This is a series of pages dealing with the history of individual denominations used in England since the Norman Conquest or, in the case of the penny, a little earlier.
Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided, and extensive research has been carried out to this end. However, I will not and cannot accept liability for the consequences of any decisions made by readers of this site.
Please note that the copyright on these web pages remains with the author. Please do not post copies of pages found on this web site elsewhere on the web without specific authorisation from the author, as the frequent updates would render the copies obsolete very quickly. However, please feel free to post links to the site if you think it is appropriate.
If you wish to download these web pages for personal use only, you are welcome to do so. If you later want to update them, check with the version numbers in the main index on this page as given below (e.g. v12). The dates of the latest version are given in UK format (dd/mm/yy).
This site is www.coins-of-the-uk.co.uk, having recently been transferred from the old site at www.tclayton.demon.co.uk. It was not intended to move the site, but restrictions imposed by Demon have forced me to move it elsewhere, as had already happened with the pictures pages on what is now a redundant site - www.ukcoinpics.co.uk. The two sites are now merged back together again.
There are three main sets of pages dealing with the coins of the United Kingdom.
Before mailing the author to ask about the value of your coins, first try to judge their condition using the Grading Information below, and then look up your coins on the Values of UK Coins pages. This may answer your question without adding to the several messages per day that the author receives on the subject.
If you wish to ask for advice, please try to look through this site first, but if you cannot find the information you want feel free to contact the author via the Advice page. Ensure that your Reply-To address is correct, as I delete all messages immediately after replying. I do answer all non-spam e-mails received, so if you do not get a reply within a couple of weeks, try again.
If the information is readily available on the site, I will refer you to the appropriate page in the hope that this will assist you to find further similar information yourself.
If there is a problem with any aspect of the site design, such as faulty links, please contact the author via the Advice page.
Some Victorian silver and gold coins have die numbers. I have compiled a list of those known to exist which is almost certainly not complete. If you have such a coin check the die number on this page and let me know if you have one that is not recorded. If outside the known range of numbers please send me a clear image of both sides of the coin for confirmation.
If you are unsure of the denomination, measure the coin's diameter in millimetres and visit the Size Index.
A list of what changes were made in the past year or so can be found here.
There is a similar series of pages dealing with just the Values of UK Coins, including access to a CSV File suitable for loading into your favourite database or spreadsheet. This file has an exhaustive list of all years and denominations and includes major varieties and many proof coins.
For more extensive value information I suggest you purchase The Coin Yearbook from Token Publishing Ltd, PO Box 14, Honiton, Devon EX14 9YP, UK, to whom I am indebted for their permission to use the values information published in their magazine Coin News and their Coin Yearbook.
These values pages can also be accessed directly from the descriptive pages in the list above.
Coins in gold and silver have an intrinsic metal value which can exceed any numismatic value. A new page on bullion values is now available.
As many UK coins do not have a denomination on them, especially prior to the 20th century, the following gives an index by diameter and weight for Milled coins only. Bear in mind that coins from the 18th Century and earlier show significant variations both in diameter and weight from issue to issue. Hammered coins show far too much variation for them to be indexed in this way.
Milled coins are those produced on a machine press, and have a regular size. This process became standard around the time of Charles II in the middle of the 17th century. Prior to that coins were made by hand hammering, and as there was no collar the size of the coin was irregular. The term milled is also applied to the lines on the edge of the machine-made coins which were introduced to prevent the practice of clipping silver or gold from round the edge. These lines can be either perpendicular, angled or chevroned, or even in the form of a recessed line around the edge. Higher denominations sometimes have lettered edges.
The term 'Early' as used in the list below generally means pre-1816. Such coins show variations around the figure given.
In order that the site can be loaded speedily by all users of the web, illustrations are not used in the main pages. Previously, because of bandwidth limitations on the host server that I used to use, pictures were accessed from a picture store on the separate website www.ukcoinpics.co.uk. However, this has now been relocated back onto this site in the folder www.coins-of-the-uk.co.uk/pics. Use of www.ukcoinpics.co.uk remains active although you will simply be redirected back to the corresponding page on this site.
Links to individual pictures can be found at relevant points in the main description pages, and are downloaded from the picture store, while the above reference will give an index to extensive displays of images based either on monarch or denomination.
Now that I have scanners and digital cameras the number of illustrations on the picture pages has been dramatically increased. I particularly welcome donations of images to fill gaps in the collection.
It is intended to write pages detailing the numismatic history of the reign of each monarch, but this is taking some time. Little has been done on that mission in this century!
A range of grades are used to describe the condition of coins. Valuation of a coin is impossible without a sound knowledge of the grading of coins. For this there is no real substitute for experience. However, the following is a guide to the main UK grading scheme used for UK and other coins. Please note that this differs in many respects from US grading systems.
Many coins fall in between grades, and so terms such as 'nearly VF', 'good VF', 'gem BU' are encountered. The numerical system popular in the USA is almost unused in the UK, and US readers should bear in mind that their grading system is more generous than that of the UK.
There have been rumours circulating in the UK that the two pound coin where the queen is wearing a necklace is worth a lot (the highest figure quoted to me is £75). There have even been rumours that they are being recalled and that banks and post offices will give a premium for them.
This is an urban legend.
1997 two pound coins are plentiful, circulate readily, and are NOT scarce. Sorry to disappoint you on this. Banks and post offices will only give you two pounds for them. No less than 13,734,625 have been issued for circulation according to the Royal Mint. Hardly a rare coin. However, they are not too often seen as not only are much larger numbers of later coins available, but because of the rumours they have been picked out of circulation.
There was a problem in the production of the new bimetallic two pound coins which meant that the release date was delayed from 1997 to 1998. In the meantime the portrait was changed for the newer coins minted in 1998. They issued the 1997 coins (with the 'necklace') anyway, in large quantities.
They are not worth more than two pounds, nor will they be unless in uncirculated condition in a lot of years time (as will the 1998, 1999, etc coins)
On the other hand the Guernsey version of the coin dated 1997 is scarce as it was only issued in the Guernsey uncirculated coin sets (as you may know both Jersey and Guernsey issue their own coins).
A lot of people have misunderstood a recent TV program.
There is a rare two penny coin, but it is only the one dated 1983 with NEW PENCE on the reverse.
From 1971 to 1981 all UK circulating coins used the words NEW PENCE to distinguish them from the old pre-decimal pennies. In 1982 it was felt that this had gone on long enough, and the legends were changed, replacing the word NEW with the value of the coin, such as TWO or FIFTY, etc.
In 1983 so many 2p coins were in circulation that there was little demand for more. As a result, two pence coins bearing that date were only issued in sets issued by the Royal Mint for collectors. In error, about 20 or so included two pence coins with the old NEW PENCE instead of TWO PENCE on the reverse.
There may be sets still sitting around unchecked (sadly my own has the more common TWO PENCE reverse). The chances of sets being broken up and put into circulation are fairly small, so the chances of finding a 1983 twopence in circulation are tiny anyway - the chances of finding the error reverse make winning the lottery look easy.
Copper or brass tokens bearing the legend 'To Hanover' often turn up. These are not UK coins, despite the portrait of Queen Victoria usually found on them.
When William IV died, Victoria became Queen, and inherited many of King William's titles. However, the Electorship of Hanover could only be inherited by a male heir, and this went to the Duke of Cumberland, a rather unpopular figure, who promptly departed to Hanover.
The tokens were used for gaming, it is thought, and say 'Good Riddance', so to speak.
I get frequent emails from people who have an 1882 penny. In 1882 an entirely new Royal Mint was constructed, and as a result all bronze coinage for that year was struck at the mint at Ralph Heaton and Sons in Birmingham. They used an H mintmark below the date, so 1882 pennies with this date have an H below the 88 of 1882 right next to the border of the design.
For some unknown reason a very few 1882 pennies are known without the H mintmark. These are truly rare, but the matter is complicated by the that one of the two die types used for 1882H pennies has a small H that wears away quite quickly. As most surviving bun pennies are quite worn, the H can be difficult to see. You can only be certain that you have a 'No H' penny if the area and edge below the date are very clearly defined.
I almost get more emails on this subject than any other. All examples have been either 1882H pennies or are so worn no buyer would be convinced otherwise.
With modern coins there are two types of the orientation of the reverse:
Modern US 'silver' coins use the 'coin' orientation, as do most UK copper coins prior to 1825 (1826 for farthings) and silver or gold up until 1887.
Modern UK coins after the above dates use 'medal' orientation, as do many earlier proofs.
Prior to 'D-Day' on 15th February 1971 the English coinage system was based on the following relationships:
Other terms much more rarely used include
Note the way sums of money were written: 6/8 means 6 shillings and eightpence, while £2/19/11 was two pounds nineteen shillings and eleven pence. The use of d for penny may seem odd until you realise it is short for the Latin denarius.
The term guinea was (and is) used for 21 shillings (£1.05), especially in horse racing and by auction houses, although no coin of that value has been issued since 1813.
The Mark was traditionally used as a standard fine by the University of Cambridge during my own time there in the early 1960's.
In advance of D-day the halfpenny and half-crown were withdrawn, and 5 new pence and 10 new pence coins were issued from 1968 to circulate alongside the existing shilling and florin coins. A 50p coin appeared in 1969 to replace the old 10 shilling banknote. The farthing had gone long before, in 1961.
After D-day the penny and threepence coins rapidly disappeared from use. The sixpence continued in use as 2½ pence for about nine years. The new halfpenny went not long afterwards. However, the old shillings and florins continued alongside the 5p and 10p coins until a reduction in size in the early 1990's resulted in their disappearance from circulation. The 50p coin was also reduced in size in 1997.
Three new coins have been introduced since decimalisation - the 20p appeared in 1982 followed by the pound coin in 1983 and the two pound coin in 1998 (although 1997 versions are frequently found in change). Commemorative two pound coins were issued irregularly from 1986, but these early coins differ from the circulating version first issued in 1998 in that the latter is much thinner and is also bimetallic.
Full information on the switch to Decimal Coinage, and recent changes to the coins used in the UK, can be found on the Decimal Coins page.
The information has been culled from a very wide variety of sources, and I acknowledge my indebtedness to them, especially the following:
There are many individuals who have been kind enough to help, and while some are mentioned individually in the text, I am indebted to all those who have written to me about points in this site.
I am particularly indebted to Spink and Jean Elsen & Ses Fils for permission to use images from their auction catalogues, as well as many other individuals who are acknowledged by name or have given images anonymously.
I am most grateful to The Ten O'Clock Show Limited for their past sponsorship of my coin-related websites. Sadly, it seems the business might have closed.
A list can be found on my Links Page.
An essay on the use of various metals in coinage is to be found on my 'Metals Used in Coins and Medals' page.
Tony Clayton's Home Page
I would be grateful if you could search the site carefully before mailing me - the answers to the great majority of the questions that I am asked can be found on this site, and I am unlikely to reply quickly to such questions. In particular, I do NOT provide a valuation service.
If you have done this and still wish to ask for advice, feel free to mail me via my Advice page.
Coins of the UK
Copyright reserved by the author, Tony Clayton
First created in 1997. This version is number 478 dated 17th April 2017
Click here to see the change log for this page