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 Mad about coins

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In 1816, a major change in the British coinage takes place, which has mainly three causes : the Industrial Revolution which introduces new techniques of coinage, the richness of the British Empire and finally the talent of the engravers. These three facts combined explain why Great Britain had the most beautiful coins of the world until the middle of the 20th century.

In this page, all coins are scanned at 150 pixels per inch. here is a euro cent coin for comparison.

Bronze coins

The farthing

Diameter : 20.0 mm ; Weight : 2.8 grams

One needed forty-eight parts of a farthing to make one shilling. The farthing existed from 1672 to 1956, but it is in 1860 that it will be struck out of bronze with the format it will keep until its disappearance in 1956, i.e. with the diameter of 20 millimetres for a weight of 2.83 grams. The origins of the denomination : in first it was fourthing, because a quarter of...

The half-penny

Diameter : 25.0 mm ; Weight : 5.7 grams

The half-penny was equivalent to one 24th of shilling. The half-penny existed from 1672 to 1967, but like the farthing, it is only in 1860 that it adopts the proportions it will keep until 1967. It will be replaced by the new half-penny in 1971.

The penny

Diameter : 31.0 mm ; Weight : 9.4 grams

The penny was the twelfth part from one shilling. It always carried on the reverse the famous sitted Britannia. The penny is the continuation of a roman coin, Denarius or continental denier, its origin is thus very old, but it is only under George III that this coin is struck out of bronze and its format gradually reduced until the standard which will remain invariable from 1860 to 1967.

Silver coins

The three pence

Diameter : 16.0 mm ; Weight : 1,4 grams

One needed four coins of three pence to make one shilling. The coin of three pence existed since 1551. This silver coin of small diameter, weighting 1.4138 grams, was struck until 1944. Another coin of three pence out of brass, larger, of dodecagonal form, appeared in 1937 and lasted until 1967.

The four pence or Groat

Diameter : 16.0 mm ; Weight : 1,9 grams

There were four pennies in a groat. Groats circulated between the 14th and 17th centuries. For the 19th and 20th, the coin of four pence was not a current coin, i.e. it did not circulate and was only in sets of new coins, just as the silver coins of 3, 2 and 1 pence.

The six pence

Diameter : 19.0 mm ; Weight : 2,8 grams

The coin of six pence was worth one six pence. It existed since 1549. It kept the same proportions for a long time, its weight was 3.0100 grams. This coin was struck out of silver before Victoria until under the reign of George VI, in 1946. From 1947, it was struck out of copper-nickel until 1967. After the decimalization of the English coins, the six pence were accepted with the value of 2.5 new pence.

The shilling

Diameter : 24.0 mm ; Weight : 5,7 grams

To make one shilling, twelve pence were needed. This coin existed since 1548. The shilling was already out of silver under the reign of George III and remained so until 1946. The silver shilling weighed 5.6552 grams. From 1947, the shilling was struck out of copper-nickel, until 1967, date of its disappearance.

The florin

Diameter : 28.5 mm ; Weight : 11,3 grams

The silver coin of a florin was worth two shillings. There is an interisting fact to know concerning the English florin : this coin in the first attempt to introduce the decimal system into British coinage. The first florin appears in 1848 or 1849 and does not obtain a great success. It is in 1893, its diameter and its weight are definitively fixed. The silver florin weighed 11.3104 grams.

The half-crown

Diameter : 32.0 mm ; Weight : 14,1 grams

The silver coin of an half-crown was worth two shillings and a half. The half-crown existed since 1551. This coin did not vary in proportions nor in diameter nor in weight from 1818 to 1946, its silver weight was 14.1380 grams. From 1947 to 1967, it was struck out of copper-nickel and disappeared from circulation when the decimalization was adopted.

The crown

Diameter : 39.0 mm ; Weight : 28,3 grams

The silver coin of a crown was worth five shillings. The first English coin carrying this denomination appears in 1526, but it is a gold coin. It is in 1818, under George III, that a heavy silver coin is struck : it is called crown and is worth five shillings. The English silver crown will exist from the reign of George III to the one of George VI : the last English silver crown will be struck in 1937. Thereafter, in 1951 (festival of Great Britain), 1953 (crowning of Elizabeth II) and 1965 (homage to Churchill), it will be struck out of copper-nickel.

Gold coins

The sovereign

Diameter : 22.0 mm ; Weight : 7,99 grams

A sovereign was equivalent to a pound sterling. This gold coin replace the old English gold coin that was named Guinea ; guinea was worth twenty one shillings. The sovereign weights approximatively 8 grams (7.9881 grams exactly).

The half-sovereign

Diameter : 19.0 mm ; Weight : 3,99 grams

The half-sovereign was worth ten shillings. This coin approximately weights four grams (3.9940 grams very exactly).

The two sovereigns

The gold coin of two sovereigns was worth two pounds sterling. It weights about sixteen grams (15.9761 grams exactly).

The five sovereigns

The gold coin of five sovereigns was worth five pounds sterling. It weights about forty grams (39.9403 grams exactly).


*If you master English well, you will learn a lot more on webpages by Tony Clayton, I invite you to visit them while clicking on the following link :

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