Robert Matthews Coin Authentication


Coin Report No. Example 1


Coin submitted by:        Anonymous                                          Date: May 2002


Coin denomination:       Half-crown       Date:    1816    Insurance value:  £10 to £20




In1816 a start was made on a complete British re-coinage. This was towards the end of the long reign of George III. The new coins were based purely on the gold standard and from this time silver coins became a token coinage. This meant a silver coin’s value was not based on the value of the metal it contained. This re-coinage was the start of modern British coinage.


New half-crowns, shillings and sixpences were produced during 1816 in sterling (92.5%) silver. Just over eight million of the new half-crowns were issued in 1817 consisting of both 1816 and 1817 dated coins. The 1816 half-crown is still relatively common in the circulated condition. These coins were produced at the new Royal Mint at Little Tower Hill using the new steam, powered machinery installed by Bolton and Watt.


Benedetto Pistrucci produced the coin’s obverse design. This consisted of a large laureate head of George III showing a bare right shoulder. This design was known as the Bull Head and was not popular. It was changed in 1818. Pistrucci is justly famous for his reverse design of St. George and the dragon used for the sovereign and crown. Thomas Wyon designed the reverse. It consisted of a crowned garter surrounding a coat of arms.  From 1816 the edge of the half-crown was milled.


Only a single variety of circulation coin of this date is noted in the literature.


Main references:


Ref. 1, “English Silver Coinage since 1649” by P.Alan Rayner, 5th revised edition, 1992 published by B.A.Seaby Ltd., London.


Ref. 2, “British Silver Coins since 1816” by Peter J. Davies, 1982, published by Peter J. Davies.


Ref. 3, “The Standard catalogue of English Milled Coinage in silver, copper and bronze, 1662 – 1972” by Geoffrey M. Cope and P.Alan Rayner, 1975, distributed by Spink and Son Ltd., London


Description of the submitted coin




This consisted of the Bull Head effigy of George III facing right. There was significant wear on the effigy and other high points but all the design elements were clearly visible. There was a raised rim with open beading inside it. The coin was pleasantly toned; light grey, with the worn highlights showing the original silver colour of the metal. There was a dark half-moon on the left hand side partially covering the hair of the effigy.


Inscription: “GEORIUS III DEI GRATIA 1816”







This consisted of a shield (Ensigns Armorial of the United Kingdom; note these contained the arms of Hanover at the centre) surrounded by a crowned garter and a chain. There was significant wear on the high points especially the inscription on the garter.  Except for certain parts of this inscription on the garter, all the other main design elements were clearly visible. The side was evenly toned light grey again with the highlights more silvery.


Inscription: outer inscription, “BRITANNIARUM REX FID: DEF:”

                    garter inscription, “HONI SOIT ?UI MAL Y PENSE”


Die Axis: ↑↑ (note: Ref. 2 describes the 1816 half-crown as having this die axis. However “Coins of England and the United Kingdom. Spink Catalogue of British Coins 2001” states this coins die axis as being ↑↓)


Edge: milled


Physical measurements


Weight:  13.4512g                    Diameter, N/S: 31.18mm

                             E/W: 31.20mm


Edge thickness: 1.72-1.80mm 


Alignment (Die axis): The reverse was about 5 degrees to the left compared with the obverse. This was considered consistent with the press setting standards for the period.                                  




Conductivity:    69.5% IACS @ 120 KHz                    Relative density: 10.36 g/cc 


Magnetic? No


X-ray spectrometer surface analysis:


                        %Silver            %Copper         %Lead             %Gold

Obverse:            92.30                 7.16               0.20                  0.17

Reverse:             92.52                 6.90               0.17                  0.18


The conductivity was lower than one would expect with a pure sterling silver alloy, about 80%IACS. This was due to the impurities present and is consistent with the alloy used during this period. After the middle of the nineteenth century the amount of gold present in the British coins made in sterling silver dropped below 0.05%. However it was not until the start of the twentieth century that the lead in these alloys consistently dropped below 0.05%.


The density of the alloy was consistent with a sterling silver alloy and confirmed no surface affects had invalidated the X-ray spectrometer analysis.


Microscopic examination




Generally the coin had been well struck although the top left hand side of the obverse was shallower than the remainder of the coin.


There was some superficial corrosion present mainly inside the letters of the inscription.


There was no evidence of any alterations to the date or lettering.


Some of the letters showed some slight die doubling.






This side of the coin was in a similar condition to the obverse.


The coin should have had an incuse WWP and an incuse W on the bottom left and right hand sides of the shield respectively. These could not be distinguished probably due to wear.


Davies, Ref. 2, noted that the cross on the top of the crown should end opposite a bead unlike the 1820 coin were it ends opposite a space. This could not be confirmed. 


There were six strings to the Irish harp in the shield. This was as expected.




The coin is a genuine 1816 half-crown and has not been altered in any way.


It is made from the correct silver alloy for the date.


The significant design feature able to be distinguished after wear, were correct for this type of coin.






Robert W. Matthews C.Chem., MRSC

Formerly Queen’s Assay Master


© R.W.Matthews


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