Coins of England and Great Britain

('Coins of the UK')

by Tony Clayton

Five Pounds and Five Guineas

50s and 60s <<-- : -->> Maundy Coins

Values of Five Pounds/Guineas
Pictures of Five Pounds/Guineas

Five Guineas

First minted by Charles II in 1668, its value was initially five pounds, but it fluctuated in value until it was fixed at five pounds and five shillings in 1717.

There are 32 varieties for Charles II alone. An attempt to collect all of them would be an expensive undertaking, as in just Fine condition most are valued at about 1200 UK pounds, and 3000 UK pounds in VF. Three are a bit more expensive: 1669, 1675 and 1680, all with an elephant and castle below the bust. The elephant and castle indicated that the gold came from Africa Company, and sometimes there is just an elephant.

Up until 1678 the obverse bust remained the same, with a pointed truncation and showing a lock of hair to the right. During 1678 a change was made and the second type of bust has a more rounded truncation missing the hair.

The reverse remained the same throughout the reign, with four crowned cruciform shields interspersed with four sceptres. These sceptres distinguish gold from similar sizes of silver coins, and thus avoided fraud by plating.

The Charles II issues are less valuable than those of James II or William and Mary. Coins made from gold supplied by the Africa Company still had an elephant and castle below the bust. It is because of this source that the denomination came to be called guineas rather than pounds.

The discovery of a single copy of the 1692 five guineas with QVINTO in the edge inscription instead of QVARTO was reported in the October 2002 edition of Coin News.

The 1703 Five Guinea of Queen Anne, with VIGO under the bust, is one of the classic rarities of the British series. Fewer than twenty are known, from three different dies. Back in 1965, when I was privileged to hold one of these amazing rarities whilst working at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, it was considered to be the most expensive coin in the world on the basis of a sale that took place at that time. An almost perfect specimen was recently advertised for sale at 65,000 pounds.

Queen Anne coins of other dates, such as 1713, are less scarce.

George I pieces are scarce. Five guinea pieces were only minted in 1716, 1717, 1720 and 1726.

George II pieces are relatively more common, but you still need to be wealthy to collect this series! The reverse design changed to a crowned shield, and this was slightly redesigned after 1730.

The following dates are known - all have the same value:

First portrait: 1729, 1729 EIC, 1731, 1735, 1738, 1741, 1741/35
Second, older, portrait: 1746 LIMA, 1748 and 1753.

Provenance marks of EIC (East India Company) and LIMA are shown in the list.

No five guinea pieces were minted after 1753, although pattern five guinea pieces were produced by Tanner in 1770 and 1773.

Five Pounds

After the last five guinea coin was struck in 1753, the next equivalent was not struck until 73 years later. George IV struck proof five pound coins in 1826 for inclusion in the proof sets of that year. These weighed about 40 g and had a diameter of 38 mm. Plain edge patterns are known, and there is a unique proof coin dated 1829.

While no five pound coins of William IV were struck, a copy of the crown made in gold at about the correct weight for a five pound coin is known.

The next Five Pound coin appeared in the proof sets that were issued in 1839, early in the reign of Queen Victoria. These coins are famous, being known as the 'Una and the Lion' because on the reverse Victoria is depicted leading the British Lion. You will need about 20,000 UK pounds if you wish to buy one of these coins. As they say, if you need to ask the price you cannot afford it!

In 1887 the Jubilee Five Pounds was issued with the George & Dragon reverse, followed shortly by the Veiled Head issue of 1893. Both of these coins have been extensively forged (or 'restruck' as is sometimes said), so purchase them with care. The diameter was now standardised at 37 mm. Almost all five pound coins issued from 1887 have the St George reverse.

Edward VII only issued five pound coins in 1902. Both Matt Proof and circulation versions exist, with the latter being slightly more expensive in mint condition.

An extremely rare issue of both the 1887 and 1902 pieces was made by the Sydney Mint. These coins are identified by a small S in the ground above the date on the reverse.

George V issued this denomination only as a proof in 1911, and with a reverse that is little changed to this day.

Edward VIII five pound pieces exist, but as this and the other denominations minted with this monarch's portrait were never approved they are technically patterns. All are exceedingly rare.

George VI proofs of 1937 with a plain edge were issued to the public to celebrate the Coronation, but those of Elizabeth II minted in 1953 and 1957 were not made available except to a very few museums such as the British Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

Starting in 1980 the Royal Mint began to issue Five Pound coins on a regular basis, both as proofs and as uncirculated 'normal' issues. The latter can readily be distinguished by the presence of a U in a circle to the left of the date.

In 1989 a markedly different coin was issued to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the gold sovereign, with the obverse showing the Queen facing seated in the Coronation Chair, and the reverse a crowned shield on a double rose.

After 1989 the cupro-nickel crown sized coins were issued at a face value of five pounds. These are listed in the series of pages on the decimal coins. The gold versions have a larger diameter than the regular gold five pound coins.

Gold five sovereign coins are listed separately.


See my Main Coins Index page for acknowledgements


50s and 60s <<-- : -->> Maundy Coins
Main Index
Fractional Farthings
Decimal Coins
Values Index
Values of Five Guinea and Five Pound coins.
Values of post 1971 base metal Five Pound coins.
Pictures of Five Guinea and Five Pound coins.
Pictures Index

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Coins of UK - Five Pounds and Guineas
Copyright reserved by the author, Tony Clayton
v26 4th March 2015
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