Coins of England and Great Britain

by Tony Clayton

George VI (1936-1952)

George VI came to the throne on 11th December 1936 on the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII. He died on 6th February 1952.

There were in effect three coinages during his reign, with a switch from silver alloy to cupro-nickel in 1947, and the change of titles resulting from the Independance of India in 1949.

Gold - First Coinage

A four coin proof series was issued in 1937 to celebrate the coronation. All four coins had Pistrucci's St George and the Dragon on the reverse. The king's portrait was shown facing left, restoring the alternating sequence broken by Edward VIII. The obverse was designed by Humphrey Paget, and the effigy remained unchanged throughout the reign. It was used on all denominations. Unusually, these gold coins all had plain edges.

No gold coins were struck during the remainder of his reign.

Silver - First Coinage

The Crown

The reverse was identical to that on the Edward VIII patterns. 418,699 circulating coins were issued as mementoes of the coronation.

The Half-Crown

The design was modified from the Edward VIII design by substituting a shield for the royal standard.

The silver coin was issued every year from 1937 to 1946. None are scarce, although the 1938 issue had a lower mintage at 6.43 million, and commands a premium.

The Florin

The Edward VIII design of the reverse was retained, with the only change being the substitution of GR for ER.

As for the half-crown, the florin was issued every year from 1937 to 1946. Again, none are scarce, although the 1938 coin commands a premium.

The Shilling

For the first time there were two versions of the shilling. The 'English' shilling retained the basic style of the George V shilling with a lion on all fours on top of the Tudor crown. The date was now split, rather than being in the legend.

The 'Scottish' shilling retained the design used for the Edward VIII shilling, although the crown used remained the Tudor crown, rather than the Scottish crown.

The shillings were issued every year from 1937 to 1946, with 1938 being rather scarcer than the others. In addition, the mintages of the Scottish shillings were always a bit less than those of the English ones.

The Sixpence

The Edward VIII design was not retained for the sixpence. Instead a crowned monogram GRI was used, flanked by the date (GRI stands for Georgius Rex Imperator). All dates from 1937 to 1946 are common.

The Silver Threepence

Again the Edward VIII design was not used for the circulation threepence, which used a shield of St.George mounted on a Tudor rose. Issued alongside the new brass version until 1941, those minted after that date were issued in the West Indies. The last were dated 1945, but many were melted down and only one of that date has been found. The 1944 coin is very scarce, while the 1942 and 1943 are difficult in uncirculated condition.

The Maundy coins

These used the traditional crowned numeral. In 1947 the coins reverted to .925 silver from the .500 silver used since 1920.

'Silver' - Second Coinage - Cupronickel

The Half-Crown, The Florin, The Shillings and The Sixpence

In 1947 the United Kingdom used a cupro-nickel alloy to replace silver for the first time. It was at last acknowledged that the coins had become a token rather than having a significant intrinsic value.

Other than the change of metal, these coins remained unchanged from the silver issues. All five types (including the two shillings) were issued in large quantities for both 1947 and 1948.

'Silver' - Third Coinage - Removal of IND IMP

The Crown

A crown was issued to celebrate the Festival of Britain in 1951, and was only available in a proof version. Not only was this the first cupro-nickel crown, but the design had the legend FIVE SHILLINGS on the obverse for the first time (previous crowns had either no value or the value CROWN). Pistrucci's St.George and the Dragon was used for the reverse. A coinage press was set up at the Festival of Britain demonstrating the production of these crowns, but no mark was used to distinguish them from those struck at the Mint.

The Half-Crown, The Florin and The Shillings

These four coins continued with the same design as before, but with the words IND IMP removed. All were minted in quantity from 1949 to 1951. However, none were officially issued dated 1952, although a single half-crown of that date was found in circulation in the late 1960's.

The Sixpence

The reverse was redesigned with a new GVIR monogram replacing the obsolete GRI. The 1952 coin was minted in small numbers for issue in the West Indies, and is scarce in good condition. The other dates, 1949 to 1951, are common.

Brass - First Coinage

The Brass Threepence

The experiments started during the reign of Edward VIII were continued, with the production of a new twelve-sided brass threepence coin. The first type, with IND IMP in the legend, was produced from 1937 to 1946, and also in 1948. Enormous numbers were minted from 1941 to 1944, but then demand dropped, and only about 620 thousand were minted in 1946, which is a very difficult date to find in top condition.

The coins were made with sharp corners until 1941, when more rounded corners were used to reduce demand for the special steel used for the collars. Sharp corners were resumed in 1950.

Brass - Second Coinage - Removal of IND IMP

The Brass Threepence

The IND IMP was removed from the legend in 1949, but only 464 thousand were minted that year, making 1949 with 1946 the key dates in the series.

1950 and 1951 coins had low mintages, but larger numbers of this type were made in 1952. Uncirculated circulation issues for 1950 and 1951 fetch a higher price than proofs of those dates.

Bronze - First Coinage

The Penny

The first design was issued from 1937 to 1940, and then from 1944 to 1948. All these dates are common. During 1940 the exergual line was doubled. Pennies struck between 1941 and 1943 were all dated 1940.

Between 1944 and 1946 the tin content of the bronze was reduced from 3% to 0.5%. Because this alloy tarnished unattractively these coins were artificially toned before issue.

The Halfpenny

This had the Golden Hind design proposed for the issue of Edward VIII and was issued in large quantities between 1937 and 1948. Minor changes to the design occur from one year to the next in many cases, but during 1940 at least two varieties are known.

The Farthing

This had the Wren reverse proposed for the issue of Edward VIII and was issued in quantity between 1937 and 1948.

Bronze - Second Coinage - Removal of IND IMP

From 1949 the bronze coins had F:D:IND:IMP. on the obverse changed to FIDEI DEF.

The Penny

The 1949 coin is fairly common, but the 1950 and 1951 issues had very small mintages of 240,000 and 120,00 respectively and they were only issued in the West Indies. However, in brilliant uncirculated condition they are not as scarce as the higher mintage 1946 and 1949 brass threepenny bits.

No pennies dated 1952 were issued for circulation, although a single proof coin of this date was auctioned recently.

The Halfpenny and The Farthing

These were both issued in quantity between 1949 and 1952.

Proof Sets

Proof Sets were issued in 1937 to celebrate the coronation, in 1950 to celebrate the middle of the century, and in 1951 (including the crown) to celebrate the Festival of Britain.

Judging by the number of individual proof coins to be found on the market, a good number of these sets have been broken up.

A problem with the 1950 and 1951 sets is corrosion initiated by the use of cardboard in the cases.

A number of other proof coins are known, but these are all quite rare. The 1952 proof English Shilling is extremely rare, as is the 1952 proof penny.

In the following check list c indicates common cased set proof, while r indicates that a rare proof is known (xr indicates possibly unique).

        5s  2/6   2s  1sE  1sS   6d  3ds  3db   1d   ½d   ¼d
1937    c    c    c    c    c    c    c    c    c    c    c
1938         r    r    r    r    r    r    r    r    r    r
1939         r    r    r    r    r    r    r    r    r    r
1940         r    r    r    r    r    r    r    r    r    r
1941         r    r    r    r    r    r    r         r    r
1942              r                        r         r    r
1943         r                   r         r         r    r
1944              r    r    r    r         r    r    r    r
1945         r    r    r    r    r         r    r    r    r
1946         r    r    r    r    r         r    r    r    r
1947         r    r    r    r    r              r    r    r
1948         r    r    r    r    r         r    r    r    r
1949         r    r    r    r    r         r    r    r    r
1950         c    c    c    c    c         c    c    c    c
1951    c    c    c    c    c    c         c    c    c    c
1952                  xr         r         r   xr    r    r

See my Coins Index page for acknowledgements

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Coins of UK - George VI
Copyright reserved by the author, Tony Clayton
v10 1st January 2013
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