Jersey's copper coinage

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Jersey's copper coinage


A Jersey penny - 1/13th of a shilling

This article by Wilfrid du Pré was first published in the 1948 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

The year 1834 was historic in the annals of Jersey. For centuries, the livre tournois of the old French currency, with its lesser, components, the piece de deux liards, the sou and the piece de deux sous, had been the only currency in common use by our forefathers.

Jerseymen are proverbially mistrustful of any change which might provide excuse for outside interference with their established insular customs, and it is not surprising that fierce opposition was aroused when the States, in 1834, proposed to adopt standard English currency in place of the familiar currency of French origin.

A satisfactory adjustment of the relative values of the two currencies was undoubtedly a complex and delicate matter. The opposition argued, among other things, that the proposed change would adversely affect the existing value of the local rentes and mortgages, and vividly recalled the riots of 1730, when attempts had been made to interfere with the local currency. Ultimately, after protracted and heated debates, an acceptable formula was evolved by fixing the value of the sou, or sol, at 520 to the pound sterling, the States accordingly enacting, with the consent of the Privy Council, that, as and from October 1834, English money alone should be legal tender in the Island.


Writing some years later, the Vicomte of Jersey described the change from French to English currency as follows:-

"The States having enacted in 1834 that the pound sterling should be considered equal to 26 livres, It followed that, as there were 20 Sous to the livre and 20 shillings to the pound, a shilling thus became the equivalent of 26 sous. The value of the Jersey penny, or piece deux sous, therefore became one thirteenth of a shilling, the halfpenny, or sou, one twenty-sixth of a shilling, and the farthing, or piece de deux liards, became one fifty-second of a shilling."

Another writer, putting this adjustment more briefly, says :

"As there were 26 livres to the pound, and each livre equalled 10 pence there were thus 26O Jersey pence to the pound, the equivalent of 13 Jersey pence to one 1 English shilling.

Looking at it from a different angle, a third writer remarks:

"When the Jersey coinage was authorised by the Privy Council, the British sovereign was at a premium compared with the prevailing French currency. In order to effect the necessary adjustment, the Royal Mint struck 13 Jersey pennies from 8 oz of copper, which was, at that time, the weight of twelve British pennies."

The first issue of Jersey currency in conformity with these arrangements was made through the Royal Mint in 1841, and consisted of 116,480 farthings, 232,960 half-pence and 116,480 pence, marked respectively, one fifty-second, one twenty-sixth, and one thirteenth of a shilling. These, and those of the succeeding issues in 1844, 1851, 1858, and 1861 were large, heavy copper coins, the obverse and reverse of which, apart from the difference in date, remained unchanged until the sixth issue in 1866.


The design of the Queen's head on the first five issues was modelled from life by William Wyon, RA, Chief Engraver to the Royal Mint. This design is technically described as "A dexter head and truncated neck of HM Victoria, with hair banded", but it is more generally known to numismatists and philatelists, as "the young head", Victoria being not more than twenty years of age when Wyon made his famous model. At the time of its introduction for the British Imperial coinage in 1839, this head of England's young Queen was said to be "the noblest production in the entire British numismatic series" and it remained the standard design throughout the British Empire until 1860.

It was also used for the British and Imperial penny and half-penny postage stamps, printed during 1841 to 1879. If carefully examined, Wyon's initials, W W, will be seen below the neck on all Jersey coins up to, and including the 1861 issue.

The design used for the reverse, or shield side, of the Jersey coins until the eighth issue, in 1871, was also executed by William Wyon, and it is worth remarking that it was modelled from a design supplied to the Royal Mint by the Government of Jersey. The particulars of this design are described as "An ornamented Shield of Arms of Jersey-gules, Three Lions or Leopards, passant gardant-or."

On the death of William Wyon in 1851, his talented son, Leonard Charles, who was born in one of the residences attached to the Royal Mint, carried on his father's work as Chief Engraver, until his own death some forty years later.

It is interesting to note in passing, that an ancestor of this distinguished family so long associated with the Royal Mint, was descnbed in the days of George II as an eminent artist, engraver, silver-chaser, modeller, designer, and medallist.

In 1860 the British. Government replaced the existing Imperial copper coinage with one made of a mixed metal, an alloy of copper, zinc, and tin, later known as bronze, this alteration first coming into effect as regards the Jersey coinage with the 1866 issue,

Victorian 'bun' penny

The honour of preparing the design for the bronze coinage was very appropriately entrusted to the son of the artist who had not only designed the famous young head of Victoria, but who had also been responsible for the coinages of Her Majesty's three predecessors, George III, George IV and William IV.

When the design for this new Imperial coinage was being prepared, Queen Victoria, who was then in the early forties, evinced great personal interest, in a letter it is disclosed that Her Majesty was anything but pleased with the artist's first efforts. In this letter the Queen wrote: "The underlip projects too much, and the chin, though correct in shape, is slightly too short - the eye also is not good".

Obviously, at this stage in his career, the youthful Wyon was more successful as a diplomat than as an artist, the portrait which finally met with Her Majesty's unqualified approval being remarkably like the one which his father had made of the Queen a quarter of a century earlier.

In this new design the figure was truncated at the bust, instead of at the neck as in 1841, thus allowing for the addition of various Royal decorative details including the Order of the Garter. Other variations showed the Queen wearing a wreath of laurel in place of the ribbon bands, the hair being dressed to form a plaited knot behind the head. This particular arrangement of the hair at once became la mode, and led to this British penny becoming known as the 'bun' penny. Evidently these pennies were issued in excess of requirements as they were gradually withdrawn in the early twenties, "in order to relieve the glut of bronze coin". In spite of this withdrawal some twenty-five years ago, a considerable number of these pennies still remain in circulation.

The importance attached to the details of the new bronze coinage was not confined to the Queen's anxiety about her personal appearance, the Government itself being equally particular regarding other details.


It is amusing to learn that after mature deliberation by those in authority, it was decided to give the artist explicit instructions that the emblem of Britannia was on no account to be omitted from the reverse of these coins, "as this would be to admit that Britain had relinquished her position as 'Ruler of the Seas'.

The 'Leopards of Jersey', however, appear to have treated this command with calm indifference, and, to this day, remain in undisputed possession of their time-honoured space on the Jersey coinage. Some of our local diehards may contrive to see in this another instance where the British Government did not deem it prudent to interfere with Jersey's ancient rights and privileges. Fortunately, up to the present, the omission of Britannia from the back of Jersey's pence does not seem to have seriously jeopardised England's claim to naval and maritime supremacy.

With reference to this British emblem, it may not be generally known that it originated in a Roman coin issued in celebration of the pacification of Britain, which was accomplished under the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, 138-161 AD. The reverse of this coin bears the inscription "Britannia" and depicts a draped female figure helmeted, seated on a rock, the right hand holding a javelin and the left hand resting on an ornamented shield at her side, the purport of the design being to suggest the restoration of tranquillity. This Roman design, with occasional variations, was adopted as the Emblem of Britannia in the time of Charles II, its first appearance being in 1665 when the Royal Mint made a small issue of copper halfpence and farthings.

La Belle Stuart

The design of the halfpenny of these particular coins is described as "a well executed and graceful figure of Britannia, said to be a portrait of the beautiful Frances Stuart, Duchess of Richmond, known in Court circles as La Belle Stuart. Pepys' comment when he saw this new coinage was: "There is Mrs Stewart's face, and a pretty thing it is that the King should choose her face to represent Britannia.

The figure on the farthing apparently offended the finer feelings of the critics, who described it as "less elegant than that of the halfpenny, as it portrays Britannia with one leg bare."

It may be remembered that Sir Edward Hyde, later 1st Earl of Clarendon, and famous for his History of the Rebellion, a considerable portion of which was written during his residence in Jersey, had been an influential and honourable member of the personal suite of Charles II who, at the age of 16 when Prince of Wales, had taken refuge from the Parliamentarians in Elizabeth Castle, accompanied by some 300 court and army notabilities.

Later, when Clarendon was Lord High Chancellor under Charles II, he incurred the displeasure of his royal master by refusing to pander to Charles' whims and extravagances and as a result he was dismissed, dying ultimately an exile at Rouen in 1674.

Jersey's 'naughty and adulterate' money

It was during Clarendon's residence in Elizabeth Castle that he exposed the 'scurvy' attempt to establish a Jersey Mint at La Guerdainerie, Trinity, where, he said, "was found much adulterate and naughty money which caused grave concern to the business community of the Island. Referring to this Jersey Mint, Dr Hoskins, in his authoritative work Charles II in the Channel Islands published in 1854, sums up this attempt to establish a Mint as "a South Sea Bubble on a small scale", and describes the originator as being "little better than a swindling adventurer" which, according to the author, accounts for the non-existence of the coinage in any numismatic collection.

Although Dr Hoskins states that during his two years residence in Jersey, he bestowed considerable time and industry seeking for specimens of the 'St Georges, Jacobuses, half-crowns and shillings' alleged to have been struck in Jersey, he never succeeded in finding any. It should nevertheless not be overlooked that Jersey's own diarist, Chevalier, has put it on record that Colonel Smyth, the so called Mint Master, "etant a Jersey, fit de la monnaie, de quoi je ne dis rien," and we may therefore yet learn of the discovery of some of these 'naughty and adulterate' relics of a 300-year-old get-rich-quick scheme.

Bronze coins

Jersey received its first issue of the bronze coinage in 1866, six years after its adoption in England, but instead of the 'bun' penny design of the 1860 English coinage, the Queen's head on Jersey's new currency resembled the simpler and more impressive design familiar on all Jersey coins since their inception in 1841. Unlike the 1841 design, however, in which Her Majesty's hair is fastened with ribbon, the new desien shows the Queen wearing a diadem, ornamented with a jewelled scroll.

These 1866 Jersey coins were considerably smaller than the original copper coins, the new bronze penny being hardly distinguishable, in point of size, from the copper halfpenny of 1841. On the new coins, however, their respective values were written in full, instead of being expressed in fractions, this doubtless minimising the risk of confusion. Some three years after the introduction of the bronze coinage, the States called in all outstanding copper coins, which were returned to the Mint for recoinage, this copper being used in making the bronze coins of 1870 and 1871. Thus, after a quarter of a century, the era of the handsome but cumbersome coinage of our forefathers came to an end.

The various issues of these early Victorian coins have now become comparatively rare and are seldom quoted in dealers' lists, complete sets of the entire series being practically unobtainable.

13d to the shilling

Naturally enough, strangers and numismatists alike had always been intrigued by the unique characteristics of the Jersey currency, but its unusual fractional parts in relation to the English shilling had become increasingly inconvenient, so much so that, following an influential petition from the commercial community in 1876, the States decided, in spite of considerable opposition, that the time had come to bring the Island's currency into line with that of the British.

To the merchant and trading community generally, this alignment with English currency was undoubtedly a necessary adjustment, but to the man in the street its advantages may not have been quite so apparent. Gone for him were the good old days when like his father before him he could pay for his pint with an English shilling and with the twelve Jersey pennies received as change buy, if so minded, a pound of real Jersey butter weighing nearly 8 oz. Neither was it possible for him any longer to purchase thirteen English penny postage stamps with the copper proceeds of 'one shilling British'.

This further important step towards the English standardisation of Jersey currency came into effect with the fourth bronze issue in 1877, by which time all remaining coins of the thirteen pence to the shilling series had been called in and reminted into coins marked respectively one forty-eighth, one twenty-fourth and one-twelfth of a shilling. When this 1877 coinage was received it was seen that in addition to the altered face-values, the diameter and weight of the coins had also been altered, twelve Jersey pennies thenceforth becoming the equivalent as regards size and weight of twelve English pennies, the farthing and halfpenny being correspondingly affected.

These alterations necessitated a slight enlargement of L C Wyon's 1866 portrait of the Queen which thereafter remained the unaltered design on the obverse of all Jersey coinage throughout the Victoria series. Wyon's initials, however, appear only on the coins of 1866, 1870 and 1871.

Although the necessary new dies for the standardised coinage of 1877 were engraved in the Royal Mint, the actual coinage was struck in Birmingham by the Government Minters, Heaton and Company. This is indicated by the initial 'H' below the neck, the only occasion on which this identification mark appears in connection with the Jersey coinage. A seven-pointed star, however, which was used on the coinage for the first time in 1877, became a permanent addition until the termination of the Victorian issues. A further point of interest corrected with the 1877 coinage was the use for the first time on the Island's currency of the 'spade' shield in place of the 'square' shield which had been in use since the first issue in 1841.

The square shield of Arms had its origin in the Royal Seal of Office granted to the Bailiffs of Jersey and Guernsey by Edward I in 1279. It is difficult to understand why this change of shields was made, but it may be recalled that the spade had been used on the 1s 6d and 3s silver tokens issued in 1813. These tokens which were coined by the Royal Mint from £10,000 worth of silver bullion, remained in circulation until 1834 when they were called in by the States.

Too many farthings

The 1877 issue was the ninth made since the inauguration of the local coinage. It consisted of 260,000 pence, 312,000 half-pence and a similar number of farthings, of which none had been issued since 1841. After the arrival of the coins it was found that the demand for farthings had been considerably over-estimated and some quarter of a million were accordingly returned to the Royal Mint reappearing in 1881 transformed into pence, thus constituting the tenth issue.

Judging from recent remarks by a member of the States, the farthing still serves a useful purpose, not only in the domestic life of the Island but as an interesting souvenir for visitors. The member reminded the House that 70 years had elapsed since Jersey farthings were last issued, and urged that a further supply should now be made.

The eleventh issue of the local currency was in 1888, when 195,000 pence and 130,000 half-pence were made available. The next issue, in 1894, consisted of 180,000 pence and 120,000 half-pence, which, like the 1888 coinage, was minted by the Royal Mint and not at Birmingham as generally understood. The issue of 1894 met requirements up to 1909, in which year the Victorian coins of Jersey, after a period of 68 years, began to be gradually replaced by those of the first issue of Edward VII, the number of coins of this, the thirteenth issue, being the same as in 1894.

During the long period of the Victorian coinage it is interesting to recall that only two designs of the Queen's head were used on the Jersey coinage, the 'young head' of 1841 by William Wyon, and its adaption by his son Leonard Charles as seen on the 1866 and subsequent issues. When the Victorian issues terminated in 1909 it was remarked that although there had been three issues after Her Majesty in 1877 had been proclaimed Empress of India, this title had never been indicated on the Jersey coins. The Queen's pride in this particular title is clearly shown in a letter to Lord Goschen in which Her Majesty, referring to a design for her Jubilee Medal, insists with emphasis that "the symbols of one of her proudest titles, Empress of India, must on no account be omitted."

Edward the Peacemaker

In marked contrast to the lengthy period during which the head of 'Victoria the Good' had been associated with the Jersey currency, that of her successor, 'Edward the Peacemaker', was limited to one issue only, that of 1909.

A noticeable feature of the coinage of Edward VII peculiar to Jersey and to certain parts of the Empire, was the omission of the symbols DG and FD. The first English coin on which the words Dei Gratia are supposed to have appeared was a groat, presumably issued by Edward I - the word 'groat' being derived from the French Gros Tournois, a coin which was current in the 13th century. Though the words Dei Gratia are said to have appeared on the coins of France, with more or less variation, from the time of Charlemagne (742-814) it was not until the reign of Edward III (1327-1377), that these words came into general use on English currency, the Latin abbreviations for the motto 'I have made God my helper' being added to the groat at about the same time. The later title, Fidei Defensor, which is described as 'A pious formula long in usc by Dignitaries of Church and State', was conferred by Pope Leo X on Henry VIII in 1521, to whom its first use, for a short period, on English coins, is generally attributed.

On the accession of George I, some two centuries later, this title, and its symbols FD, were again brought into use and became a more or less permanent addition to the English coinage. In 1849 an issue of a new Victorian 2s piece, struck from one of William Wyon's most famous dies, but from which both the DG and the FD had been omitted, aroused such adverse comment that it was temporarily suspended.

In The Coinage of England by Charles Oman, President of the Royal Numismatic Society, the author remarks: "Attention was at once drawn to the omission of the usual DG after the Queen's name, and a rumour spread abroad to the effect that the Master of the Mint, being a Roman Catholic, objected to stating that Victoria reigned "by the grace of God". The error was soon corrected, and in its second year the florin not only showed the DG but the FD also".

Another factor which contributed to the unpopularity of this florin - so called after a 14th century coin of the City of Florence, was that it had been marked 'one tenth of a pound' in an unsuccessful attempt to introduce the decimal system which had been adopted by France in 1789.

As a result of the omission of the DG and FD symbols, both the florin and the Edwardian coins mentioned have become generally known to numismatists and others as the 'Graceless' or 'Godless' coins.

A further point of interest concerning the I909 Jersey coinage was that the title 'King and Emperor' was rendered in English, and not in the customary Latin form. Apparently, as regards Jersey, the use of English and the omission of the ancient symbols were both considered undesirable alterations and advantage was accordingly taken of the next ensuing Jersey issue, that of George V in 19II, to reinstate the symbols, and to revert to the Latin abbreviations, the obverse of the Jersey coinage from 1911 onwards thus being made to correspond with the standard British currency.

The use of the Latin form is not strictly observed on all coinages of the Empire, various parts of which prefer the English wording, coupled in some instances with an appropriate equivalent in the native language of the district.

George VI

Whether the space provided by the elimination of the now obsolete symbols Ind Imp might be utilised for describing His Majesty in Jersey's official language as "Le Roi, Notre Duc", is a matter upon which no one has ventured to request the learned Bailiff to express an opinion. Certain it is that if such a suggestion were practicable, it would confer on Jersey's currency an historical and numismatic charm unequalled by any other coinage of the realm.

The first local issue of the coins of George V, which followed the brief period of those of Edward VII, was in 1911, and as on the Edwardian coins, the Sovereign is portrayed wearing the Imperial Crown, a feature which until recently characterised the overseas coinages of the Empire. Strangely enough the portrait of the Sovereign with or without the crown, has never been used on the Guernsey currency.

During the reign of George V there were seven issues of Jersey coinage, dated respectively 1911, 1913, 1923 (two), 1926, 1931 and 1933.

Jersey arms

Sometime after the second Georgian issue in 1913 the details of the Jersey escutcheon had been critically examined, mainly at the instigation of the Viscount, the late E T Nicolle, in collaboration with Major N V L Rybot, Vice-President of La Société Jersiaise and as a result, certain alterations were effected which, after approval by the officials of the local Treasury, duly appeared on the coinage for the first time in 1923 and again for the second and last time in 1926.

In this 1923 design, the 'spade' shield was discontinued and the original again brought back into use, but without the ornamented border and the tincture lines. Possibly in substitution for the non-heraldic border, two ribbon scrolls containing the legend were used, the divided millesim, or date, being on either side of the shield.

It is worth remarking that the 'spade' is accepted as the best heraldic form of shield, and although it is no longer used for the local coinage, it is still in common use by the States and the various parishes for most of the official and press notices.

But the most arresting change introduced by the local devotees of mediaeval symbolism, in their self-imposed task of remodelling the Island's coinage, was the style, shape, and general appearance of the Lions-cum-Leopards which, for centuries, had done duty as the Arms of Jersey.

Here, on the coins of 1923, these lugubrious quadrupeds of questionable parentage, record their first steps towards the goal of armorial perfection, and become transformed into streamlined greyhounds with protrusive tongues, predaceous claws and patriarchal beards, the latter farcically suggestive of G B S.

New design

Despite these remarkable anatomical adjustments, the States apparently were not entirely satisfied, and in 1930 requested the Royal Mint to supply a new or revised design for the reverse of the Jersey coinage.

In accordance with this request Sir Robert Johnson, Deputy Master and Comptroller of the Mint, informed the States that Mr A Kruger Gray, Chief Engraver and Modeller to the Mint, had been commissioned to prepare the requisite models, the result of which would be seen in the forthcoming coinage of 1931. When these 1931 coins came into circulation the local practitioners of armorial surgery were pleased to see that their metamorphosed lions of 1923 had emerged unchanged from the exacting scrutiny of the Royal Mint - except for a small additional tuft which now adorned the bend sinister of each lion's tail.

The general design, however, had been considerably altered by the removal of the two ribbon scrolls, and the legend - in greatly improved lettering - was restored to its original position of 1841. The initials 'K G' appear at the bottom of the shield and are repeated on all subsequent issues.

Royal confirmation of arms

As previously mentioned, these Arms, which are of the same heraldic significance as those of the King of England - described in terms of armory as Trois Luparts de or, fm, mise en rouge, had their origin as regards Jersey in the Public Seal granted to Jersey by Edward I, and which, subject to renewals, has been. in regular official use for more than six and a half centuries. Whether on the basis of these details the Island may claim to be armigerous, is a matter which will no doubt continue to be a point of friendly contention among the select few who profess a knowledge of matters armorial.

Despite the fact that the Grant of Edward I is not recorded in the College of Arms, it cannot be overlooked that the continued use of the Arms was specifically confirmed to the Island by King Edward VII on 2 January 1907.

Foreign coins converted

As distinct from the fastidious trivialities of heraldic blazonry, the year 1923 was one of special interest for Jersey numismatists. In this year there were three different types of George V pence, each dated 1923. The first shows the 'spade" shield as adopted in 1877, the second has the shield of 1841, enclosing the metamorphosed lions - but with its ornamented border replaced by the two ribbon scrolls - while the third, although identical with the second as regards as details of design, is essentially unique in the history of Jersey coinages.

During the 1914-1918 war, a shortage of copper currency had occurred and, despite the States enactment of 1834, the gradual infiltration and circulation of foreign copper, chiefly French five and ten centime pieces, was tolerated. On the conclusion of hostilities, the States, after due notice, arranged, with the help of the local banks, to call in all foreign coinage for exchange into British or local currency, the States in the meantime having promulgated a law prohibiting the further introduction of foreign copper money. The number of these undesirable and no longer useful coins thus collected was approximately 500,000, for which the Treasury paid some £1,400. Owing to the greatly depreciated rate of exchange, the local Minister of Finance appeared to be faced with a considerable loss on this transaction. Fortunately the Finance Committee was equal to the occasion. With the willing assistance of the authorities of the Mint, this half million or so of comparatively worthless foreign copper was re-minted and duly returned to Jersey, no longer, however, as 'filthy lucre', but as brand new Jersey pence of 1923, resplendent with the crowned head of King George V on one side, and the impregnable Jersey Arms on the other.

By this simple expedient the Island, at a nominal additional cost, not only obtained a necessary further supply of local coinage but, at the same time, relieved itself from the incubus of unwanted foreign currency. Unfortunately, from the collector's point of view, there is no particular mark by which these converted French coins can be distinguished from the companion issue of 1923, but it is generally accepted that the darker colour of the foreign metal is sufficient means of identification.

George VI

The first Jersey issue bearing the impress of Britain's present Sovereign was in 1937. This was followed by two further issues, one in 1946 and the last, up to the time of writing, in 1947. Emissions of the local coinage were originally made only at comparatively long intervals and in considerable bulk, but commencing in 1894, the Finance Committee appear to have favoured smaller and correspondingly more frequent issues.

Since the alterations made to the 1923 design by Kruger Gray of the Mint in 1931, the details of the reverse of Jersey's copper coinage have remained unchanged. It will be a source of regret to many when, in due course, the title Ind Imp, so proudly and so worthily borne by Queen Victoria and her successors, ceases to adorn the currency of Great Britain, and of that small, but loyal and ancient appanage of the British Crown - the little Island of Jersey.

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