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The Silver Coins of England

Edward Hawkins, 1841
Sole Monarchs of England - George III

Table of Contents

George III., 1760 to 1820.

In 1760 George III. succeeded to the throne upon the death of his grandfather. Though the currency of the country was in a very bad state, scanty in amount, and, from long usage, much depreciated in value, yet no effort was made to remove the inconvenience under which the country laboured. In the years 1762 and 1763 the mint records state an issue of silver money to the amount of £5791., but of what description no mention is made. It could not have been struck from any dies of George III., for no coinage, except of Maundy money, was issued with his portrait before 1763, when shillings to the amount of only £100. were struck, for the purpose of being distributed amongst the populace, when the Earl of Northumberland made his first public appearance in Dublin, as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and from which circumstance they still go by the name of Northumberland shillings. Ruding considers it "difficult to understand how the Earl's going to Ireland should occasion the coinage of English shillings." The fact appears to be, not that the dies were made in order to strike coins upon this occasion, but, that dies being in course of preparation for the general use of the country, an effort was made to strike a small amount to add to the éclat of the Earl's entrance into Dublin. Why a larger amount for general currency was not issued is to be accounted for, perhaps, by the high price of silver at the time; but the preparation of these pieces, and the pattern shilling of 1764, may be considered proofs that such an issue was in contemplation. The Northumberland shilling has the king's bust in profile to the right, hair long, laureate; in armour, with a slight drapery fastened on the shoulder by a broach, GEORGIVS III. DEI GRATIA. Rev. in type and legend, exactly like the shillings of his grandfather; these pieces are dated 1763, and are rare, as might be expected from the small sum originally issued. Rud. Sup. 2. Pl. iii. 2. MB. The dies were probably engraved by Yeo. The specimen in the author's collection was purchased with two or three more from the person who had been housekeeper to the Duke of Northumberland when appointed Lord Lieutenant. Though patterns were made, with a view to the coinage of shillings, in 1764, 1775, and 1778, no issue of silver money took place till the year 1787, when shillings and sixpences, to the amount of £55,459., were struck at the mint. This measure had been in contemplation the previous year, for a shilling of the same type, with the date 1786, is preserved in the Brit. Mus. The dies of these pieces were engraved by Pingo, and the bust is a very great improvement upon that of 1763. The bust of the king is in profile to the right, the hair is long, laureate; the shoulders, which are in armour, are more exhibited than in the former shilling, and the drapery is fastened upon the shoulder by a broach, GEORGIVS III. DEI GRATIA. The reverse has the same legend of initials as the shillings of 1763; the arms are arranged in the same manner, but the forms of the shields differ, in having all the lines by which they are formed perfectly straight; the crowns, instead of being over, are in the angles between them. the dies were engraved by Lewis Pingo. Rud. Sup. 2. iii. 3. These shillings are not uncommon, and are generally in good preservation; in fact this coinage was very little in circulation, for previous to its issue the silver coins were in such a state that thousands of round pieces of silver without a perceptible stamp passed current, and the full sized pieces were of course immediately melted down by the fabricators of false money. the average weight of current shillings at this time was ¼ less than it ought to have been, sixpence 1/3 less. These shillings have a dot over the head of the king; a variety of extreme rarity is without this dot. Pingo told Mrs. Banks that hers was the only one ever struck, but this is not quite correct. In the same year, 1787, sixpences were issued exactly resembling the shillings in type. This coinage having speedily found its way into the melting pot, the currency continued to diminish in value every year, and, to supply the deficiency, in the year 1803, the extraordinary expedient was resorted to of issuing Spanish dollars stampt with the head of George III. by a mark similar to that used by the Goldsmith's Hall in stamping silver plate. In 1804 this stamp was changed for an octagon one of somewhat larger dimensions, engraved with the king's head like that of the silver penny; and, in the course of the same year an arrangement was made with Mr. Boulton to stamp the dollars, by the means of the powerful Soho machinery, with a device to cover the whole face of the piece; but as these, as well as the Bank tokens, were only substitutes for the regular coins of the realm, they are foreign to our present purpose. In the year 1798, in consequence of the extreme scarcity of silver money, Messrs. Dorrien and Magens sent a quantity of bullion to the Mint to be coined according to the law, which had never been repealed, by which it was enacted, that, any one sending bullion to the Mint might have it coined into money, upon the payment of certain dues. The whole was actually coined into shillings from dies varying only from those of 1787 in the date 1798; but the very day on which the bankers were, by appointment, to have received the coin, an order of Council was received, commanding it all to be melted, upon the ground that the proceeding had been irregular, and that no coinage was lawful without the sanction of a royal proclamation. Very few indeed of these pieces escaped the crucible. Specimens however exist in the collections of the British Museum, Mr. Cuff, the Author, &c.

At length, in 1816, it was resolved to encounter all the difficulties and espences of an entire new coinage, both of gold and silver; new pieces were consequently ordered to be issued of the same denominations and fineness as before; and, as far as the silver money was concerned, this was carried into effect; but the weight was diminished, for, instead of sixty-two shillings, sixty-six were ordered to be made out of every pound troy of silver. In conformity with these resolutions the new coinage consisted of Crowns, Half-crowns, Shillings, and Sixpences.

The Act of Parliament, which provided for this new silver coinage, was passed in June 1816, a message having been delivered on May 28th to both houses of Parliament from the Prince Regent, announcing that he had given directions for a new and extensive issue of silver coinage. On the third of February following, a general issue of the new money took place consisting chiefly of shillings and sixpences with some half-crowns. The loss upon the new coinage was borne by the public, and individuals were authorized to receive in exchange new money equal in amount to the nominal value of the old in their possession. To facilitate the exchanges, twenty stations were appointed in convenient localities in London, and the bankers gave their assistance by exchanging the monies of their friends and connexions. Great praise is due to those by whom the arrangements were made for issuing, with so much expedition and facility, so extensive a coinage; and too much cannot be said in commendation of the artist Thomas Wyon, by whom, under most disheartening circumstances, the Mint was amply supplied with the requisite number of dies. Nor ought we to forget to notice the beautiful and powerful machinery, for striking the coins, which had, not long before, been erected by Messrs. Boulton and Watt upon the model of that, which had for many years proved its efficiency at Soho, where very many coins had been struck beautiful both in design and execution, and where numerous expedients and experiments had been tried with success to establish the principles upon which the coinage of a great kingdom ought to be conducted, with a view to its duration and protection from injury by extensive circulation.

George II | Table of Contents | George III, Description of the Coins

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