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Sitting pretty (Silver coins around 1920)

Started by Figleaf, June 29, 2007, 10:48:28 PM

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Figleaf

I started collecting a long time ago and even before wisdom teeth came the insight I had to specialize. So it became British Commonwealth and though my budget was small I got to be pretty "complete" in my own definition of my collecting area. So why did I just pick up a coin in London I should have had a long time ago? Because definitions change. In Yeoman, this is Great Britain Y66 6 pence 1911-1927. In KM it is Great Britain KM815a.2 6 pence 1925-1926. Why the difference in dates? Because it matters to KM that in 1920 the silver content went down from .925 (sterling) to .500 and that the head of the king had been enlarged somewhat. Yeoman didn't care, maybe, because the difference in silver content can only be seen on worn coins if you know what to look for and because the modified head can only be distinguished by holding coins with two different heads a longside and staring at them until the eyes glaze over. For a long time, I agreed with Yeoman and one day I changed my mind and suddenly had a few holes in my collection of British coins.

These holes are now being filed and it's not easy. I don't want to spend a fortune on what I'd consider common coins, but I also don't want coins where the head is worn with ugly black or smooth grey patches. That means I want coins in VF+ or better. However, these coins (like all silver from Edward VII on and all bronze from Victoria young head on) have circulated until decimalization. Most were G or VG at that time. The copper-nickel coins had fared better and were only f or VF. If you'd believe KM prices this didn't happen. KM routinely prices coins of George V VF at less than a quarter of EF, though both are equally hard to find. My latest acquisition is VF+, but I had to buy it at full EF price and I'm happy with that. It's quite a lot better than what I bought before wisdom teeth came.

Peter

EDIT: Title
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

BC Numismatics

Peter,since the reign of Queen Victoria,the currency 3d. & the Maundy 3d. have had the same design.The way that you can distinguish the 2 types,is by looking at the way it has been struck.If it appears Proof-like,then you have got a Maundy coin.

Here's a link; http://www.maundymoney.info .

Aidan.

Figleaf

This is a sixpence, Aidan.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

BC Numismatics

Peter,in 1920,there were silver coins that were struck in both .925 fine silver (Sterling silver) & in .500 fine silver (just like the New Zealand coins from 1933 to 1946 are).The way to tell the difference is tap the coin gently on the edge of the table.If it has a loud ring,then it is a .925 fine silver coin.With worn coins,you can tell by the colour.

Aidan.

UK Decimal +

I have this problem with 1920 coins - are they .925 or .500 silver?

Aidan suggested a simple 'drop' test, but as most of my collection of silver coins is centred around the smaller coins the difference would be negligable.   Some are worn - how does the colour vary?   Comparison with 1919 and 1921 doesn't seem to help.

Bill.
Ilford, Essex, near London, England.

People look for problems and complain.   Engineers find solutions but people still complain.

translateltd

Quote from: UK Decimal + on August 23, 2010, 10:30:48 AM
I have this problem with 1920 coins - are they .925 or .500 silver?

Aidan suggested a simple 'drop' test, but as most of my collection of silver coins is centred around the smaller coins the difference would be negligable.   Some are worn - how does the colour vary?   Comparison with 1919 and 1921 doesn't seem to help.

Bill.

Tony Clayton's 6d page makes this interesting observation:

> Telling the difference comes from experience, as the hardness of the metal changed making the strike look slightly different.

I'd never thought about depth or quality of strike before, though I suppose that really only affects the higher grades.  More worn Geo V post-1920 alloy coins often seem to have a yellowish tinge, though I don't recall seeing the same phenomenon on the final (1927-36) series or the silver coins of Geo VI.  Perhaps the alloy was tinkered with again in the 1920s once the problem was noticed.



translateltd

Here we are, from John Craig, The Mint, p. 355, on the subject of the post-1920 alloy changes:

"Four successive variations were issued.  That till the summer of 1922 was made of 500 parts of silver, 400 of copper and 100 of nickel; in circulation these coins discoloured diversely and horribly and a great many of them were withdrawn in later years. They were followed by a small issue containing 50 parts of manganese. The Mint then fell back on the 500 parts silver, 500 parts copper, which it had spurned at the outset, merely blanching these coins more drastically than usual. The fruit of further research was the issue from 1928 onwards of coins made of 500 parts silver, 400 copper, 50 nickel and 50 zinc, and thus very close to the initial formula. All these coins were made imperceptibly thicker to offset the slightly lighter metals which replaced silver."

I wonder how "imperceptible" the "imperceptible" increase in thickness really was, and whether it would be detectable with a decent set of calipers.


Figleaf

That book is just great. I borrowed it from the university library when I was writing a study on English coinage decades ago and loved it. I couldn't afford to buy it then and I still can't afford it now.

My experience with callipers (I have an electronic one, reading up to 1/100th mm) is that you have to work very precisely, or your readings will be incomparable. If the coin is only slightly askew, the reading will vary. I don't usually measure thickness, but when I did, I saw that the problem is at least as big, but more important, in other words, if you are off by .05 mm, that is nothing on a diameter of 30 mm, but it can make a big difference on a thickness of less than 2 mm. In other words, probably doable, but not easy.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.