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SunandAnchor - Sizing of Coins

             An important part of production when producing gold and silver coins is to try to have common sizes with both ranges of denominations. The obverse dies could be made for both metals. During the Commonwealth period the gold unite and silver halfcrown shared the same obverse die. The only other shared obverse die was between the gold double crown and the silver sixpence.

             This might explain why the unite and the halfcrown were the test vehicles for any new obverse die design. Indeed any testing always involved these two denominations so they were key to operations within the mint. 1649 was the year when obverse die design was tested with different designs due to halfcrowns being difficult to make. 

            The Double Crown was the other gold denomination which was an offshoot of sixpence production, in that the production of sixpence obverse dies was far greater than those needed for double crown production. On checking obverse dies in use it appears that the 1649 obverse die for the double crown was in use to make 1656 double crowns. This suggests that production of the gold pieces was very small when compared to the silver sixpence. 

            The silver shilling, was the most popular denomination minted thru’out the Commonwealth period. It’s production was in no way linked to a gold denomination.

            Another interesting obsevation is that in general hammered gold unites were well made compared to silver halfcrowns. Rarely does one see a double strike on gold coinage. On silver it’s the exact opposite situation with very few pieces being made without the appearance of either double strike or off centre striking. We know that making a halfcrown involved four to six  hammer strikes. Maybe the gold unite on the other hand was produced with one good strike on the softer, thinner metal.

            At the other end of the spectrum, the toughest coin to strike was most definitely the silver crown. With a surface area of 1384 square millimetres compared to a halfcrown of 907 millimetres, and a greater thickness, much more striking pressure was required to make the crown. The typical quality of a hammered crown however was comparable to that of the unite. One other reason for the relatively poor quality of the halfcrown might have been the production numbers. Typically three times the volume of halfcrowns were produced each year when silver crowns were also made. Crowns were much more uniform in weight as well.  I have yet to see a low weight crown whereas some halfcrowns are 6% or more below target weight.

             The gold crown, had the smallest features of all the hammered coins, The lettering was especially difficult to accommodate on the obverse side where often stops are eliminated or the D of ENGLAND is omitted so that the legend would fit in. The cross hatching on the shields must also have been very challenging for the die maker and is usually seen as poor on the reverse. Of the gold production this appears to have been the most unpopular to make. Initial enthusiasm is seen as tapering out after 1654.

            As a general comment, the highest quality coinage where one generally sees good weight and quality of strike, involve all the gold coinage and the silver crown. After that coins for daily use of merchants, typically halfcrown and lower are often poor weight and poor strike quality. As regards size, it appears no changes were made during the Commonwealth period. Design variants were the order of the day.  

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