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The Gold Coins of England

Robert Lloyd Kenyon, 1884
George III (1760-1820)

Table of Contents

GEORGE III, 1760 TO 1820.

The earlier coinages of George III consisted of guineas and half-guineas of the same standard, weight, and value as those of his grandfather, with the addition of one issue, in 1762, of quarter guineas. An indenture made between the king and the Honourable C. S. Cadogan, master of the mint, in 1770, provided for the making of five and two-guinea pieces, guineas, half-guineas, seven shilling pieces, and quarter guineas; but it was declared that the master should not be obliged to coin seven-shilling pieces or quarter guineas except when he should be ordered to do so by the king or the lord high treasurer or the commissioners of the Treasury for the time being. Patterns of five-guinea pieces were made in 1770, 1773, and 1777, and of two-guinea pieces in 1768, 1773, and 1777, but none were ever issued for circulation; the only quarter guineas made during this reign were those issued in 1762, and a pattern in 1764; and although patterns for seven shilling pieces were made in 1775 and 1776, none were issued for circulation till 1797.

In 1774 the gold coins in circulation had become very much diminished in weight by filing and other malpractices, while those issued new from the mint were melted down and exported; and accordingly an Act of that year called in and made no longer current (except for payment of taxes) all gold coins below a weight, which was fixed by proclamation at 128 grs. to the guinea for coins made since Dec. 31st, 1771, and at 126 grs. for earlier coins; and in 1776 all coins weighing less than 128 grs. to the guinea were made no longer current. In 1797, there being very great lack of silver money, a proclamation was issued for giving currency to a new gold coin of the value of 7s, which was intended to some extent to supply the deficiency. It was to be of the same standard as the other gold coins, and to weigh 43.146 grs., being almost exactly one-third of a guinea. These pieces continued to be coined down to 1813.

In the year 1800 the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland were united, and on the 1st January following, a proclamation was issued that from thenceforth his Majesty’s royal style and title should be Georgius Tertius, Dei Gratia Britanniarum Rex, Fidei Defensor; and that the arms of the United Kingdom should be, quarterly, first and fourth England, second Scotland, third Ireland; and on an escutcheon of pretence the arms of his Majesty’s dominions in Germany, ensigned with the electoral bonnet, for which in 1817, in consequence of the treaty of Vienna having erected the Electorate of Hanover into a kingdom, was substituted a royal crown. This change, by which the title and arms of France were tacitly abandoned, was immediately carried out upon the coins.

In 1813 was the last coinage of guineas, half-guineas and seven-shilling pieces; in 1816 gold coins were made the sole standard measure of value and legal tender, the silver coins being diminished in weight and made legal tender for 40s only; and in 1817 a new coinage was issued of sovereigns and half-sovereigns, the sovereign to weigh 123.27447 grs. and to be current for 20s, and the half-sovereign in proportion. No alteration was made in the fineness of the metal, but the type was entirely different from that of the guinea, having St. George and the Dragon on the reverse, and the coins themselves were smaller and thicker. No sovereigns lighter than 122 grs. were to be current, nor half-sovereigns lighter than 61¼ grs. Guineas, &c., when not below the weights fixed in 1776, were to remain current money.

The following are the types and dates of the gold coins struck for circulation in England during this long reign.

GUINEAS. Type 1. Bust to right, laureate, wreath curved, the tye has two ends, hair long, curling towards the face, no drapery. GEORGIVS. III. DEI GRATIA Rev. shield garnished, crowned, similar to that of George II, and arms arranged in the same way. M. B. F. ET. H. REX. F. D. B. ET. L. D. S. R. I. A. T. ET. E. Date 1761. (160) Rud. Suppl. pt. 2, pl. iii. 10. MB. Type 2. Bust to right, laureate, no laurel berries, tye has two ends, hair long and curly, a lock in front of left shoulder, no drapery. Legends and rev, as type 1. 1763, 1764. Both in MB. Rud. Suppl. vi. 28. Type 3. Similar to the last, but the head larger, the laurel extending upwards within the legend and bearing berries. 1765 to 1773 inclusive. (161) MB. On one specimen of 1773 in MB. the berries are omitted.

The dies for all the preceding coins were engraved by Yeo; those for the next were by Thomas Pingo. Type 4. Large bust to right, laureate, dividing the legend above and below, tye has two ends, hair curls forward on both shoulders and under the bust, concealing the back of the neck. Legends and rev, as before. 1774, 1775, 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, 1781, 1782, 1783, 1784, 1785, 1786. (162) All in MB. Type 5. In 1787 a new type was adopted, for which the dies were engraved by Lewis Pingo. Smaller bust, not dividing the legend above, to right, laureate, the tye has a loop and two ends, and encloses all the hair behind, curl on right shoulder. Rev, spade-shaped shield, whence the coin has obtained the name of the spade guinea; crowned, not garnished; the crown is small, and differs from the previous ones in having the arches angular. Legends same as type 1, but that on the reverse begins at the bottom of the coin and is not interrupted by the shield or crown. The date is at the bottom of the coin under the shield. All dates occur from 1787 to 1799 inclusive, and all are in the Museum except that of 1796. (163).

Type 6. After 1799 the only guineas issued were those of 1813, the dies for which were by Lewis Pingo, who copied the bust from a model by Marchant. The obverse has a small bust of the king, to right, laureate, the tye has a bow and two long ends, hair short, neck bare, legend GEORGIVS III DEI GRATIA, not interrupted by the king’s head. The king’s title and arms having been changed in 1801, the reverse is different from the previous ones. The shield is small and angular, bearing 1 and 4 England, 2 Scotland, 3 Ireland, with the arms of the German dominions on an escutcheon of pretence surmounted by the Electoral cap. The shield is inclosed within the garter inscribed HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE, with a small crown above; legend commencing at top BRITANNIARUM REX FIDEI DEFENSOR. In the field under the shield is the date, 1813. (164) MB.

HALF GUINEAS. Type 1. Bust to right, laurel wreath with berries, tye has two ends, hair long, descending below the bust, no drapery. Legends and rev, like the first guinea. 1762. (165) MB. Type 2. Like the second guinea, but the tye encloses one lock of hair. 1763. Rud. Suppl. vi. 29. MB. Type 3. Like the last, but laurel bearing berries, the tye less bent, and not enclosing any hair, dates 1764, 1765, 1766, 1772, 1773, 1774. (166) All in MB. Type 4. The later half-guineas of 1774 and those of 1775 (167), 1776, 1777, 1778, 1781, 1784, 1785, 1786, are copied from the guinea of 1774, but those of 1774 and 1775 are of inferior workmanship to the coins of the subsequent years. All in MB. Type 5. Same as the guinea of 1787. Dates 1787, 1788, 1789, 1790, 1791, 1793, 1794, 1795, 1796, 1797, 1798, 1800. All in MB. Type 6. Obverse as the last, reverse like the guinea of 1813, but letters smaller. 1801, 1802, 1803. (168) All in MB. Type 7. Same as the guinea of 1813, but letters on rev, smaller. 1804, 1806, 1808, 1809, 1810, 1811, 1813. All in MB. Rud. Suppl. pt. ii., pl. iii. 13.

SEVEN SHILLING PIECES. Type 1. Bust to right, laureate, hair short, tye has two loops and two long ends, neck bare. GEORGIVS III DEI GRATIA. Rev, a crown, with angular arches, of the same shape as on the guineas of 1787. Legend beginning at bottom of coin, MAG. BRI. FR. ET. RIB. REX. Date at bottom of coin, under the crown. 1797, 1798, 1799, 1800. All in MB. (169) Rud. Suppl. pt. ii. pl. iii. 12. Type 2. After the union with Ireland and change of the king’s titles. Like the previous ones, but rev, legend + BRITANNIARUM REX FIDEI DEFENSOR beginning at top of coin. Date in field under the crown, 1801, 1802, 1803. (170) All in MB. Type 3. Obverse like the guineas of 1813, reverse same as last, except that there is a mullet instead of a cross at beginning of legend. 1804, 1806, 1808, 1809, 1810, 1811, 1813. Very few were issued of this last year. Mr. Cuff had one, but there is no specimen in the British Museum, which has all the rest. (171) The dies for all are by L. Pingo, but the bust on type 3 is copied by him from Marchant’s model.

QUARTER GUINEAS. These were only issued in 1762, and are of the same type as the guinea of 1763. (172) Rud. Suppl. vi. 30. MB.

SOVEREIGNS. Weight 123.27447 grs. These are much smaller and thicker coins than the guineas. They have on the obverse the king’s head to right, laureate, hair short; the tye has a loop and two ends; neck bare. Legend commencing at bottom of coin, GEORGIUS III D : G : BRITANNIAR : REX F : D : Date at bottom of coin under bust, 1817, 1818, 1820. Rev. St. George and the Dragon within the garter, which takes the place of the legend and is inscribed with its usual motto, HONI. SOIT. QUI. MAL. Y. PENSE. On the ground, under the broken shaft of the spear, are the letters BP incuse, the initials of the artist, B. Pistrucci; but they are extremely small, and on many coins hardly visible. (173) Rud. Suppl. pt. ii. pl. xiv. 6. MB. This device was originally intended for a gem to be engraved for Lord Spencer, but Sir Joseph Banks having seen and admired it, recommended its adoption on the forthcoming coinage.

HALF SOVEREIGNS. Weight 61.63723 grs. Bust same as the sovereigns, legend GEORGIUS III DEI GRATIA, beginning at bottom of coin. Date at bottom, under head, 1817, 1818, 1820. Rev. Angular shield, crowned, bearing 1 and 4 England, 2 Scotland, 3 Ireland, the German dominions on an escutcheon of pretence surmounted by a royal crown. Legend beginning at bottom,. interrupted by the crown, °BRITANNIARUM REX FID: DEF: (174). Rud. Suppl. pt. ii. p1. xiv. 7. MB.

gua. ½ gua. 7s. ¼ gua.
1761 First bust, by Yeo +
1762 Similar bust +
1762 Second bust, by Yeo +
1763 Second bust, by Yeo + +
1764 Second bust, by Yeo +
1764 Third bust, by Yeo +
1765 Third bust, by Yeo + +
1766 Third bust, by Yeo + +
1767 Third bust, by Yeo +
1768 Third bust, by Yeo +
1769 Third bust, by Yeo +
1770 Third bust, by Yeo +
1771 Third bust, by Yeo +
1772 Third bust, by Yeo + +
1773 Third bust, by Yeo ++ +
1774 Third bust, by Yeo +
1774 Bust by T. Pingo + +
1775 Bust by T. Pingo + +
1776 Bust by T. Pingo + +
1777 Bust by T. Pingo + +
1778 Bust by T. Pingo + +
1779 Bust by T. Pingo +
1781 Bust by T. Pingo + +
1782 Bust by T. Pingo +
1783 Bust by T. Pingo +
1784 Bust by T. Pingo + +
1785 Bust by T. Pingo + +
1786 Bust by T. Pingo + +
1787 Bust by L. Pingo + +
1788 Bust by L. Pingo + +
1789 Bust by L. Pingo + +
1790 Bust by L. Pingo + +
1791 Bust by L. Pingo + +
1792 Bust by L. Pingo +
1793 Bust by L. Pingo + +
1794 Bust by L. Pingo + +
1795 Bust by L. Pingo + +
1796 Bust by L. Pingo +
1797 Bust by L. Pingo + + +
1798 Bust by L. Pingo + + +
1799 Bust by L. Pingo + +
1800 Bust by L. Pingo + +
1801 Bust by L. Pingo, after the Union   + +
1802 Bust by L. Pingo, after the Union + +
1803 Bust by L. Pingo, after the Union + +
1804 Bust by Marchant + +

gua. ½ gua. 7s.
1806 Bust by Marchant + +
1808 Bust by Marchant + +
1809 Bust by Marchant + +
1810 Bust by Marchant + +
1811 Bust by Marchant + +
1813 Bust by Marchant   + + Cuff

Sov. ½ Sov.
1817 Bust by Pistrucci   + +
1818 Bust by Pistrucci + +
1820 Bust by Pistrucci + +

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