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Florin Coins of England and Great Britain

In 1966, a decision was made in Great Britain to adopt a decimal system of money and this system went into effect on 15 February 1971. There was, however, an earlier attempt at going to a decimal system back in 1849 during the reign of Victoria with the introduction of a coin bearing the name florin. The florin of 1849 was worth two shillings or one-tenth of a pound. Victoria's coin was not the first to bear this name, however. The first florin was the Italian one struck in gold in 1253 in Florence from which the name is derived.


1849 Godless Florin
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The Italian coin was very popular and quickly imitated in Europe. In 1344, Edward III of England issued his own gold coin valued at six shillings and having a weight of 108 grains. This coin was also called a florin and also a double leopard from the two leopard heads that are on either side of the seated figure of the king on the obverse. It was also struck in a half which was also known as a leopard from the leopard with banner on the obverse. Finally, there was struck also a quarter, also called a helm after the helmet on the obverse. With the exception of a very rare (and unpopular) penny (worth 20 silver pennies) struck in 1257 under Henry III, the coins of Edward III were the first gold ones struck in England in about 350 years.

There is some confusion about whether the largest coin is more correctly called a florin or a double florin. Spink, in it's earlier editions, calls the large coin a florin and the two smaller ones a half- and quarter-florin respectively. In later editions, however, the large coin is a double-florin and the smaller ones a florin and half-florin. The only agreement is in the names of double leopard, leopard, and helm. The confusion stems from the proclamation defining the coin. From Kenyon in 1884, Accordingly, in that year [1343] an indenture was made between the king and the masters and workers and changers of the money, according to which three monies of gold were to be made; one, which was called a florin, to be current at 6s, to be equal in weight to two petit florins of Florence of good weight, i.e., 108 grains; and of the same fineness, namely, 23 carats 3½ grains pure gold to ½ grain alloy; and the half and quarter florin in proportion. The 'equal in weight to two petit florins of Florence' is where part of the discrepancy in names comes in. The proclamation of 27 January 1343, itself, states “one coin with two leopards, each piece to be current for six shillings, another piece of one leopard, and another piece of one helm, being respectively the half and quarter of the larger coin, and of proportional value”


1856 Gothic Florin
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Unlike the Italian florin, Edward's florin was not very popular and was soon superceded by the noble. Thus it was not until 1849 that another coin was issued in England or Great Britain bearing the name florin; this time in silver.

The first florin of Victoria also ran into problems. The legends were simple and the one on the reverse was just the value--ONE FLORIN ONE TENTH OF A POUND. The obverse was just as simple and is where the trouble came from. It simply read: VICTORIA REGINA 1849. The traditional DEI GRATIA having been dropped. Dei Gratia is Latin for By the Grace of God and these first florin came to be known as Graceless or Godless.


1887 Jubilee Florin
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This situation was remedied two years later with the introduction of the Gothic style florin. The reverse of this coin bore the same legend but with a gothic style of text. The obverse, in the same style, now included the words Dei Gratia. An even further departure from normal was the date was given in Roman numerals. The first of these is a rare example from 1851 which bears the date as mdcccli. The style of the portrait was the same as that of the Gothic crown of 1847.

The Gothic florin was struck until Victoria's Jubilee in 1887 and there are no less than eleven minor variations in the type. These variants are in the form of the number of arcs in the border, britt vs brit, and inclusion or omission of the designer William Wyon's initials below the bust. Some of these varieties are very rare.

In 1887 the design changed, coinciding with the celebration of Victoria's Jubilee. At this point, a double-florin was also issued. This multiple was struck only until 1890. The Jubilee florin, however, was struck until 1892 when the design was again changed to show the Old Head.


1900 Old Head Florin
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The design on the reverse was also changed in 1893. From 1849 to 1892 the reverse had featured four crowned shields arranged in the form of a cross. In 1893, this design was changed to three shields arranged in the form of an inverted triangle with a single crown above.


1907 Florin
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A very different style of reverse was used on the florin coins of Edward VII. Beginning in 1902, the shields type of reverse was replaced with a figure of Britannia standing on a galley, holding a shield and trident with the sea behind her.

This new style of reverse was short-lived and in 1911, upon the accession of George V, the cruciform shields (four shields arranged in the form of a cross) again appeared on the reverse of the florin. There are a few varieties of the coin that were struck during this reign, with the two most notable being the old effigy vs new effigy and the debasement in 1920 to .500 fine silver. From 1849 to 1919 the florin had been struck in .925 fine silver with an overall weight of 11.3104 grams. This gave an actual silver weight for the coin of 0.3364 troy ounce. In 1920 the overall weight of the coin remained at 11.3104 grams, but with the fineness reduced to .500, the actual silver content was only 0.1818 troy ounce.

A new reverse design was created for the florin of Edward VIII. This reverse had a crowned Tudor Rose over a Leek with a Thistle and Shamrock to the left and right respectively. This coin was never issued, though, because Edward VIII abdicated on 10 December 1936.


1946 Florin
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This new design was used on the florins of George VI which started being struck in 1937. The value of FLORIN does not appear on the coin, though, having been replaced with the valuation of TWO SHILLINGS. There were three types of florin struck during the reign of George VI. In 1947, the florin was once more debased, this time completely, to be struck in cupro-nickel with no precious metal content and this is considered to be the second type of coinage. The third type of coinage was struck two years later in 1949 and featres the removal of the title IND IMP (short for Indiae Imperator) as a result of the independence of India two years earlier on 15 August 1947. This third type of coinage continued to be struck until George VI's death in 1952. See here for examples of all three types of coinage.


1953 Florin
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With Elizabeth II came another design change for the florin. The type still features a Tudor Rose but the crown has been removed and the Thistles, Shamrocks, and Leeks are arranged in a circle around the central Rose. There are two types which are differentiated by differences in the legend. The first type was struck only in 1953. The second type was struck in subsequent years and has the BRITT OMN removed from the legend. BRITT OMN was short for the Latin Britanniarum Omnium meaning 'all the Britons' With the independence of so many of the Commonwealth states taking place, this was finally removed from the coins of Great Britain in 1954.

The florin continued to be struck until 1967, with a proof (last of the pre-decimal coins) being struck in 1970. For several years after Decimalization, the florin was accepted in trade at the value of ten of the New Pence.

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