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The Silver Coins of England

Edward Hawkins, 1841
Sole Monarchs of England - Commonwealth

Table of Contents


In 1642 the Parliament seized upon the Tower and the Mint, and proceeded to strike and issue money, but, as they used the king's types and titles, and did not venture to coin it in their own name, all such pieces have been described as the coins of Charles I. It was only after the murder of the king that the parliament presumed to strike money by their own avowed authority; and the first pieces which occur bear the date 1649. Of this commonwealth money we have crowns, half-crowns, shillings, sixpences, twopences, pennies, and halfpennies, marked respectively over the shields of the reverse I. II. VI. XII. II-VI. V. [respectively but in reverse order, no mark for halfpennies] The halfpenny has on one side a shield bearing the cross of St. George; on the other, a shield bearing a harp, without any numerals, date or legend on either side. The types of all the other pieces are the same; Obv. A shield, bearing the cross of St. George, within branches of laurel and palm, legend, on the four larger denominations, THE COMMONWEALTH OF ENGLAND. Rev. Two shields, one bearing the cross of St. George, the other the harp of Ireland, legend GOD WITH VS, and the date; numerals indicating the value over the shields, whose arrangement and appearance was the subject of much ridicule, and acquired for the coin the nick-name of the breeches money. The pennies and half-groats are without date or legend on either side. These coins are of the same weight and fineness as the preceding coinages ever since the 43rd of Queen Elizabeth, 11 oz. 2 dwt. silver, 18 dwt. alloy. The weight in the proportion of 7 23/31 gr. to the penny.

Of the crowns we have the date 1649. Sn. xvi. 7. CUFF, perhaps unique; it is of finer work than the subsequent coinages. 1651. MB. 1652. Rud. xxxi. 1. MB. 1653. MB. 1654. MB. 1656. MB. All these have MM. Sun.

Of the half-crowns we have the dates 1649. MB. 1651. Rud. xxxi. 3. MB. 1652. MB. 1653. Rud. xxxi. 4. MB. 1654. MB. 1656. MB. The above have MM. Sun; the following have MM. Anchor. 1658. MB. 1659. CUFF, very bad in condition and work, double struck and date doubtful. 1660. Sn. xvi. 6. MB. Of the date 1654 there is an imitation of the half-crown, the workmanship very rude, and the laurel branch transformed into oak. MB.

Shillings: of the shillings we have the dates 1649. Rud. xxxi. 6. MB some spelling COMMONWEALTH with one M. others with two. 1651. MB. 1652. MB. 1653. MB. 1654. MB. 1655. MB. 1656. MB. 1657. MB. We have not seen one of this date, but one is said by Mr. Tutet to be in the Hunter collection. All the preceding have MM. Sun, the following have MM. Anchor. 1658. MB. 1660. Sn. xvi. 5. Rud. xxxi. 2. MB. In the Museum is a shilling apparently of 1659, but it is made by converting the 2 in 1652 into a 9, and obliterating the MM.

Sixpences: Of sixpences we have the dates 1649. MB. 1651. MB. 1652. MB. 1653. MB. 1654. MB. 1655. MB. 1656. Rud. xxxi. 8. MB. all with MM. Sun. 1658. MB. and 1660. Sn. xvi. 4. MB. with MM. Anchor. Mr. Tutet in a MS. note mentions 1659 as in his own possession, and 1657 in Hunter's Museum. The former is probably a roguish alteration like the Museum shilling of that date. The Brit. Mus. has one of 1650, but a forgery, made by altering the date of a sixpence of 1649.

Half-Groat: Sn. xvi. 3. Rud. xxxi. 10. MB. Of this there is a rude imitation. MB.

Penny: Sn. xvi. 2. Rud. xxxi. 11. MB.

Halfpenny: Sn. xvi. 1. Rud. xxxi. 9. MB.

Cr. ½Cr. Shil. Six.
1649 MM. SunC+++
1650 MM. Sun
1651 MM. Sun++++
1652 MM. Sun++++
1653 MM. Sun++++
1654 MM. Sun++++
1655 MM. Sun++
1656 MM. Sun++++
1657 MM. SunH?H?
1658 MM. Anchor+++
1659 MM. AnchorC?T?
1660 MM. Anchor+++

The coins of 1658 and 1660 are exceedingly rare; it will be seen from the above table that there are not any of 1650; those of 1657 and 1659 rest upon the authority of Mr. Tutet, and an accurate examination of the pieces mentioned would probably lead to the detection of some fraud like that upon the Museum shilling of 1659, and upon the sixpence of 1650. Half-groats, pence, and halfpence, are not noted in the table because they are without date or MM. Of the year 1655 there is a half-crown in the Br. Mus.; but it is plated, and manifestly a contemporaneous forgery.

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