Coins of England and Great Britain

('Coins of the UK')

by Tony Clayton

Five Shillings, Quarter Guinea and Five and Six

4s, 50d (4/2) & 4/6 <<-- : -->> 6s and 6/8

Values of Crowns & Quarter Guineas
Pictures of Crowns
Pictures of Quarter Guineas

Five Shillings

Half-Ryal or Rose Half-Noble

During 1464 the price of gold rose, and so a new heavy version of the half-noble, known as the rose half-noble or half-ryal (because of a rose on the ship on the obverse), was struck. By 1470 production had ceased as the coin was not popular. Versions struck at provincial mints are particularly rare.

Half-Angel or Angelet

As a result of inflation the value of the 40 grain half-angel was raised to 60 pence during the reign of Edward VI, from which a single example is known. Half angels of both Mary and Philip and Mary are extremely rare, but some of those of Elizabeth I are more common. The series continued until 1619, although after 1612 they were revalued at 66 pence (5s6d).

Crown (Gold and Silver)

Originally called the Crown of the Double Rose to distinguish them from the lower valued Crown of the Rose issued shortly before, these five shilling pieces were first minted late in 1526 (or early 1527), and were the first English gold coins to have a fineness less than 23.5 carat.

In 1551 the first silver crown was produced. A magnificent coin showing Edward VI on horseback and a coat of arms on the reverse; it was the first English coin to bear the date in Arabic numerals. The 1552 issue is scarcer than the 1551 or 1553 dates.

Gold crowns were once again issued by Elizabeth I, with silver crowns being issued only in the last two years of her reign. It is interesting that there were thus three different coins in circulation worth five shillings: the gold crown; the silver crown; and the gold half-angel.

However, the confusion continues. During the reign of James I there were issues of gold half-angels, gold crowns, silver crowns and quarter-laurels (illustrated). The latter are so called because the bust of the King shows him with a laurel wreath on his head (there were half-laurels and laurels as well), and has the first use of a denomination on a gold UK coin. The so-called Britain Crown has the first use of MAG BRIT (Great Britain) in the legend.

Gold and silver crowns continued to be minted during the reign of Charles I and the Commonwealth, with the gold issues finally ceasing in 1662.

The crowns issued by Charles II and the succeeding monarchs are very popular coins, because the large size meant that the portrait could be engraved in great detail, and they are magnificent works of art, perhaps only exceeded by the much more expensive five guinea pieces.

With the start of the milled coinage crowns were struck with an edge inscription. Initially this was applied to the blanks before they were struck, but later the edge inscription was created by the use of a collar suitably engraved. The usual words found are DECVS ET TVTAMEN ANNO REGNI followed by the regnal date. DECVS means ornament, glory, beauty, honour or virtue, while TVTAMEN means defence. The generally accepted translation is 'An Ornament and a Safeguard'.

The regnal year means the number of years since the monarch's accession, which in the case of Charles II was taken as dating from the execution of his father. Initially this was indicated in roman numerals, but during 1667 it was changed to words. The 1667 crown with roman numerals is a very scarce coin.

A summary of issues for each of the next few reigns is as follows:

Charles II issued 1662-1684. Illustrations are available for a 1676 crown.

Scarce: 1665 edge date XVI, 1667 edge date XVIII, 1671 edge date VICESIMO QVARTO, 1673 edge date VICESIMO QVARTO, 1674 (very rare), 1681 elephant and castle

James II issued 1686-1688

William & Mary issued 1691-1692

William III issued 1695-1697 & 1700. A picture is available for the 1696 crown.

Scarce: 1696 edge date TRICESIMO, 1697

Anne issued 1703, 1705-1708, 1713 Scarce: 1707 E edge date SEPTIMO (E = Edinburgh Mint)
Picture available of a 1707E post-Union Crown

George I issued 1716,18,20,23,26

George II issued 1732,34-6,39,41,43,46,50-51
Picture available of a 1736 Crown
In 1763 there was a report of a crown dated 1731. This has not been seen since.

George III

After 1751 no crowns were issued for 67 years. Due to the wars against France and the United States there was an acute shortage of silver. A number of Spanish 8 real pieces had been captured and circulated unofficially. In 1797 the need for a crown sized coin was becoming very evident, so the decision was made to stamp the Spanish coins with an oval stamp bearing the head of George III. These coins were valued at 4s9d, thus bringing comments such as 'Two Kings' heads are not worth a Crown'. Later an octagonal stamp was brought into use.

A few US dollars were counterstamped, but these are very scarce and command high prices.

In 1804 the Spanish dollars were overstruck by the Bank of England with a portrait of the King on the obverse and Britannia on the reverse, with an inscription BANK OF ENGLAND 1804 FIVE SHILLINGS DOLLAR. It is not uncommon to be able to identify the original coin that had been overstruck.

There are five obverses and three reverses for the dollar as follows:


  1. Top leaf of head points to left side of E; C.H.K. on truncation; stop after REX
  2. Top leaf of head points to left side of E; CHK (no stops) on truncation; stop after REX
  3. Top leaf of head points to centre of E; C.H.K. on truncation; stop after REX
  4. Top leaf of head points to centre of E; C.H.K. on truncation; no stop after REX
  5. Top leaf of head points to right side of E; C.H.K. on truncation; stop after REX

  1. K below shield in relief
  2. K below shield inverted and in relief
  3. K below shield inverted and incuse

Combinations 11,13,21,31,32,33,41,51,52, and 53 are known.

Finally the Great Recoinage took place, and crowns were issued once again, starting in 1818 with a wonderful rendering of St George and the Dragon on the reverse. The same design was used through to 1820.

An interesting error can be found on the 1818 crown. The collar in which the coin was struck to give the edge inscription was made of segments, which for some coins had been incorrectly assembled, giving the bizarre inscription DECVS ANNO REGNI LVIII ET TVTAMEN.

George IV

Crowns were issued for circulation in 1821 and 1822 during the reign of George IV. Later dates, 1823, 1825 and 1826, are all rare proof issues only.

William IV

The only crowns issued by William IV are proofs, and all are exceedingly scarce. That of 1831 was included in the proof sets of that year.


During the early part of the reign of Queen Victoria the issue of crowns was irregular. A proof was issued in 1839 for the sets, then circulating coins were issued in 1844, 1845 and 1847. These have more or less the same design as the half crown.

In the latter year the famous Gothic Crown was issued. Some sources consider that all of these beautiful coins were proofs, but a number certainly entered circulation. Those dated 1853 were produced for the proof set of that year.

An extremely rare proof of 1879 in the original design exists.

As part of the redesigning of the coinage for the Queen's Jubilee in 1887, the decision was made to start issuing crowns on a regular basis. These used Pistrucci's St George and the Dragon on the reverse until the end of the Queen's reign in 1901, initially with the Jubilee Head design.

There was a change to the Veiled Head obverse in 1893. Between 1893 and 1900 regnal years appeared on the edge once again, giving two varieties for each year as Queen Victoria came to the throne in June 1837.

Edward VII

After the reign of Queen Victoria the crown was really only struck for commemorative or collectors' purposes. Edward VII issued only one, in 1902 for his Coronation. The obverse and reverse are illustrated.

George V

In 1927 George V issued a new design which was issued annually until 1936, with the exception of a special Jubilee design in 1935.

The design of the coin was as follows:
Reverse: Crown and date within a wreath, FID DEF IND IMP CROWN

These crowns had very low mintages, as they were struck according to demand, and by 1934 interest had dwindled to the extent that only 932 were minted. In contrast all other years had at least 2395, and the Jubilee crown had a mintage of over 714,769 not counting proofs.

The design of the 1935 Jubilee crown created quite a stir because of its modern style (it is sometimes called the Rocking-Horse Crown), and was as follows:
Reverse: St George & Dragon, CROWN 1935

The Jubilee crown comes in several forms:

In addition, edge errors are known for both the ordinary issue and the raised edge proof.

Edward VIII

A pattern Edward VIII crown exists, with the reverse design identical to that issued in 1937 by George VI.

Beware of fantasy pieces struck at a much later date. These are totally unofficial and were privately minted to give collectors a portrait of Edward VIII for those who collect by monarch. The obverse and reverse of a typical example are illustrated (my thanks to Sylvester for these images).

George VI

George VI had two issues. The first George VI crown was struck for the Coronation in 1937, while the other was struck to celebrate the Festival of Britain in 1951. Indeed, many were struck at The Royal Mint's stand at the Festival, although such coins cannot be distinguished from those struck at the Royal Mint itself. The 1951 crown only exists in Proof form.

Elizabeth II

Before decimalization in 1971 Queen Elizabeth issued three crowns. The first, in 1953, was for the Coronation and shows the Queen riding on horseback. A more conventional crown with the same reverse was struck in 1960 for the British Trade Fair in New York, but this time the obverse shows the Mary Gillick portrait of the Queen.

About a million 1960 crowns were minted for general circulation, but 70000 were struck with polished dies for sale in New York, and good specimens fetch a small premium.

The final crown before decimalisation was struck in 1965 after the death of the great wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill. There are two reverse varieties of this rather unattractive coin, differing in the shape of the R on the reverse.

The crown was later minted as a 25 pence piece and then five pounds after decimalisation, but that is dealt with in the final part of this narrative on the decimal coinage (see UK Decimal Coins - The Crowns).

Five Shillings and Threepence

Quarter Guinea

First struck in 1718, this tiny gold coin weighed only 2.1 grams and measured 16 mm in diameter, 2mm smaller than the modern 5p decimal coin and the same size as the silver threepenny piece.

Both the latter two are or where considered to be rather too small for convenience, and so the quarter guinea with a much greater spending power at the time was particularly unpopular.

A second attempt to issue quarter guineas in 1762 met the same fate. Will the Mint ever learn!

Five Shillings and Sixpence

Half-Angel or Angelet

Half angels were produced during the reign of James I from 1604 to 1619, although they are all extremely rare. In 1612 both these new half angels and all earlier issues of this denomination were revalued at five shillings and sixpence, up from five shillings.

The series of half-angels (or angelets) had lasted 149 years from their first issue by Henry VI in 1470, until production finally ceased during 1619.


See my Main Coins Index page for acknowledgements


4s, 50d (4/2) & 4/6 <<-- : -->> 6s and 6/8
Main Index
Values Index
Values of Crowns and Quarter Guineas.
Pictures of Crowns.
Pictures of Decimal Crowns
Pictures of Quarter Guineas.
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Coins of the UK - 5s, 5s3d and 5s6d
Copyright reserved by the author, Tony Clayton
v44 8th March 2017
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