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British Coins Identification British Coins Identification

It can be difficult to identify British coins as often no denomination is stated on the coin and the legends are usually in Latin. If you have no experience with British coins usually the diameter of the coin and the metal type are enough for identification purposes.

Before the installation of steam coin presses around the later part of the 1700's most denominations had a slightly irregular shape and although the weights were uniform, often the exact sizes were not. During the reign of George III particularly forgery was rife, in fact it played a big part in providing the masses with money for small transactions when regal coinage was thin on the ground. However, the forged coinage was often underweight and under (or even over) sized. For this reason you shouldn't try to be too accurate when concerning some of the earlier coins shown on the table below. 

How do you know if the coin is British?

Most British coins do not state Great Britain, UK, England or any country name. If the legend contains Britt, Britannia, Britanniar or Britanniarum, that's a good indication the coin is British or British colonial (the colony names are nearly always stated). Britannia (and its variations) was the name given to Great Britain by the Romans and has been used on many British coins ever since. The word 'Britt' is in fact part of the King or Queens title, normally you will see BRITT:OMN:REX which is an abbreviation for King of all Britons. (this title was dropped in 1953 after most of the colonies gained independence). 

It is probably also worth bringing up 'HIBERNIA' coins at this stage as particularly during the reigns of George III and George IV (1760-1830) the whole of Ireland was officially part of the Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and coins were minted in London and issued for use in Ireland with the Latin 'HIBERNIA' on them. These coins were often very similar in size to the 'BRITANNIA' coins but sometimes included different denominations and have not been included on this page.

Here is a short guide to help identify British coins dated from 1760 -1967 using metal types, date ranges and diameters. I have not included countermarked coins, proofs or patterns.

Copper/Bronze coins (usually brown coloured)

Farthings Size Notes
1771-1775 23-24mm Slightly irregular shaped copper coin
1799 22mm One year type copper coin
1806-1807 21mm Copper
1821-1860 22mm Copper
1861-1956 20mm Bronze
Halfpennies
1770-1775 29-30mm Slightly irregular shaped copper coin
1799 31mm One year type copper coin
1806-1807 29mm Copper
1825-1859 28mm Copper
1860-1967 26mm Bronze
Pennies
1797 36mm Chunky one year type copper
1806-1859 34mm Copper, intermittent dates
1860-1967 31mm Bronze
Two Penny
1797 41mm Chunky one year type copper

Brass coins (usually gold/brown colour)

Threepence
1937-1967 Appox 21mm 12 Sided issue

Silver / Cupro-nickel coins (usually silver tones)

Penny
1763-1820 12mm Silver coin. Intermittent dates
1821-now 11mm Silver pennies are still issued yearly in the Maundy ceremony
Twopenny
1763-1800 14mm Silver coin. Intermittent dates
1817-now 13mm Silver twopennies are still issued yearly in the Maundy ceremony
Threepence
1762-1800 18mm Silver coin. Intermittent dates
1817-1820 17mm Silver coin
1822-now 16mm Silver threepennies are 
Groats / Fourpences
1763-1800 19.5mm Silver coin, intermittent dates
1817-1820 18mm Silver coin
1836-1888 16mm Silver coin
1822-now 18mm Silver Maundy type still issued yearly in the Maundy ceremony. Large '4' on reverse
Sixpence
1786-1791 21-22mm Silver coin
1816-1967 19mm Silver/Cupro-nickel coin.
Shilling
1763-1778 26mm Silver coin. Intermittent dates
1787 25mm Silver coin, one year type
1816-1967 23mm Silver/Cupro-nickel coin.
Florin (or 2 Shillings)
1849 28mm Silver coin 'Godless' type
1851-1887 30mm Silver coin
1887-1892 29.5mm Silver coin
1893-1967 28.5mm Silver/Cupro-nickel coin.
Half Crown
1816-1967 32mm Silver/Cupro-nickel coin.
Double florin
1887-1890 36mm Silver coin
Dollar
1804 41mm Overstruck Spanish/colonial pieces of Eight were turned into a Bank of England Dollar with a face value of 5 Shillings. Earlier Dollars/Half Dollars just had a small countermark and fluctuating face value
Crown
1818-1951 38.61mm Silver/Cupro-nickel coin.
1953-date 38mm Modern crowns have a face value of 25p or 1990-date, Five pounds.
Gold coins*
Third Guinea
1776-1813 17mm Gold coin, intermittent dates
Half Guinea
1762-1813 20mm Gold coin, intermittent dates
Guinea
1761-1813 24mm Gold coin, intermittent dates
Half Sovereign
1817-date 19.3mm Gold coin
Sovereign
1817-date 22.05mm Gold coin
* Other larger Gold coins do exist but are rare and usually patterns and quite valuable!

Has this been useful? If so, please put a comment in the Forum.

Chris Perkins, 10th January 2003. Major update 25th November 2003. Updated 19th December 2005

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