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  • British Silver Coinage

    British Silver Coinage: Introduction

    Although England restricted the export of its silver coinage, it is clear some British silver, as well as some British gold coins, found their way to the American colonies. Coins were brought to the colonies by settlers, by British officials and soldiers, as well as by merchants and sailors. Indeed, throughout the colonial period numerous tables were published listing the exchange rate of various foreign coins for a particular colony. In 1750 the Massachusetts legislature established rates of exchange for English coinage, an English guinea (valued in England at £1 1s or 21s) passed at twenty-eight Massachusetts shillings ( £1 8s ); an English crown (valued at 5s in England) passed for 6s8d local currency and an English shilling equalled 1s4d in Massachusetts money. From R. Saunders, A Pocket Almanack for 1751 , which was printed by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia, we discover an English guinea passed at a rate of £1 14s in Pennsylvania, and according to the 1759 edition of Father Abraham's Almanack  by Abraham Weatherwise of Philadelphia, the English sixpence coin (6d) was valued at 9d in both New York and Philadelphia, while the English crown (5s) passed for 7s6d in Philadelphia and 8s in New York (Click here for the table).

    For a brief explanation of the British coinage system - Click here.

    For a listing of all denominations of hammered or milled English coins produced during the American colonial period - Click here.

    For a description of each denomination of hammered or milled English coins produced during the American colonial period - Click here.

    And for a listing of the English rulers during this period - Click here.

    Examples displayed

    The examples displayed include silver shillings and sixpence. These denominations are listed in colonial American conversion charts as coins that did circulate to some extent in the colonies. The silver penny through the silver four pence coins on display regularly circulated in England but saw very limited circulation in the colonies. I suspect silver pennies were very rarely, if ever, used in America. These smaller denominations have been included as examples of contemporary English coinage that would be familiar to most colonists as well as to British troops stationed in the colonies. Several of the colonies printed small change paper currency to fill the gap created by a lack of small silver coins.

    Coincraft numbers are given for all of the examples mentioned above.


    General references to British coinage are from: Richard Lobel et al., Coincraft's Standard Catalogue of English & UK Coins 1066 to Date  London: Coincraft, 1995 and Brian Reeds, Standard Catalogue of British Coins: Coins of England and the United Kingdom31st ed. London: B.T. Batsford for Seaby, 1996.

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    Section Contents British Silver Coins

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