A crown was a UK coin with a face value of five shillings. From the end of the 19th century the crown was largely a commemorative coin, and remains so today. Some editions that were minted in lower numbers can be worth between £5 and £50, depending on the condition, others are worth very little, but are collected to complete collections. Today, commemorative coins carry a face value of £5.
For anyone who has grown up in the UK with decimal coinage, the pre-decimal pounds, shillings and pence must seem very odd indeed. It seems very sensible that a pound, for instance, should consist of 100 pence – a nice round number that is easy to work with.
Yet, in the pre-decimal world, there were 240 pence in a pound. Then, you had to consider shillings – of which there were 20, with a value of 12 pence each – as well as the sixpence, and the farthing.
Perhaps, however, the most curious of all pre-decimal coins is the Crown. With a face value of ¼ of a pound – 60pence in ‘old’ money – the crown first came into use in 1707, at the time of the Union of England and Scotland, as a replacement for the Scottish Dollar.
This five-shilling coin would remain a mainstay of British coinage for a few centuries, but something of a curious one at times.
Initially a heavy silver coin, the crown fell out of favour in the 19th century due to its size and weight.
This is when it began to be used as a commemorative coin, for marking events such as the coronation of a new monarch, a Royal Wedding, or a major event such as the death of Winston Churchill in 1965.
It still remains a commemorative issue today, albeit – since 1990 – with a face value of £5, rather than 25pence.
Let’s have a look at some of the commemorative crowns that are popular with collectors
Modern Commemorative Crowns
In modern terms, we should take the Edward VII crown of 1902 – minted to celebrate his coronation – as the first of its kind. Quarter of a million were issued, and they do remain collectible. However, like pretty much all commemorative crowns, they are far from valuable, with a value of a few pounds for a very good one being about the norm.
In fact, there has been a crown minted to mark the coronation of each monarch since then, with the exception of George V, for reasons that have been lost in time. He did, however, have a crown minted to mark his silver jubilee in 1935, with some 700,000 coins being issued.
It is worth noting that while George V did not have a coronation crown minted, his reign included one of the rarest and most valuable of modern crowns. In the years between 1927 and 1936, each year saw the issue of what have become known as ‘Wreath’ crowns with an illustration of the King – and a wreath on the other side.
These were minted in low numbers and were intended as Christmas gifts. The 1934 edition saw fewer than 1000 minted, and these – in very good condition – can fetch several thousand pounds.
There is also the curious tale of the Edward VIII crown, which was designed and minted in ‘pattern’ form before he famously abdicated. These are very rare – in fact they are all thought to be in museums or collections – but in later years a fake was circulated, and it was a very good example that caught some people out!
By the time of the aforementioned 1965 ‘Churchill’ Crown, the Royal Mint had latched onto the fact that people were buying these coins and keeping them, not necessarily for value, but as keepsakes. Hence, some 20million of this edition were minted – the value now is, of course, very little.
What To Do With Commemorative Crowns?
You may have in a drawer somewhere a ‘Charles and Diana’ 1981 coin. Millions of others also do, and they are worth very little more than face value. That is, unless you have one of the special sets that Royal Mint issued, which feature gold and silver proof coins – these can be worth many hundreds of pounds.
Many people, on realising that the coins are not worth not, might consider spending them. If this is your idea, see our article on legal tender, as it may not be worth your while!
Meanwhile, consider this: in 1663, a solver crown was designed by a famous engraver by the name of Thomas Simon, and presented to King Charles II as the new Crown piece. It was ultimately rejected in favour of another design. Nicknamed the ‘Reddite Crown’, it was auctioned in London in 2014, and fetched just short of £400,000!