SunandAnchor - Die Design

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            In 1649 the king was executed in January. The mint was audited in May. The remainder of the year was given over to minting the new coinage. Puritans wanted a simple, clean, distinctive, design. The Royal coinage had seen very few changes over 5 decades. Obverses bore the image of the king’s bust or the king riding his horse. What then could engravers come up with for the Commonwealth Period?

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Charles 1, silver crown with mintmark portcullis, 1633-34.

            The answer was not obvious in 1649 coinage. Both the gold unite and silver halfcrown were test coins for any new design. The reverse one senses was less of a challenge. It bore the words “GOD WITH VS” and the year date. Below the roman numerals for the value - XX or II.vi. In the centre in place of the Royal Shield, the shields of St George and the Irish harp. The obverse was more problematical. No distinctive leader to replace the King and his list of domains in the legend, they settled for simply THE COMMONWEALTH OF ENGLAND with the mintmark sun surrounding a wreath of palm and olive around the shield of St George.  

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Commonwealth, silver crown of 1649.

            The silver crown of 1649 had only the principle design shown above. A new design was in place in 1651, Being the largest coin in the series it was the most difficult to produce. The smaller silver halfcrown and gold unite were much more popular and became the testing ground for design variations of which there were a few for the obverse. There was no winning design. Up to around 1653 there were distinctly different obverses, all variations on the theme.

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A selection of obverse hammered halfcrown designs in use from 1649 to 1653. Common to see more than one die of each design. 

The “Blondeau” milled halfcrown of 1651. One might have expected that this Symond’s production would become the official completed design, but it did not.

The “Finework” halfcrown of 1656, with dies most likely made in early 1654 with 18 reeds.

The 1656 to 1660 halfcrown with 21 reeds.

It is a very similar tale with the gold unite, which being the same size shared some obverse dies with the silver halfcrown. Of particular note however is the repeated appearance of one obverse die which appears to have been used every year between 1649 and 1657 for some reason to make a few high quality unite coins. In the early years the same die was in use on halfcrowns.


Die Engraving Depth on 17th Century Crowns


Charles 1 Crown - 1630/1

Very shallow cut engraving
without a raised edge giving rise to poor detail on a coin which was not in general use.

Commonwealth, 1649

First dies made in a similar fashion to the previous Charles coinage. Centre shield very difficult to reproduce the cross hatching.

Commonwealth, 1651-53

Redesigned die, cut deeper and to different depths with a raised edge to the coin to reduce wear and tear. Cross hatching much clearer.

Cromwell Milled Crown, 1658

Very much the ultimate Symonds design. A continuous pronounced raised edge, to protect a centre engraving with different depths.

Cromwell Milled Crown, 1658

The obverse displayed uneven wear in the centre and a less pronounced raised edge. This early coin appears to have been commercially traded as one can see a distinct “chop mark” below the bust. Raised edge not so pronounced.

Cromwell Milled Crown, 1658

The obverse die crack can be clearly seen along with a second crack developing between the tie and the letter P in PRO. This coin was probably never circulated.

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