The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 26, Number 36, September 3, 2023, Article 21


Davissons is holding their E-Auction 47 on September 6th. An email to clients from Allan Davisson highlighted several choice British hammered shillings. -Editor


In the nearly five centuries this denomination has existed, it has not only become a fixture in much modern coinage (e.g. the United States quarter which is now issued in more iterations than I was willing to take time to count), its extensive use throughout all those years provides a comprehensive medallic account of British history.

It is also a particularly popular area for collector specialization. I put together a few examples to serve as a focal point in this sale.

  Davissons E47 Sale Lot 169 Edward VI shilling
Edward VI

The denomination as a unit of measure had been around since Anglo-Saxon days, but an actual coin did not come about until the 14-year-old king's portrait appeared on the fine silver coinage of 1551 (Lot 169) that replaced the seriously debased—and disrespected—coinage left over from his spendthrift father. The precocious and erudite young Edward's writings* note his May 1551 criticism of London leaders raising prices because the teston cried down from 12d. to 10d. and the groat from 4d. to 3d.

In July 1551 Edward commented on a proclamation signed for a shortening of the fall of the money to that day and the proclamation was delivered to sheriffs instructing them not to open it until July 8. Subsequent notes written by Edward expand on the problem and by September Edward seemed to be regarding the existing, and in varying degrees, debased coinage as the bullion from which coinage of a new standard would now be minted.

Later in the month he noted that it was Agreed that the stamp of the shilling and the sixpence should be: of one side a king painted to the shoulders, in Parliament robes, and with a chain of the Order. This is the coin listed as Lot 169 in our current sale—an attractive example that got scratched somewhere in the past 472 years.

*(Quotations taken from Jordan, W.K. Editor. The Chronicle and Political Papers of King Edward VI. Cornell University Press. 1966)

  Davissons E47 Sale Lot 171 Elizabeth I shilling Davissons E47 Sale Lot 175 Elizabeth I shilling
Elizabeth I (lots 171 and 175)

We have a few more historically significant shillings in this sale including a couple with exceptional pedigrees. Elizabeth I is represented twice, with a Second Issue piece with an earlier portrait. (Lot 171) I have had this piece since well before our current database was constructed. It is on a full round flan with good detail and almost all the edge beading intact. (In hand it is more attractive with a richer tone and clear hints of underlying fresh surfaces.)

Another piece issued later in her reign has clear scratches in the field just in front of her portrait. (Lot 175) There is a possibility that this bold X with an extra line for emphasis was a political comment on the queen, a practice seen on coins from as far back as the Roman Empire.

  Davissons E47 Sale Lot 177 James I shilling Davissons E47 Sale Lot 179 Charles I shilling
James I and Charles I (Lots 177 and 179

The James I shilling with the rare first portrait of James (Lot 177) came from one of the finest coin collections of the 20th Century, the collection formed by Mrs. Emery May Norweb from about 1905. She had inherited a collection of American coins and she, along with her husband, R. Henry Norweb, collected for well over seven decades.

The reign of Charles I was particularly well documented by the coinage that emerged during this tumultuous period. Lot 179 is an excellent example of a coin minted in a time of great stress. The bust was designed by a master—Briot—but the production was hurried, no time for a neatly cut flan. This was among the last pieces produced by the Tower for Charles. The next set of initial marks (mint marks) signified that Parliament was now using the coinage capabilities to produce coins under their rule.

  Davissons E47 Sale Lot 182 Charles shilling

The final shilling (Lot 182) in this brief feature come from the Bridgewater House collection formed in the 18th Century. A different portrait of Charles is on the obverse but the reverse has the declaration of the Royalists, RELIG PRO LEG ANG LIB PAR (Religion of the Protestants, Laws of England, Liberty of the Parliament). As noted in the Bridgewater House catalog, the flan is irregular but the centering is close and the completeness of the detail is substantially better than often seen on these issues produced far from London. Bristol's hopes for neutrality in the Civil War were rejected when Thomas Essex marched in in 1642 for Parliament. The Royalists seized it in 1643 and Bristol became an important west coast port for Royalist forces, important enough that a mint was established there. A siege in 1645 restored Bristol to Parliamentarian control.

All in all, a few important anecdotes in English history.

For more information, or to bid, see:

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:


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Wayne Homren, Editor

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