Peace Is Sought Through War
The entry page to CromwellCoins.com. A website with colour pictures of both Cromwell and Commonwealth Coinage issued between 1649 and 1660.

Oliver Cromwell


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July 2015

Anchor_Mintmark, 1658 to 1660
Sun_Mintmark, 1649 thru 1657
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In Numismatics rarity and condition are the two key points which determine any coinís value. Condition is in our hands so can be easily assessed today. Rarity is another matter as rarity today is a combination of three factors - how many were made initially at the mint, how many have survived with collectors over the subsequent years missing the melting pot and how many have been found in hoards.

These factors are very tough to quantify for the Commonwealth Period. There appear to be no records of what was produced at the mint. Samuel Pepys in his Diaries suggests that in the 11 year period from 1649 to 1660 some 750,000 pounds worth of coins were minted in total. After the restoration in 1660 much of this, some 650,000 was recovered and melted down. The outstanding 100,000 is thought to have been exported. 

It is also reported that within the  Commonwealth Period 46.8% of silver coinage from the mint was produced between December 1651 and November 1653. This would tally with treasure trove captured on the high seas and brought to London in that period. A second period occurred in 1656 when more foreign ships were captured by the fleet, brought to London and precious metal offloaded to the Tower.

The number of dies in use can also be a reflection on coin numbers produced - few dies in use, suggests everything else being equal, lower numbers of coins. High numbers of dies then one has to also check to see if there were other problems affecting the number of coins minted. Maybe poor dies led to more being necessary to maintain output, so one has to be careful with this criteria. Wear and tear on dies was a significant factor related to coin size but it seems most dies were used to exhaustion. Larger sized coins required more striking force to produce a coin so die wear was more significant.

There exists one significant hoard of over 1500 coins from this period - the THAMES hoard - found near Blackfriars Bridge. Back in the 1650ís the point where the hoard was found was mid-river in the 1650ís, however with time that mid-river location has today become the banks of the Thames. One could consider this hoard to be a snapshot of coinage in general circulation at the time in the trading centre of London. So what period coinage was found to be in circulation ?


The information is charted, counting numbers of coins in the hoard for each denomination for different reigns. Around a quarter of the hoard is low value Elizabethan surviving for around 50 years in circulation.  In comparison there is relatively little of the younger James I coinage, mostly shillings and no halfcrowns.

The halfcrown does not make a noticeable presence till Charles I period where it represented 30% of  the coinage. The higher denomination halfcrown then appears to be even more popular in the Commonwealth period probably reflecting growing wealth in and around London.

The sixpence in comparison is becoming less dominant in coinage and shows a steady decline in numbers.

Notice that there are no coins above the value of halfcrown.

One immediate question might arise as to how typical this Thames hoard might have been. To answer this  compare the Thames Hoard to the slightly older Middleham Hoard, found in Yorkshire which also had a large number of pieces.


This chart compares denomination splits as before and we can clearly see that the most popular denomination is the shilling which in terms of numbers accounts for around half of the coinage in both hoards. The relative positions of the halfcrown and the sixpence flip as we go from Charles I coinage found at Middleham to the Thames hoard Commonwealth pieces. In this transition we see the Charles I Thames hoard counts trending from one to the other. So the sixpence appears to be losing popularity to the halfcrown, while the shilling maintains its popularity. One must also bear in mind that in comparing these hoards one was located in rural Yorkshire and the other in central London so there could be differences arising from relative wealth in these two locations.

The bar charts below plot the coin numbers by year for the shilling (green) and halfcrown (blue). One can clearly see the very irregular numbers during the Commonwealth Period dictated by the capture of treasure ships around 1653 and 1656. In  comparison the Middleham Hoard shows much more of a bell shaped distribution peaking in the year of the triangle in circle coinage of 1643. The Thames hoard appears to also reflect the relative rarity of the anchor mintmark for coins from 1658 to 1660.

These hoards however only provide information for denominations up to halfcrown. There is a notable absence of gold and silver crowns from hoards from this period so there is no rarity information for these coin denominations.

There is no definitive answer to this question of rarity so for completeness the above hard data may be compared to data published by SPINK of London in their book, ESC ( English Silver Coinage ). No data is presented on gold coinage but data on silver denominations may be compared.

Relative Surviving Silver Coin Distribution by Year


Relative Silver Coin Numbers by Denomination All Years


Data shown is based on information in English Silver Coinage, Seaby, Rayner, 3rd Edition, 1968