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Friday, 7th February 2020
“Sezincote House and Gardens”
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On Friday 2nd February, members and their guests were treated to a fascinating talk on medieval coins especially those minted in the Cotswolds over the centuries and this report of the talk has been prepared by Geoff Parke.
Roger Box, an ex Police Scene of Crimes Officer, war crimes investigator in Bosnia and forensic archaeologist, shared his enthusiasm for and depth of knowledge of his hobby, coin collecting.
Roger gave us a quick tour of the Kings and Queens of England via the coinage of their reigns. The essential difference between modern coinage and that minted prior to 1917 is that the earlier coins, whether of gold, silver or copper, when they were minted were all worth their face value by dint of the weight of metal of each individual coin. Although older coins may be misshapen their weight was always consistent.
Prior to centralising the production of the nation’s coins, many mints existed throughout England including in the Cotswolds. The dies for coins were made centrally in London, and then sent to local mints. Each would be provided with metal billets. Initially each of these billets weighed one pound and because there was no inflation many centuries passed before one pound’s worth of silver weighed less than one pound weight. The one pound billet would be divided into 240 equal parts giving 240 pennies. The number 240 being chosen because it was easily divisible by 2, 4, 8, 12 etc. Each silver penny coin was marked with a cross, which enabled it to be accurately physically halved or quartered by the owner forming halfpennies and farthings.
In the Cotswolds over the centuries, coins were minted in Cricklade, Winchcombe, Gloucester, and Warwick. Between 1650 and 1660 coins, including brass farthings and heart shaped farthings, were made in Cirencester, Tetbury, Northleach, Bourton and Stow.
In the 14th century the gold Nobel was introduced. Each Nobel being equal to eighty pence. At the same time half and quarter Nobels were also minted together with the silver Groat worth four pence.
Around 1500 the date of minting appeared on coins for the first time and the head depicted on each coin became a true image of the current monarch, whereas previously only a stylised face had been utilised.
Henry VIII, when his coffers were in a parlous state, took to adding copper to the silver coins to save money. In so doing he earned the nick name ‘Old Copper Nose’ because the silver on his nose would be the first place on the coins to abrade exposing the copper!
In the Civil War, the Parliamentarians had the distinct advantage of holding London including the port. As such they had access to the spoils of attacks on Spanish galleons including gold and silver. This made them cash rich and able to pay their soldiers and buy weapons.
In about 1647 Edward VI produced the shilling (twelve pence) for the first time and, in 1603, James I introduced the gold Unite which was worth twenty shillings, the silver crown worth five shillings and the silver half crown.
The speaker took questions from the floor and after the meeting, audience members were able to see a range of coins from his collection. Mr. Box also kindly advised upon the value of coins for a number of those present.
1658 Thomas Gibbs of Stow – Trader's Tokens