From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The Three Pence (3d) coin first appeared in the English coinage during the fine silver coinage of King Edward VI (1547-1553), when it formed part of a set of new denominations. Although it was an easy denomination to work with in the context of the old sterling coinage system, being a quarter of a shilling, initially it was not popular with the public who preferred the groat, hence the coin was not minted in the following two reigns.
Edward VI threepences were struck at the London and York mints. The obverse shows a front-facing bust of the king, with a rose to the left and the value numeral III to the right, surrounded by the legend EDWARD VI D G ANG FRA Z HIB REX. The reverse showed a long cross over the royal shield, surrounded by the legend (London mint) POSUI DEUM ADIUTOREM MEUM -- I have made God my helper -- or (York mint) CIVITAS EBORACI.
Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) produced threepences during her third coinage (1561-1577). Most 1561 issues are 21 mm in diameter, while later ones are 19 mm in diameter. These coins are identifiable from other denominations by the rose behind the queen's head on the obverse, and the date on the reverse. The obverse shows a left-facing crowned bust of the queen with a rose behind her, surrounded by the legend ELIZABETH D G ANG FR ET HIB REGINA, while the reverse shows shield over a long cross, dated 1561, surrounded by the legend POSUI DEU ADIUTOREM MEU. Dates used for the smaller coins were 1561-77. Threepences of the fourth coinage (1578-1582) are identical except for having a slightly lower silver content. There was also a fairly rare milled coinage threepence, produced between 1561 and 1564 with similar designs and inscriptions to the hammered coinage threepences.
The threepence denomination fell out of use again during the reign of King James I, while during Charles I's reign (1625-1649) they were not produced at the London Tower mint, but were produced (sometimes in some quantity) at various provincial mints. The denomination is identified by the numeral III appearing behind the kings' head.
By far the most common Charles I threepences were produced at the Aberystwyth mint between 1638 and 1642. They feature a left-facing crowned bust of the king with plumes in front of his face and the numeral III behind him, with the legend CAROLUS DG MA B FR ET H REX (or a combination of M(A) B F(R) ET H(I)(B) depending on the engraver), with the reverse showing the royal arms on a large oval shield with plumes above the shield, and the legend CHRISTO AUSPICE REGNO -- I reign under the auspices of Christ. Plumes were the identifying symbol of the Aberystwyth mint, but the Bristol and Oxford mints often used dies from the Aberystwyth mint so plumes often appear on their output too. Milled coins were produced at the York mint between 1638 and 1649, which look similar to the Aberystwyth product but without the plumes -- the obverse features left-facing crowned bust of the king with the numeral III behind him, with the legend CAROLUS D G MAG BR FR ET HI REX, with the reverse showing the royal arms on a shield over a cross, with EBOR over the shield and the legend CHRISTO AUSPICE REGNO.
Coins were produced at the Oxford mint between 1644 and 1646, using the Aberystwyth dies for the obverse, while the reverse of the 1644 coin shows the Declaration of Oxford in three lines: RELI PRO LEG ANG LIB PAR. 1644 OX -- The religion of the Protestants, the laws of England, the liberty of Parliament. 1644 Oxford, while around the outside of the coin is the legend EXURGAT DEUS DISSIPENTUR INIMICI -- Let God arise and His enemies be scattered. This coin also appears dated 1646. A further type produced at Oxford had on the obverse the kings' bust with the denomination behind him, and the letter "R" (for Rawlins, the maker of the die) below the king's shoulder and the legend CAROLUS D G M BR F ET H REX and the Aberystwyth reverse.
The mint at Bristol produced rare threepences in 1644 and 1645. In 1644 the Aberystwyth obverse was used to produce a coin with the reverse showing the Declaration of Oxford: REL PRO LEG AN LIB PA 1644 -- The religion of the Protestants, the laws of England, the liberty of Parliament 1644, while around the outside of the coin is the legend EXURGAT DEUS DISSIPENTUR INIMICI -- Let God arise and His enemies be scattered. This was repeated in 1645, but with a plumelet instead of a plume in front of the kings' face.
In 1644 the Exeter mint produced a fairly scarce threepence. They feature a left-facing crowned bust of the king with the numeral III behind him, with the legend CAROLUS D G MA BR F ET H RE, with the reverse showing the royal arms on a shield with the date 1644 above the shield, and the legend CHRISTO AUSPICE REGNO. Extremely rare threepences were also produced at the Worcester or Shrewsbury mints, and possibly also at Chester.
No threepences were produced by the Commonwealth.
The final hammered coinage threepences were produced at the start of the reign of king Charles II. In style they are very reminiscent of his father's issues, the obverse featuring the bust of the king, with the numeral III and the legend CAROLUS II D G MAG BRI F ET H REX, with the reverse showing the royal arms on a shield over a cross, and the legend CHRISTO AUSPICE REGNO.
The milled silver threepences of Charles II form two types. There is the undated issue which looks very like the earlier hammered coinage, with a crowned left-facing bust of the king with the denomination indicated by III behind his head, and the inscription CAROLVS II D G M B F & H REX, with the reverse showing a shield encircling the arms of England, Scotland, Ireland and France with the legend CHRISTO AUSPICE REGNO. This was followed by the dated issue, issued each year from 1670 to 1684, where the obverse features a right-facing uncrowned bust of the king and the inscription CAROLVS II DEI GRATIA, with the reverse showing three crowned interlinked "C"s (indicating the value) and the inscription MAG BR FRA ET HIB REX date. All milled silver threepences were 17 millimetres in diameter and weighed 1.5 grams - dimensions which were unchanged until near the end of the reign of George III.
A similar threepence was produced for king James II, dated 1685 to 1688, the obverse showing a left-facing bust of the king and the inscription IACOBVS II DEI GRATIA, with the reverse showing three crowned "I"s (indicating the value) and the inscription MAG BR FRA ET HIB REX date.
For the joint reign of William and Mary, threepences were produced in all years from 1689 to 1694. For the first two years a somewhat caricatured portrait of the monarchs was used, replaced by a rather more staid portrait in 1691, with the inscription GVLIELMVS ET MARIA D G, while the reverse shows a crowned Arabic number "3" and the inscription MAG BR FR ET HIB REX ET REGINA date. For the sole reign of William III the design remained very similar, with the inscriptions changed to GVLIELMVS III DEI GRA and MAG BR FR ET HIB REX date.
In the reign of Queen Anne (1701-1714), the same basic design was used, with threepences produced in 1703-1710 and 1713. The obverse shows a left-facing bust of the queen, with the inscription ANNA DEI GRATIA while the reverse shows the crowned "3" and MAG BR FR ET HIB REG date (1703-5, 1707), MAG BR FRA ET HIB REG (1706), or MAG BRI FR ET HIB REG (1708-13).
The design continued in the reign of George I, when threepences were produced in 1717, 1721, 1723, and 1727. The obverse shows a right-facing bust of the king, with the inscription GEORGIVS DEI GRATIA while the reverse shows the crowned "3" and MAG BRI FR ET HIB REX date.
Unusually the same young portrait of king George II was used on the threepence throughout his reign (1727-60), despite an older portrait being used on other denominations from 1743. Threepences were produced in 1729, 1731, 1732, 1735, 1737, 1739, 1740, 1743, 1746, and 1760. The obverse shows a left-facing bust of the king, with the inscription GEORGIVS II DEI GRATIA while the reverse shows the crowned "3" and MAG BRI FR ET HIB REX date.
While the silver threepence was minted as a currency coin until nearly the middle of the twentieth century, it is clear that the purpose of the coin undoubtedly changed during the reign of king George III (1760-1820). In the first two years of minting the coin, 1762 and 1763, it was obviously produced for general circulation as these coins are generally found well worn; on the other hand, coins from the late issue (1817-20) are usually found in very fine condition, indicating that they were probably issued as Maundy money. Over the length of the reign there were several different designs of obverse and reverse in use. Threepences were issued in 1762-3, 1765-6, 1770, 1772, 1780, 1784, 1786, 1792, 1795, 1800, 1817, 1818, and 1820. From 1817 the dimensions of the coin were reduced to a weight of 1.4 grams and diameter of 16 millimetres, following the Great Recoinage. The inscription on the obverse reads GEORGIVS III DEI GRATIA up to 1800, and GEORGIUS III DEI GRATIA date from 1817. The reverse inscription reads MAG BRI FR ET HIB REX date up to 1800 and BRITANNIARUM REX FID DEF date from 1817.
By the start of the reign of king George IV (1820-1830) the coin was being struck primarily as a Maundy coin, although some coins were struck for use in the colonies. See Maundy money for full details of these issues. Threepences were struck in all years from 1822 to 1830, though the king's head is smaller on the 1822 issue, apparently because the correct punch broke and the one from the 2d was used instead. The obverse inscription reads GEORGIUS IIII D G BRITANNIAR REX F D, while the reverse shows a new style crowned "3" and date, all within a wreath.
In King William IV's reign (1830-1837), maundy coins were produced in 1831-37, and identical circulation coins were produced for the colonies, identifiable only through not having a prooflike surface. The obverse inscription reads GULIELMUS IIII D G BRITANNIAR REX F D, while the reverse shows the new style crowned "3" and date, all within a wreath.
Victorian threepences were produced both for maundy use and for normal circulation in all years between 1838 and 1901 except 1847, 1848, and 1852 (probably because of the possible advent of a decimal currency at the time (see the item on the florin), when the 3d at 1/80th of a pound would not have fit with in a decimal system). Currency silver threepences from 1838 to 1926 were of identical design and cannot usually be distinguished except in the best conditions when the higher striking standard of the maundy coins stand out; this resulted in the curious legal anomaly that when the currency was decimalised in 1971 all silver threepences from 1870 onwards were revalued at three new pence, not just the maundy coins. Threepences were produced with both the "young head" (1838-1887) and "Jubilee head" (1887-1893), inscribed VICTORIA D G BRITANNIAR REGINA F D, while those produced with the "old head" (1893-1901) which are VICTORIA DEI GRA BRITT REGINA FID DEF IND IMP.
The currency threepence was issued for each of the nine years of the reign of king Edward VII from 1902. The reverse design remained the same, while the obverse showed the right-facing effigy of the king, with the inscription EDWARDVS VII D G BRITT OMN REX F D IND IMP.
The threepences of king Edward VIII were all patterns awaiting royal approval at the time of the abdication in December 1936. The silver threepence had another completely new reverse -- three interlinked rings of St. Edmund, with the inscription FID DEF IND IMP 1937 THREE PENCE, while the obverse shows a left-facing effigy of the king with the inscription EDWARDVS VIII D G BR OMN REX.
By the end of George V's reign the silver threepence had become somewhat unpopular in England, especially in London, on account of its small size, but it remained popular in Scotland. It was consequently decided to introduce a more substantial threepenny coin which would be a more convenient weight/value ratio compared to the brass coinage. The silver threepence continued to minted, as there may have been some uncertainty how well the new coin would be accepted. The Edward VIII era saw the planned introduction of a new, larger, nickel-brass (79% copper, 20% zinc, 1% nickel) twelve-sided threepence coin. This coin weighed 6.6 grams and the diameter was 21 mm across the sides and 22 mm across the corners. The obverse shows a left-facing effigy of the king with the inscription EDWARDVS VIII D G BR OMN REX F D, and the reverse shows a three-headed 'thrift' plant with the inscription THREE PENCE 1937. This coin also only exists as a pattern.
During the reign of king George VI, circulation silver threepences were only produced in 1937-1945 (and almost all the 1945 ones were subsequently melted down). The obverse shows a left-facing effigy of the king with the inscription GEORGIVS VI D G BR OMN REX, while the reverse has an elegant design of a shield of St George lying on a Tudor rose, dividing the date, with the inscription FID DEF IND IMP THREE PENCE. The nickel-brass threepence took over the bulk of the production of the denomination, being produced in all years between 1937 and 1952 except 1947. Apart from the king's head and name, and the weight being increased to 6.8 grams, the coin was identical to that prepared for Edward VIII.
The brass threepence ceased to be legal tender after 31 August 1971.
For other denominations, please see British coinage.