Coin Catalogue of Cromwell and Commonwealth of England Coinage issued between 1649 and 1660.
Sometimes referred to as "breeches money" this type of late hammered coinage was minted in England after a period of civil war which culminated in the beheading of King Charles I in London in 1649. For more information LINK
Hammered coins from the early years of this period bear no portrait of a king or queen for there was none. Instead there is a simple puritan design. The reverse depicts co-joined shields of England and Ireland, with a date above and the legend "GOD WITH VS". The obverse bears the legend "THE COMMONWEALTH OF ENGLAND" and a single shield in the centre with a mintmark above, to complete the legend. In 1656 the portrait of Oliver Cromwell started to appear on coinage. It wasn’t until 1660 after the return of the monarchy that King Charles II was to appear on English coinage.
This period was also a time of innovation in minting coins. The traditional hammered technique for making coinage was coming under pressure from masters of forgery who made coins from de-based metals using crude home made dies and surface silvering. It was also quite common for people to carefully cut / clip or file the edge of a coin before passing the coin on and collecting the metal removed.for their own gain - see Rogues Gallery on this website.
The solution was offered by Peter Blondeau - milled coins - with edge writing. He was commissioned to prepare samples dated 1651 using his press. Although he completed this task, producing coins of extremely high quality the mint was not inclined to accept his innovation and fought to delay the introduction of his technology.
In 1656, after repeated attempts, Peter Blondeau persuaded parliament to take up his new press techniques, when he was finally commissioned to make the "Cromwell Coinage" using dies made by Thomas Simon, with gold and silver supplied from the mint. These coins dated 1656 - the gold fifty shillings which is exceptionally rare, a more common lower weight gold Broad made using the same dies, and around 100 silver halfcrowns - were produced and circulated within parliament.
During 1657 there was a Trial of the Pix, where retained coins from the mint were tested for both weight and metal purity. The mintmark sun which had been the universal mintmark was changed after the trial to an anchor mintmark which was used for the remaining years 1658 to 1660.
Peter Blondeau was to make one final series of silver Cromwell coins using dies supplied again by Thomas Simon but this time dated 1658. The halfcrown die was a re-make of the 1656 die with slight modifications to both the obverse and the reverse which had the effect of making the final coin more robust for general circulation. Production costs must have been significant as the denominations chosen for this milled series were all the high silver values - crown, halfcrown and shilling. A handful of Cromwell sixpences were also made and nothing at all below that value. These milled coins were made in significant numbers but not without production problems. The Cromwell silver crown of 1658 is notable for a die crack in the lower half of the coin.
Oliver Cromwell died while Peter Blondeau was producing milled coins in 1658. In the remaining years the mint reverted to making hammered coinage which seems to have been produced in very small quantities with poor quality materials before the monarchy was restored in 1660.
This website is an attempt to put together images of coins from this period. When completed this site should be an excellent reference tool for all coin collectors. Photographs of coins are high resolution images seen best when downloaded, saved and opened as a graphics file. Alternatively if your browser has “Image Zoom” you should consider using this feature as an option. Try now on one of the coin images to the right hand side.
The catalogue of images for coinage of this period has been sub-divided by denomination using English Silver Coinage (ESC) references for silver coinage. For gold coinage a similar format has been followed except there are no reference numbers.
More information sections will be completed as time allows. Recently sections on medals, die orientation, and Cromwell Portraits have been added. Also the ESC section has been expanded to recognise varieties not listed in the 1992 edition of ESC by Alan Rayner.
In the meantime should you possess a coin which is missing from this site please contact us so we might include pictures of your coin to make this reference guide more complete for everyone.
Enjoy and spread the word about this new reference website.
E-mail - CromwellCoins@gmail.com