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Early Edwardian Halfpennies

Identification Aids

General

The accurate identification of early Edwardian halfpennies requires close examination of individual elements of the design, particularly the legends, crowns, letters, drapery, contractive marks, etc. There are, however, far fewer types and varieties than is the case with contemporary pennies, as the quantity struck (and hence the number of dies and punches made) was very much smaller. The aids that follow may be used individually or collectively to narrow the range of possibilities, and identifications can be confirmed by clicking the link at the bottom of the page to proceed to the classification section and view images of the coins. At the end of this section, there is a table of concordance.

 

It is appropriate at this point to define some of the numismatic terms used in the article. In the context of the early Edwardian coinage, the obverse of a coin is the side that bears the facing bust of the king. The reverse is the side that carries the long cross with pellets in the angles. A mule is a coin struck with the obverse die of one type, and the reverse die of an earlier or later type. Mules are very useful for determining the order in which the coins were struck. Coins struck with dies that are normally used together are described as true coins. When punches became damaged, they were sometimes recut. This would probably entail annealing the metal, grinding or filing down the striking surface sufficiently to remove the damage, re-engraving the design to restore the lost relief, and re-hardening and tempering. The process sometimes resulted in slight changes to the shape of some elements of the design.

Preliminary checks

Before using the identification aids, it is necessary to confirm that the coin under consideration falls within the series covered by the present article, rather than belonging to a later period. In 1344 and 1351, Edward III struck new issues of coins, now known as his 3rd (or Florin) and 4th coinages respectively, both of which could potentially be mistaken for coins of the earlier period. The illustrations below show examples of these later halfpennies along with a halfpenny of the type covered by the present article. The annotations indicate the means by which they may be differentiated. Unless very worn, coins later than Edward III are unlikely to be confused with those of Edward I/II, as the king’s name does not re-occur until Edward IV came to the throne in 1461, by which time the halfpenny was considerably reduced in weight and size.

Legends

The obverse legend is a useful starting point in the identification process, as it was progressively changed in a way that enables coin types of the period under consideration to be divided chronologically into four discrete sections. These sections are indicated in the table below by greyscale banding of the columns. A simple reading of the legend will therefore reduce the range of possibilities considerably. In the table, an asterisk (*) at the end of the obverse legend represents a star in that position on the coin, X indicates the normal forms of legend used on coins of each type, and R indicates a rare form. It should be noted that a few error legends, not included in the table, also occur.

The reverse legend identifies the mint, so in the case of mints that were active only for a limited period, it can be a useful means of reducing the range of possible groups. It should be noted that coins minted at Berwick were struck from local dies and do not conform to the classes of the main series. Berwick is therefore not included in the table. If further guidance on the identification of mints is required, it can be found in ‘The mints’ section.

Crowns

The crown is another important element in the identification process, but it should be noted that, in the case of the present series of halfpennies, the same punches often remained in service for many years after they were first used. The two crown punches used to make the dies for Type 10ab halfpennies of Edward I, for example, were still in service more than thirty years later, when they were used to make dies for star-marked halfpennies of Edward III. It is also difficult in one or two cases (discussed below) to be certain whether an apparently different crown is in fact from a new punch, or from an earlier one that has been recut.

 

Crowns consist of a headband, a central fleur, two side-fleurs and two intermediate ornaments. The side-fleurs may be trifoliate (three-leafed) or bifoliate (two-leafed). The intermediate ornaments may be pearls (pellets), arrowheads (triangular) or spearheads (leaf-shaped).

Except for very minor variations that may be attributable to hand-finishing the dies, variations of force during striking, or different degrees of wear, the two crowns identified as 'A' and 'B' differ only in respect of the left ornament. In the case of 'B' the ornament is a well shaped arrowhead; in the case of 'A' it is an irregularly shaped blob. It seems likely, therefore, that the two crowns are from the same punch, with 'B' representing its earlier as-manufactured state, and 'A' representing its condition after the left arrowhead became damaged. (See Observations and rationale for further comment.)

Crown E appears to be a recut version of Crown C, with a slightly reshaped central fleur, but otherwise of closely similar geometry. The punch progressively breaks up during the period of its use (Groups 6 and 7), and the three images labelled E1, E2 and E3 represent early, intermediate and late states of the same punch.

Crown H* is from the same punch as Crown H, but both the left and right side-fleurs have been manually converted on the die from bifoliate to trifoliate form. 

Letters

The form of certain letters, particularly A, C/E, N and S, can be a very useful pointer, and the figure below indicates the most likely groups for each of the illustrated types. However, there are some instances where the various types occur in groups other than those indicated. This possibility should be kept in mind if none of the shortlisted groups appears to match the coin under consideration.

Other defining characteristics

Other defining characteristics include the form of drapery, the contractive marks used in the legends, the style of the king's face and the presence of pellets on the bust and in the reverse legend. All of these are noted in the detailed descriptions of each coin type in the classification section.

Concordance

As noted in the introduction, there have been several revisions to the original Fox classification as a result of later research and new information becoming available. The table below shows the concordance between North's revised version of the Fox classification, as used in the present article, and other systems with which numismatists will be familiar. In the case of the Withers classification, the types that correspond exactly, or at least very closely, are shown in a black typeface, while related varieties are shown in blue. It should be noted that many minor varieties identified by Withers are not included in the table.

 

The Foxes' original designations 3d and 3e were reversed in a later paper, and it is the later designations that are now in general use. In the HPW article of 1964, however, the classification is based on the original Fox designations, so their 3d (asterisked in the table) would now be regarded as 3e, thus eliminating the apparent discrepancy.

 

The entry of Bristol against Type 4c is shown in italics, as the mint was closed before any coins of Group 4 were struck. Some of the coins currently designated 4c require reassignment to Group 3. See section entitled Observations and rationale for further details.

 

It should be noted that coins minted at Berwick were struck from local dies and do not conform to the classes of the main series. Berwick is therefore not included in the table.