Coins of England and Great Britain

('Coins of the UK')

by Tony Clayton

Ten Shillings and Half Guinea
(and Eleven Shillings)

8s & 8s4d <<-- : -->> 15s

Values of half guinea and half sovereign

Pictures of half sovereigns
Pictures of half guineas

Rose-Noble or Ryal

So called because of the rose under the ship on the obverse, the rose-noble or ryal, valued at ten shillings, was first issued in 1464 during the first reign of Edward IV to replace the noble.

It was minted in large numbers, not only in London but also at provincial mints in Bristol, Coventry, Norwich and York. However, it did not prove popular in England and was all too popular on the Continent, where copies were struck during the 16th century. The coin was discontinued in 1470.

It was reintroduced at 10 shillings for a short time in 1487 by Henry VII. When it reappeared during the reign of Mary it was valued at 15 shillings.

Half Sovereign

In 1544 a new coin, the half sovereign, was introduced. This continued through to the reign of Edward VI, but none were produced by Mary or Philip & Mary. Some half sovereigns of the Durham House Mint had the date MDXLVIII (1548), which are thought to be the earliest English coins with a date.

During this period angels of value 10 shillings were produced.

Half Pound

During the reign of Elizabeth I the gold ten shilling coin was known as a half-pound. This was quite distinct from the angel of the same value issued at the same time.

It was not a half sovereign because the sovereign was valued at 30 shillings during this reign.


The angel, first issued in 1461 with a value of 80 pence, was raised to 90 pence in 1526, and then further to 96 pence (eight shillings) in 1544. By 1550 during the reign of Edward VI the angel was valued at ten shillings.

The denomination continued to be issued at this value through the reign of Elizabeth I and also during the reign of James I.

In 1612 the value of all angels was raised to eleven shillings. This lasted for seven years until 1619, when the a new lighter angel was introduced at ten shillings. The design remained basically the same on the obverse, but the coat of arms on a ship on the reverse changed to a ship in full sail.

The angel was last minted in 1643.

Half Sovereign

During 1603 and 1604 James I reintroduced the half sovereign at ten shillings.

This issue is very rare.

Double Crown

During the 15 years from 1604 to 1619 a gold double crown was introduced, replacing the half sovereign. However it was revalued at 11 shillings in 1612, along with the angel, because of the rising price of gold.

Half Laurel

In 1619 the double crown was reissued with a lower weight at ten shillings. The new coin showed a portrait of the King with a laurel wreath, and thus became known as a half-laurel, issued alongside the laurel (20s) and quarter-laurel (5s).

Double Crown

During the reign of Charles I double crowns were issued. These show the value as an X behind the bust (as did many earlier issues).

Half Unite

The Unite was yet another name for the 20 shilling coin, and half-unites were produced at Bristol and Oxford during the Civil War from 1642 to 1644.

There is a possibly unique coin known from Bristol, while those from Oxford are rare.

An extremely rare siege issue from Colchester is known although there are some questions as to their authenticity.

Silver Halfpound

Oxford and Shrewsbury mints produced silver half-pounds between 1642 and 1643.

Gold Half Broad

Struck with the portrait of Oliver Cromwell, and thought to be patterns. Those known are considered to be non-contemporary.

Double Crown

The gold double crown was struck during the Commonwealth, and later by Charles II until 1662.

Half Guinea

It is often thought that the half-guinea is valued at ten shillings and sixpence, but in fact the value of the coin varied significantly between ten shillings and fifteen shillings, depending on the value of gold at the time. As the value was not fixed at 10s6d until 1717, the half guinea coins prior to that date are dealt with under this heading.

The word guinea stemmed from the origin of the gold used for some of the coins in the early days of their issue. Coins made from gold which originated in Guinea in Africa had an elephant and castle symbol on the obverse under the bust of the King.

The first milled half-guinea was issued in 1669. Thereafter the coin was issued fairly regularly until the Great Recoinage of 1816.

There are two types of bust for Charles II. The first has a pointed truncation with a lock of hair in front, not always obvious, and the second, introduced during 1672, has a rounded truncation without the lock of hair. For most years after 1676 coins were issued with or without the elephant and castle provenance mark below the King's head.

Half guineas for James II were only issued for the three years from 1686 to 1688. The 1686 coin with elephant & castle is scarce.

The first William and Mary half guinea was issued in 1689 with rather strange busts, which were changed for later issues. Elephant and castle varieties occur for 1691 and 1692, and there is a scarce elephant only variety of 1692 which might be simply due to the punch being made so close to the busts that the castle disappears.

During the sole reign of William III there were two reverse types, with the harp enlarged from 1697 onwards. The former shield reverse was abandoned, and the style reverted to the cruciform shields arrangement used before 1689. Unusually, in 1696 no coins were issued without the elephant and castle.

Early issues of Anne with the pre-Union reverse are all quite rare, the 1703 VIGO coin particularly so. The VIGO indicated that the coin had been made from gold captured at Vigo Bay in 1702. Those minted from 1707 to 1714 are much more common.

After 1717 the Guinea stablised at 21 shillings. The half guinea was issued regularly up until 1813, after which it was superseded by the half sovereign.

Scarce and rare coins are as follows:

George I rare: 1721 elephant and castle.
George II scarce: 1730 (plain), 1731 EIC, 1732 EIC, 1737, 1739 EIC, 1745 LIMA, 1749. rare: 1743.
George III scarce: 1774, 1805.

One of the main problems with the half guinea was its similar size to the sixpence, which resulted in a large number of the latter being gilded. To counteract this the bust of the King was draped on the sixpence and undraped on the half-guinea, with the exception of the coins of Queen Anne, where both denominations are draped for obvious reasons. The half-guinea also had sceptres between the shields on the reverse which the sixpence did not have.

Nevertheless this did not deter the counterfeiters, and starting in the reign of George II the reverse was changed completely to show a single shield. This worked.

During the reign of George III the ornate shield originally used was changed to one in the shape of a pointed spade, thus the term spade-guinea (or strictly in this case, spade half-guinea).

Finally on reliquishment of his claim to the French throne in 1801 a new design of shield inside a garter was used until the final half-guinea was minted in 1813.

Half Sovereign

Struck again in 1817 as part of the Great Recoinage, this coin was extensively used, and was minted regularly until 1915 at the Royal Mint, and until 1918 in Australia.

Once the new denominations had been issued, a set of coin weights including those for half guineas and half sovereigns was minted by the Royal Mint in brass in 1821.

George III has a single design, struck in 1817, 1818 and 1820. There is a scarce variety being the 1818 over 1817.

George IV has two different obverses and three different reverses, with no overlap for a single date. The 1821 (O1/R1) is a scarce type coin; 1823 - 1825 inclusive have O1/R2, while 1826 - 1828 have O2/R3.

The first issue of William IV in 1834 was minted on an 18mm flan rather than the usual 19 mm flan, as was a rare proof of 1831. This smaller size was an attempt to make the coin easier to distinguish from a sixpence, but the move was not popular, and from 1835 to 1837 the size reverted to normal. There are two rare varieties of the last two years with a larger portrait which came from using a sixpence obverse die.

The coin was struck throughout the reign of Queen Victoria. Starting in 1871, the coin was also struck in Australia, at Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. These three mints can be distinguished by their use of a mintmark (M, P or S).

The London issues had die numbers from 1863 to 1880. A list of those known can be found by following this link.

The use of a shield reverse continued until 1893, when the same design as the sovereign was used - George and the Dragon. This reverse has continued in use until the present day.

Scarce dates include 1854, 1862, 1890 (with JEB on the truncation of the Queen's Head), and 1893M (veiled head).

The coin was struck throughout the reign of Edward VII. Perth Mint issues of 1904, 1908 and 1909 are very scarce.

An illustration is available of an Edward VII half sovereign.

The last circulation issues of the half sovereign were struck in 1915 in London, and 1918 in Perth, during the reign of George V. The Perth Mint struck half sovereigns in 1919 and 1920 also, but they were not issued. Finally the Pretoria Mint struck proofs dated 1923 followed by circulation issues in 1925 and 1926. They have the mintmark SA.

Coronation Proofs for George VI were issued in 1937 in Proof Sets, with a plain edge instead of the usual milled edge.

A very small number indeed were minted for Elizabeth II in 1953, which were sent to certain museums including the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge and the British Museum.

Starting in 1980 proofs were issued for collectors, and this has continued annually from 1982 to the present day. In addition issues of non-proof half sovereigns took place in 1982 and 2000.


See my Main Coins Index page for acknowledgements


8s & 8s4d <<-- : -->> 15s
Main Index
Values Index
Values of Half Guineas and Half Sovereigns
No values of the hammered coins prior to the half guinea are available.
Pictures of Half Guineas
Pictures of Half Sovereigns
Pictures Index

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Coins of UK - 10s & 10s6d (& 11s)
Copyright reserved by the author, Tony Clayton
v29 4th March 2015
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