information and reading thanks John

  3. Looks like you have spent some time compiling the coin info. Very interesting.
    I usually fail the robot test for how many cars or traffic lights, most annoying.

  4. You are invited to ACE’s Special Dig for celebrities and Old Gits”, it read,,.. So, John.. are the old git; or the celebrity!!!LOL.. An interesting look into Brit coinage.. thank you my friend


  5. John from Ontario (AKA Geobound) 24th August 2019 at 3:17 AM

    Old Copper Nose!! I love it! Hahahaha…..

    We have a well known chain store in Canada called Canadian Tire, and they have their own paper currency. Well I remember having some with me on a trip to Mexico in my early 20’s, and using it to purchase alcohol at the local.

    Funny how you don’t think of it a fraud when you’re young, but cringe when you think of what the outcome could have been if you got caught.

    Another fun read John, thanks.

    P.S. I love the addition of Johnny Flynn and the scrolling picture section of you.

  6. Nice history lesson John. You should be a teacher.

  7. As one of the hobbies oldest Old Gits I read your post with interest.

    Mind you once in a while I can still give the younger folks a run for their money.

    Keep taking the tablets John.

    Your old friend Jerry.

  8. gave me a start John. Went and checked my half sovereign 🙂

  9. Great coin review, thanks John.

  10. i think finding a forgerey is better some times as it has a bit more history about it and the risks taken by those who did it

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