- Crown (British coin)
The first coins were minted in 22 carat crown gold, and the first silver crowns were produced in 1551 during the reign of King Edward VI. However some gold crowns continued to be made up until 1662. No crowns were minted in the reign of Mary I, but silver as well as gold coins were minted in the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I.
The crown is one of many silver coins that appeared in various countries from the 16th century onwards (the most famous example perhaps being pieces of eight), all of which were of a similar size and weight (approx 38mm diameter and containing approx 25 grams of fine silver) and thus interchangeable in international trade.
Crowns were minted in all reigns between Elizabeth I of England and Elizabeth II. The Charles II Petition Crown, engraved by Thomas Simon currently holds the price record at auction for an English silver coin. The Queen Victoria 'Gothic' crown from 1847 (mintage just 8,000 and produced to celebrate the Gothic revival) is considered by many to be the most beautiful British coin ever minted.
The crown was a large coin, and did not circulate well. However, crowns were generally struck in a new monarch's coronation year (true of each monarch since George IV and up until the present monarch in 1953, with the exception of George V).
The George V 'wreath' crowns struck from 1927 to 1936 (excluding 1935 when the more common 'rocking horse' crown was minted to commemorate the King's Silver Jubilee) depict a wreath on the reverse of the coin and were struck in very low numbers. Generally struck late in the year and intended to be purchased as Christmas gifts, they did not circulate well with the rarest of all dates, 1934, (mintage just 932) now fetching several thousand pounds each. The 1927 'wreath' crowns were struck as proofs only (15,030 minted).
With its large size, many of the later coins were primarily commemoratives. The 1951 issue was for the Festival of Britain, and was only struck in proof condition. The 1965 issue carried the image of Winston Churchill on the reverse, the first time a non-monarch or commoner was ever placed on a British coin. According to the Standard Catalog of coins, 9,640,000 were minted, a very high number at the time, making them of little value today except as a mark of respect for the World War II leader.
The last five shilling piece was minted in 1965.
After decimalisation on February 15, 1971 a new coin known as a 25p (25 pence) piece was introduced. Whilst being legal tender and having the same decimal value as a crown, the 25p pieces were issued to commemorate events, e.g. 1972 was for the 25th wedding anniversary of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. The 1977 issue was to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's silver Jubilee, the 1980 issue for the 80th birthday of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and, in 1981, the coin was issued to celebrate the marriage of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles.
Further issues continue to be minted to the present day, initially with a value of twenty-five pence, and then, from 1990, with a value of five pounds.
The face or denominational value of the crown remained as five shillings from 1544 to 1965. For most of this period there was no mark of value on the coin. From 1927 to 1937 the word "CROWN" appears, and from 1951 to 1960 this was changed to "FIVE SHILLINGS". After decimalisation in 1971, the face value kept its five shillings equivalent at 25 new pence, later simply 25 pence, although the face value is not shown on any of these issues.
From 1990, the crown was re-tariffed at five pounds (£5), probably in view of its relatively large size compared with its face value, and taking into consideration its production costs, and the Royal Mint's profits on sales of commemorative coins. While this change was understandable, it has brought with it a slight confusion, and the popular misbelief that all crowns have a five pound face value, including the pre-1990 ones. However, these five pound coins are all inscribed with their value.
Although all "normal" issues since 1951 have been composed of cupro-nickel, special proof versions have been produced for sale to collectors, and as gift items, in silver, gold, and occasionally platinum.
The fact that gold £5 crowns are now produced means that there are two different strains of five pound gold coins, namely crowns and what are now termed "quintuple sovereigns" for want of a more concise term.
Numismatically, the term "crown-sized" is used generically to describe large silver or cupro-nickel coins of about 40 mm in diameter. Most Commonwealth countries still issue crown-sized coins for sale to collectors.
New Zealand's original and present fifty-cent pieces, and Australia's previously round but now dodecagonal fifty-cent piece, although valued at five shillings in predecimal accounting, are all smaller than the standard silver crown pieces issued by those countries (and the UK).
The first crowns were minted in 22 carat crown gold, and the first silver crowns were produced from the reign of King Edward VI. Until the time of the Commonwealth of England it was usual practice for crowns to be minted in gold to some extent. Silver as well as gold coins were minted in the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I.
For silver crowns, the composition adhered to the long-standing standard (established in the 12th century by Henry II) — the Sterling Silver standard of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. This was a harder-wearing alloy, yet it was still a rather high grade of silver. It went some way towards discouraging the practice of "clipping", though this practice was further discouraged and largely eliminated with the introduction of the milled edge we see on coins today.
In a debasement process which took effect in 1920, the silver content of all British coins was reduced from 92.5% to 50%, with a portion of the remainder consisting of manganese, which caused the coins to tarnish to a very dark colour after they had been in circulation for a significant period. Silver was eliminated altogether in 1947, with the move to a composition of cupro-nickel - except for proof issues, which returned to the pre-1920 92.5% silver composition.
Since standardisation of the UK's silver coinage in 1816 (UK Coinage Reform 1816), a crown has, as a general rule, had a diameter of 38.61 mm, and weighed 28.276g.
Monarch Year Number Minted Detail Composition* Edward VII 1902 256,020 Coronation Ster. Silv. George V 1927 15,030 (proof only) 'Wreath' Crown 0.500 silver 1928 9,034 'Wreath' Crown 0.500 silver 1929 4,994 'Wreath' Crown 0.500 silver 1930 4,847 'Wreath' Crown 0.500 silver 1931 4,056 'Wreath' Crown 0.500 silver 1932 2,395 'Wreath' Crown 0.500 silver 1933 7,132 'Wreath' Crown 0.500 silver 1934 932 'Wreath' Crown 0.500 silver 1935 714,769 George V and Queen Mary Silver Jubilee 0.500 silver 1936 2,473 'Wreath' Crown 0.500 silver George VI 1937 418,699 Coronation 0.500 silver 1951 1,983,540 Festival of Britain Cu/Ni Elizabeth II 1953 5,962,621 Coronation Cu/Ni 1960 1,024,038 British Exhibition in New York Cu/Ni 1965 19,640,000 Death of Sir Winston Churchill Cu/Ni 1972 Queen Elizabeth II 25th Wedding Anniversary 25p Cu/Ni 1977 Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee 25p Cu/Ni 1980 Queen Mother 80th Birthday 25p Cu/Ni 1981 Charles & Diana Wedding 25p Cu/Ni
- The specifications for composition refer to the standard circulation versions. Proof versions continue to be minted in Sterling Silver
British coinage Current circulation Commemorative and bullion Withdrawn (decimal)
- Half penny
See also Currencies named Crowns or similar Circulating Obsolete Proposed As a denomination
- British crown
The 1935 "rocking horse" Crown with a modern depiction of Saint George and the Dragon
- £5 coins images of crowns
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