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A HIDDEN MEDIEVAL COIN

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This attractive silver box is decorated with swags and bows and bears a London import mark for 1923. But closer inspection reveals that it carries an antique of much greater age: a medieval coin set in the base.

 

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Attractive round silver box with medieval coin set in the base. Import marks London 1923. NJL9617

 

The coin is an English "Long Cross" silver coin, which was minted between 1272 and 1485. It is difficult to be sure exactly which "Long Cross" coin it is but it looks like it might be an Edward III silver penny (1344-1351).

In 1180 the “Short Cross” penny was introduced by King Henry II and continued to be minted throughout the reigns of Richard I and King John. The Short Cross coins are so called because the cross embossed on the back did not reach the edges. This encouraged the illegal practice of snipping some of the silver off round the edges of the coin, so in 1272, King Henry II introduced the “Long Cross” coins where the cross went right to the edges. It was thus immediately visible if any of the coin was missing. The cross also provided a neat guide for cutting the coin into halves or quarters when change needed to be given. The penny was the most common Long Cross coin but there were also groats (four pennies) and half groats.

Below: the silver coin set in the base seen from the outside, with the Long Cross distinctly visible, and two more photos showing the gilded inside of the box and the face of the coin bearing the monarch's head (possibly Edward III).

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