The half guinea gold coin of the Kingdom of England and later of Great Britain was first produced in 1669, some years after the Guinea entered circulation. It was officially eliminated in the Great Recoinage of 1816, although, like the guinea, it was used in quoting prices until decimalisation.
The value of the guinea had fluctuated over the years from twenty to thirty shillings, and back down to twenty one shillings and sixpence by the start of George I's reign. A Royal Proclamation of December 1717 fixed the value of the guinea at twenty one shillings. The value of the half guinea was thus fixed at ten shillings and sixpence (written as 10s 6d or 10/6: the latter is the style used on the price ticket of The Hatter's hat in the story Alice's Adventures in Wonderland).
The present day value of a 1717 half guinea is about £77. A golden half guinnea in fine condition would be worth considerably more.
During the reign of King Charles II, the elephant and castle logo of the Africa Company appeared on some coins from 1676 to 1684, although the denomination was produced in all years between 1669 and 1684. The coin weighed 4.2 grams and was 20 millimetres in diameter.
The obverse and reverse of this coin were designed by John Roettier (1631 – c. 1700). The obverse showed a fine right-facing bust of the king wearing a Laurel wreath, surrounded by the legend CAROLVS II DEI GRATIA, while the reverse showed four crowned cruciform shields bearing the arms of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, between which were four sceptres, and in the centre were four interlinked "C"s, surrounded by the inscription MAG BR FRA ET HIB REX date. To avoid confusion with gilded silver coins the edge was milled to deter clipping or filing—in 1669 the milling was perpendicular to the coin, giving vertical grooves, while from 1670 the milling was diagonal to the coin.
John Roettier continued to design the dies for this denomination in the reign of King James II. In this reign, the coins were of the same dimensions as before, and were minted in 1686-1688. The elephant and castle mark was only used on some coins in 1686, which are particularly scarce. The King's head faces left in this reign, and is surrounded by the inscription IACOBUS II DEI GRATIA, while the obverse is the same as in Charles II's reign except for omitting the interlinked "C"s in the centre of the coin. The edge of the coins are milled diagonally.
With the removal of James II in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, his daughter Mary, and her husband Prince William of Orange ruled jointly by agreement as co-monarchs. Their heads appear conjoined on the guinea piece in Roman style, with William's head uppermost, with the legend GVLIELMVS ET MARIA DEI GRATIA. In a departure from the previous reigns the reverse featured a totally new design of a large crowned shield which bore the arms of France in the first quarter, of Scotland in the second quarter, of Ireland in the third quarter, and of England in the fourth quarter, the whole ensemble having a small shield in the centre bearing the rampant lion of Nassau; the legend on the obverse read MAG BR FR ET HIB REX ET REGINA date. By the early part of this reign the value of the guinea had increased to nearly thirty shillings. The half guineas of this reign weighed 4.2 grams, were 20 millimetres in diameter. The credit for the design of the gold coinage of this reign is usually given to James and Norbert Roettier, but the 1689 coin bears somewhat caricatured heads of the monarchs, and it is thought that this is in the style of George Bower (d. 1689/90), an artist who designed the first type of penny and halfpenny of 1689 and also produced a number of medals with grotesque and cartoon-like busts. Records show that Bower was instructed in July 1689 'to make a puncheon for the Halfe Guinneys ande to worke it in the Mint'; the heads of the halfpenny, penny, and half guinea of 1689 don't share the harmony of design of later Roettier work. Half guineas were produced in all years between 1689 and 1694 with the elephant and castle appearing in 1691 and 1692.
Following the death of Queen Mary from smallpox in 1694, William continued to reign as William III. The half guinea coin was produced in all years from 1695 to 1701, with the elephant and castle appearing on some coins from 1695, 1696, and 1698, the design probably being the work of James Roettier and John Croker.
The coins of William III's reign weighed 4.2 grams with a diameter of 20 millimetres. William's head faces right on his coins, with the legend GVLIELMVS III DEI GRATIA, while the reverse design of William and Mary's reign was judged to be unsuccessful, so the design reverted to that used by Charles II and James II, but with a small shield with the lion of Nassau in the centre, with the legend MAG BR FRA ET HIB REX date. The coin had a diagonal milled edge.
The reign of Queen Anne (1702–1714) produced pre-Union half guineas in 1702, 1703, and 1705. The 1703 half guinea bears the word VIGO under the Queen's bust, to commemorate the origin of the gold taken from the Spanish ships at the Battle of Vigo Bay. With the Union of England and Scotland the design of the reverse of the half guinea was changed. Until the Union, the cruciform shields on the reverse showed the arms of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland in order, separated by sceptres and with a central rose, and the legend MAG BR FRA ET HIB REG date. With the union, the English and Scottish arms appear conjoined on one shield, with the left half being the English arms and the right half being the Scottish arms, and the order of arms appearing on the shields becomes England+Scotland, France, England+Scotland, Ireland and the legend MAG BRI FR ET HIB REG date. The centre of the reverse design shows Star of the Order of the Garter. The coins weighed 4.2 grams, were 20 millimetres in diameter. The edge of the coin is milled diagonally.
The dies for all half-guineas of Queen Anne and King George I were engraved by John Croker, an immigrant originally from Dresden in the Duchy of Saxony.
King George I's half guinea coins were struck between 1715 and 1727 except 1716, with the elephant and castle sometimes appearing in 1721. The coins weighed 4.2 grams, were 20 millimetres in diameter, with a diagonally milled edge.
The obverse shows the right-facing portrait of the king with the legend GEORGIVS D G M BR FR ET HIB REX F D. The reverse follows the same general design as before, except the order of the shields is England+Scotland, France, Ireland, and Hanover, with the legend BRVN ET L DVX S R I A TH ET EL date -- Duke of Brunswick and Lueneburg, Arch-Treasurer and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire.
King George II's guinea pieces marks are a complex issue, with eight obverses and five reverses used through the 33 years of the reign. The coins were produced in all years of the reign except 1735, 1741, 1742, 1744, 1754, and 1757. The coins weighed 4.2 grams, and were 20 millimetres in diameter. Some coins issued between 1729 and 1739 carry the mark EIC under the king's head, to indicate the gold was provided by the East India Company, while some 1745 coins carry the mark LIMA to indicate the gold came from Admiral Anson's round-the-world voyage. The edge of the coin was milled diagonally, the coin being too thin to take the chevron milling applied to the larger gold coins from 1739.
The obverse has a left-facing bust of the king with the legend GEORGIVS II DEI GRATIA (GEORGIUS II DEI GRATIA between 1740 and 1745), while the reverse features a single large crowned shield with the quarters containing the arms of England+Scotland, France, Hanover, and Ireland, and the legend M B F ET H REX F D B ET L D S R I A T ET E -- King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Duke of Brunswick and Lueneburg, Arch-Treasurer and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire.
The half guinea was minted in nearly all the years of the long reign of King George III (1760–1820).
The half guineas of George III weighed 4.2 grams and were 20 millimetres in diameter except from 1787 when they were 20-21 millimetres in diameter. They were issued with seven different obverses and three reverses in 1762-1766, 1768, 1769, 1772–1779, 1781, 1783–1798, 1800–1806, 1808–1811 and 1813. All the obverses show right-facing busts of the king with the legend GEORGIVS III DEI GRATIA with different portraits of the king. The reverse of half guineas issued between 1761 and 1786 show a crowned shield bearing the arms of England+Scotland, France, Ireland and Hanover, with the legend M B F ET H REX F D B ET L D S R I A T ET E date. In 1787 a new design of reverse featuring a spade-shaped shield was introduced, with the same legend; this has become known as the Spade Half-Guinea.
In 1774 almost 20 million worn guineas of William III and Queen Anne were melted down and recoined as guineas and half-guineas.
In 1801 the king relinquished his claim on the French throne, and the legend on the reverse was altered to reflect this, and the Hanoverian arms were removed from the coat of arms. The reverse of the 1801-1813 half guinea features a crowned shield within a Garter, with HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE on the Garter, and BRITANNIARUM REX FIDEI DEFENSOR around the edge, and date between the edge inscription and the garter.
In the Great Recoinage of 1816, the guinea was replaced as the major unit of currency by the pound.
The standard circulating coinage of the United Kingdom is denominated in pounds sterling, and, since the introduction of the two-pound coin in 1994, ranges in value from one penny to two pounds. Since decimalisation, on 15 February 1971, the pound has been divided into 100 (new) pence. Before decimalisation, twelve pence made a shilling, and twenty shillings made a pound. British coins are minted by the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales. The Royal Mint also commissions the coins' designs.
The noble was the first English gold coin produced in quantity, having been preceded by the gold penny and the florin earlier in the reigns of King Henry III and King Edward III, which saw little circulation. The derivatives of the noble, the half noble and quarter noble, on the other hand, were produced in quantity and were very popular.
The British half farthing coin, usually simply known as a half farthing, was a unit of currency equaling 1/1,920 of a pound sterling, or one eighth of a penny. It was minted in copper for use in Ceylon, but in 1842 they were declared legal tender in the United Kingdom. Two different obverses were used. Like all British coinage, it bore the portrait of the monarch on the obverse.
The third farthing was a British coin which was produced in various years between 1827 and 1913.
The history of the English penny from 1603 to 1707 covers the period of the House of Stuart, up to the Acts of Union of 1707 which brought about the Union of the Kingdom of England with the Kingdom of Scotland.
The British florin, or two shilling coin, was issued from 1849 until 1967, with a final issue for collectors dated 1970. Valued at one tenth of a pound, it was the last coin circulating immediately prior to decimalisation to be demonetised, in 1993, having for a quarter of a century circulated alongside the ten pence piece, identical in specifications and value.
The British threepence (3d) coin, usually simply known as a threepence, thruppence, or thruppenny bit, was a unit of currency equaling one eightieth of a pound sterling, or three old pence sterling. It was used in the United Kingdom, and earlier in Great Britain and England. Similar denominations were later used throughout the British Empire, notably in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
The Five Guinea was a machine-struck gold coin produced from 1668–1753. Measuring 37 millimetres in diameter and weighing between 41 and 42 grams, it was the largest regularly produced gold coin in Britain. Although the coin is commonly known as the "Five guinea" piece, during the 17th and 18th centuries it was also known as a Five-pound piece, as the guinea was originally worth twenty shillings — until its value was fixed at twenty-one shillings by a Royal Proclamation in 1717 the value fluctuated rather in the way that bullion coins do today.
The Two Guineas was a gold coin first minted in England in 1664 with a face value of forty shillings. The source of the gold used, also provided the coin its name - the "Guinea", with the regular addition of an elephant or castle symbol on the earliest issues to denote bullion supplied by the Royal African Company. For most of its period of production, the coin weighed between 16.7-16.8 grams and was 31-32 millimetres in diameter, although the earliest coins of Charles II were about 0.1 grams lighter and 1 millimetre smaller.
The guinea was a coin of approximately one quarter ounce of gold that was minted in Great Britain between 1663 and 1814. The name came from the Guinea region in West Africa, where much of the gold used to make the coins originated. It was the first English machine-struck gold coin, originally worth one pound sterling, equal to twenty shillings, but rises in the price of gold relative to silver caused the value of the guinea to increase, at times to as high as thirty shillings. From 1717 to 1816, its value was officially fixed at twenty-one shillings.
A seven shilling piece was introduced in Great Britain by a proclamation of 29 November 1797. It has been called a third guinea, a guinea being worth 21 shillings. The gold coin was minted only in the reign of George III.
The Quarter guinea was a British coin minted only in the years 1718 and 1762. As the name implies, it was valued at one-fourth of a guinea, which at that time was worth twenty-one shillings. The quarter guinea therefore was valued at five shillings and threepence.
A Two Pound coin was an occasional feature of the British currency from 1823 until 1996, but has been minted every year since 1997. With the exception of proof coins issued in 1824, 1825, 1826, and 1831, the design of the reverse always featured the George and Dragon of Benedetto Pistrucci, with the year in the exergue under the design.
The Unite was the second English gold coin with a value of twenty shillings or one pound first produced during the reign of King James I. It was named after the legends on the coin indicating the king's intention of uniting his two kingdoms of England and Scotland. The unite was valued at twenty shillings until 1612 when the increase in the value of gold throughout Europe caused it to be raised to twenty-two shillings. The coin was produced during James I's second coinage (1604–1619), and it was replaced in the third coinage by the Laurel worth twenty shillings. All the coins were produced at the Tower Mint in London.
The British halfpenny coin was worth 1/480th of a pound sterling. At first in its 700-year history it was made from silver but as the value of silver increased, the coin was made from base metals. It was finally abandoned in 1969 as part of the process of decimalising the British currency. "Halfpenny", colloquially written ha'penny, was pronounced HAY-pə-nee; "1 ½d" was spoken as a penny ha'penny or three ha'pence.
The threepence or threepenny bit was a denomination of currency used by various jurisdictions in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, valued at 1/80 of a pound or ¼ of a shilling until decimalisation of the pound sterling and Irish pound in 1971. It was also used in some parts of the British Empire, notably Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
A Crown of the Rose is an extremely rare gold coin of the Kingdom of England introduced in 1526 during the reign of Henry VIII, in an attempt to compete with the French écu au soleil. The coin was not a success and just a few months later it was replaced by the Crown of the Double-Rose.
The pre-decimal penny (1d) was a coin worth 1/240 of a pound sterling. Its symbol was d, from the Roman denarius. It was a continuation of the earlier English penny, and in Scotland it had the same monetary value as one pre-1707 Scottish shilling. The penny was originally minted in silver, but from the late 18th century it was minted in copper, and then after 1860 in bronze.
A farthing was a coin of the Kingdom of England worth one quarter of a penny, 1⁄960 of a pound sterling. Such coins were first minted in England in silver in the 13th century, and continued to be used until the Kingdom of England was merged into the new Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707.