2019 marks the 170th anniversary of the Florin – a coin with a fascinating history, first issued during the reign of Queen Victoria in 1849.
Whilst you certainly wouldn’t recognise it as a 10p nowadays, it was actually Britain’s very first decimalised coin, with a value one tenth of a pound.
This experiment in decimalisation didn’t take off for almost another 120 years when the 5p and 10p coins were issued, however the Florin remained in circulation until 1970 when a final edition was issued for collectors.
The Godless Florin
For hundreds of years, right up until the present day, Britain’s coinage has been diligently pious, featuring a range of different Latin inscriptions, but almost all coins feature the full text, or an abbreviation of, ‘Dei Gratia, Fidei Defensor’ – ‘by the Grace of God, Defender of the Faith’.
All coins that is, except the original Florins issued in 1849…
The introduction of these Florins was met with immediate outcry from the strongly religious Victorians of the time and the coin gained the nickname ‘the Godless florin’.
It was even suggested that an outbreak of cholera that year was the act of a vengeful God, visiting death upon the British population as revenge for leaving Him off the new coin!
Queen Victoria herself even complained and coin was replaced, meaning that to this day, the 1849 Florin is one of the most infamous coin designs in British numismatic history.
The Gothic Silver Florin
In 1851, a new Florin was introduced, known as the ‘Gothic Florin’.
The coin earned its name from the distinctive Gothic-style inscription on the obverse side, surrounding the shields of the United Kingdom.
The inscription featured a combination of upper and lower-case letters and Roman Numerals to signify the date, which are both very unusual features for a British coin.
Another irregularity with the Florin was the crowned portrait of Queen Victoria, which would have been highly unusual to the public at the time, as this new denomination was the first coin to feature a crowned monarch for over 200 years.
The ‘Barmaid’s Ruin’ Florin
A second attempt to introduce decimal currency occurred in 1887 when the double Florin was issued, valued at 1/5 of a pound.
This coincided with the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, yet despite the joyful occasion, for many the coin was an unwanted addition to British currency and it did not receive a warm welcome from the public.
The real reason for its introduction is disputed, nevertheless it became Britain’s second ‘decimal’ coin, just 2mm smaller in diameter than the familiar Crown, yet worth a shilling less.
The unintended consequence was that the coin was often passed off as a Crown, with naïve barmaids apparently being the most susceptible to the deception.
It’s even been suggested that more than a few barmaids lost their livelihood on the grounds that they were losing the tavern owners money, hence the nickname ‘Barmaid’s Ruin’.
Creating the Gothic Head
The ‘Gothic Head’ featured on the Florin was first produced in 1847 by Royal Mint chief engraver, William Wyon, following the success of his ‘Young Head’ portrait.
Young Queen Victoria can be seen wearing an ornate crown, with a loose braid in her hair – the first time since the coins of Charles II that a monarch had been shown wearing a crown on British coinage.
Inspired by the revival of Gothic style throughout Victorian Britain, the new design also featured gothic style text used for the inscription .
The Gothic style influenced every aspect of Victorian life, from architecture, literature, clothing and coinage.
Even today, the gothic style can still be seen in British architecture, such as the Natural History Museum and the many Victorian churches that still stand today.
Do you have any Florins in your collection and what do you think about their gothic designs?
Own a collector’s favourite – The ‘Gothic’ Silver Florin
The Gothic Florin is a firm favourite with British coin collectors for its originality, and unique style. However, our stock of this classic coin is limited so please don’t delay your reservation!
Every year The Royal Mint mark the year’s memorable events and anniversaries that capture the nation by striking these stories onto circulating coins, and 2019 is no different.
Today, The Royal Mint have unveiled the new themes and designs for all the 2019 commemorative coins, and Change Checkers can look forward to some fascinating British anniversaries being commemorated.
50p: The 160th anniversary of the birth of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
As the father of modern crime writing, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legacy lives on 160 years since his birth, thanks to his iconic creation – Britain’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes™.
The classic tales of Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson are treasured reads which have led Doyle to become one of the most famous writers in the world.
Reverse designer: Stephen Raw
£2: The 260th anniversary of the formation of Wedgwood
The industrial revolution of the 18th century shaped Britain’s future and brought about great social changes and technological advancements. Josiah Wedgwood created his pottery empire using modern mass production methods, which we still use today.
Reverse designer: Wedgwood Design Team
£2: The 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings
On the 6th of June 1944, the D-Day landings turned the tide of the Second World War. Allied troops landed at five different beaches codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword for the largest amphibious assault ever launched. This gave them a position from which they could advance into Germany and paved the way for victory on the Western Front and the liberation of Europe.
Reverse designer: Stephen Taylor
£2: The 350th anniversary of Samuel Pepy’s last diary entry
Samuel Pepy’s diary entries provide detailed and personal observations from some of Britain’s most significant moments in history, such as the Restoration, the Plague and the Great Fire of London. His diary has been essential for understanding these events and their impact on people at the time and give invaluable first-hand insights.
Reverse designer: Gary Breeze
£5: The 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria
At her birth in 1819, no one knew that Queen Victoria’s reign would span the rest of the century and make her one Britain’s most famous rulers. She came to the throne aged just 18 years old, at a time when Britain’s Empire was growing and becoming the world’s pre-eminent superpower in an era of unrivalled peace and prosperity.
Reverse designer: John Bergdahl
The announcement of the year’s coins is always an exciting moment for Change Checkers, particularly when the anniversaries are as significant as these.
And now we can now start looking forward to finding these new designs in our change throughout the year!
Own the 2019 Commemorative Coin Set
If you can’t wait to find these coins in your change, be one of the first to own the complete set!
One of the most interesting things about historic coins is the insight they give into the time they were struck and of the monarch who issued them.
A particular reign that has always fascinated collectors is that of Queen Victoria. During Victoria’s long reign only three major obverse portraits adorned her coins and they come together to chart the life and reign of one of Britain’s most popular monarchs.
The Young Head
The first effigy to feature on Queen Victoria’s coinage is known as the ‘Young Head’ portrait. This early portrait shows Victoria at the tender age of just 18, when she acceded to the throne.
The public in the early 19th century would not have been aware that the youthful Victoria depicted on their coins would soon become the leader of the largest Empire the world had ever seen and would reign longer than any British monarch before her.
The ‘Young Head’ portrait was extremely popular with the general public and remained on Victoria’s coins with only minor alterations for the majority of her reign.
The Jubilee Head
After 60 years however, it was decided that a new portrait was necessary to reflect Victoria as the elder stateswoman she had become. Victoria’s Golden Jubilee marked the occasion for a design change and Joseph Edgar Boehm was chosen to design a portrait for the 78 year old Queen.
However, Boehm’s portrait failed to gain the public’s admiration in the way its predecessor had. The portrait was met with ridicule by the general public who found the small crown balanced precariously on her head as unrealistic and almost comical.
The Veiled Head
The ‘Jubilee’ portrait was quickly replaced in 1893 after only six years, with what was to be the final obverse used on Victoria’s coinage. This new effigy was designed by Thomas Brock and shows a mature bust of the Queen with a veil representing her long period of mourning after the death of her husband Prince Albert.
Victoria was deeply attached to her husband and she sank into depression after his death. For the rest of her reign she wore black and the final portrait of the highly respected Queen represents this secluded period of mourning that came towards the end of her life.
Together, these coin portraits tell the story of Queen Victoria, with each marking an important period from her long reign. All of these coins are now over 100 years old and for me they epitomise Victorian coin collecting.
Limited stock available on Queen Victoria Half Crown Set…
Today you have the opportunity to own each of these key portraits in the Queen Victoria Half Crown Set. However, these historic coins are very difficult to source and we only have a limited number available.