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Cromwell Halfcrown, 1658
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CromwellCoins - How to wear well with time

            Hammered are notoriously bad for wear. So bad Spink will only supply prices up to Very Fine in grade. So what’s going on?

            The very nature of how a hammered coin is produced essentially leads to the problem. During striking a metal blank is placed between two dies, one fixed and the other is held in the hands of the striker. It is possible to carefully place the blank on top of the bottom die but when the top die is lowered it is impossible to see the lower die. The chances of total alignment are extremely small. The end result is a coin where the edge of the die may not be visible.

            Both these halfcrowns are well struck as can be seen by the entirety of the edge of the coin.
            As a result the wear to the surfaces is quite uniform. So how does a bad strike compare?

            The 1653 halfcrown is a good example. The reverse is a tale of two sides in that the right side is struck well and detail is good which has been preserved with the high rim. The left side on the other hand shows no rim and the resultant preferential wear is obvious. Turning to the obverse side it is obvious that this coin has been badly double struck and again little rim to protect the engraved areas. 

            These kinds of differences are what makes grading hammered coins an acquired skill.

Scottish 30 Shilling

            While the mint preferred dies with shallow engraving depth, to help prolong the life of the dies in use, this also meant that resultant coin wear would be very fast. As can be seen in the above examples the importance of a high rim is seen to help coin wear. Did the mint know this? The answer is most definitely yes when we look at examples of Scottish 30 shillings produced at the Edinburgh mint using milling techniques back in the 1630’s. The dies were made by Briot with excellent attention to detail and depth of engraving. The very pronounced large high profile beading around the edge of the coin which is complete on both sides, protects the engraved details in the centre when the coin rubs against surfaces. During the Commonwealth Period the depth of engraving increased with time up to the Cromwell Crown of 1658. The depth with this piece was so high that a coin laid obverse face down will spin very easily and for a long time as Cromwell’s bust protrudes more than the rim of the coin. In 1662 when production of milled coins was started  the shallow engraved patterns of the Rottier Brothers was preferred to Symonds high relief profile dies which had a significantly shorter life in use.  

            One has to conclude that the mint saw denomination values, halfcrown and below, as having a built in defect for everyday wear and tear, which anyway would happen with handling.  A new monarch was a time to call in the worn metal coins, melt them down and re-issue.