Coins of England and Great Britain

('Coins of the UK')

by Tony Clayton

Eighteen Pence and Twenty Pence

The Shilling <<-- : -->> Florin (2s)

Values of 18d and 20d coins
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Eighteen Pence

The Quarter-Florin or Helm

First it should be said that the florin of which this is a quarter is not the two shilling florin first issued in the 1840's.

In 1344 Edward III issued a series of gold coins: the florin, worth six shillings; the half-florin or leopard; and the quarter florin, which was worth eighteen pence, and was called a helm as the obverse showed a helmet surmounted by a lion and cap.

However, the issue was withdrawn in August 1344 as it proved unacceptable on account of the incorrect amount of gold used (there was less than eighteen pence worth in it). They were melted down, and survivors are extremely rare, neither Seaby nor Coincraft being prepared to put a value on them.

The Eighteen Pence Bank Token

In the later part of the reign of George III the price of silver was high and there was an acute shortage of silver coins available for circulation.

The Bank of England took steps to remedy this situation by issuing tokens of value three shillings and eighteenpence during 1811, and for the following years up until 1816. The initial design showed a draped bust of the king in Roman armour, but was changed in 1812 to a design with a laureated head and truncated neck. Changes were made in the reverse also.

A ninepence token was prepared, but did not progress beyond the pattern stage.

During the 1816 the Great Recoinage took place, and after 1820 the Bank Tokens were only accepted as bullion.

None of the regular issues are uncommon, although there are some scarce proofs.

Twenty Pence

Gold 'Penny'

In the 13th century Florence, Venice and a number of other Italian cities produced a gold currency.

The Florentine coin, known as a florin, proved very popular, so in 1257 Henry III instructed his goldsmith to prepare a pure gold coinage. The coin that resulted was a twenty pence coin twice the weight of the silver penny, with a portrait of the king sitting upon the throne on the obverse, and a long cross with a rose in each quarter on the reverse.

Unfortunately the coin contained about 24 pence worth of gold, so most were melted down, and the coin is now exceedingly rare. It is believed that only six survive, of which three are in the British Museum.

Thus ended the first serious attempt to introduce a gold coinage to England since before the Norman Conquest.

Quarter Noble

After the demise of the first attempt of Edward III to produce a gold coinage in 1344, a new set of coins was produced which included a quarter noble. The coins had the king's arms in a shield on the obverse and an ornate design with a cross surrounded by arches on the reverse.

The was a small reduction in weight from 34.5 to 32 grains after the first issue (called the Second coinage), which is relatively rare.

The Second and Third coinages have six arches around the shield. This was increased to eight for the Fourth Coinage. This is in turn divided into Pre-Treaty (FRANC in legend), Transitional, and Treaty periods (no quarter nobles were produced during the Post-Treaty period).

An example of a Transitional period quarter noble of 1361 is illustrated. The obverse has the legend EDWAR DEI GRAC REX ANGL D, and eight arches around a royal shield. The reverse has EXALTABITUR IN GLORIA around an ornate cross.

The denomination continued in use until the reign of Edward IV. At that stage the price of gold rose, with the inevitable result that the number of coins in circulation fell. Indeed, only one heavy coinage Edward IV quarter noble survives.

In 1464 all quarter nobles were revalued at 25 pence, and the following year the quarter noble was replaced by the quarter-ryal of 30 pence, although the style remained very much the same.

Decimal Twenty Pence

For the decimal 20p coin first issued in 1982 please see the relevant page under Decimal Twenty Pence Coins.


See my Main Coins Index page for acknowledgements


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Coins of the UK - 18 and 20 Pence
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v22 4th March 2015
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