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The Scottish Coinage of Charles II (1660-1685)


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In normal circumstances Charles II would have immediately ascended the throne upon the demise of his predecessor, however Britain during the period of the 1640's through 1660 could hardly be described in any stretch of the imagination as normal. Charles was the eldest son of Charles I, and was 12 years of age whence the Civil War began in earnest. At the tender age of 15 he assumed command of soldiers in the West of England. Shortly thereafter as the fortunes of war changed, Charles left England for continental Europe in 1646. Whilst living in Holland in 1648 Charles learned of the death of his father at the hands of the Parliamentarians that year. Shortly thereafter he was proclaimed King in Jersey, and thence in Scotland with the provision that he accept the Scottish Covenant.

The acceptance of the Scottish Covenant was anathema to many in England, which Charles II dearly wanted to assume said throne of. Religious fervor during this time betwixt Catholics, Presbyterians, and Anglicans cause much of the behind the scenes dissension during the Civil War. Charles skillfully and somewhat ambiguously affected a treaty with the Scots in which he assumed the throne of Scotland but left the door open for differing religious opinions. Very shortly thereafter Charles II returned to Scotland where he was crowned at Scone on Scottish New Years day 1651. After narrowly escaping Cromwell's forces in Worcester, he made his way back to the Continent, from where he traveled extensively and enlisted support for his cause.

The demise of Oliver Cromwell in 1658 and the subsequent inability of his son, Richard Cromwell to exercise his authority left a power vacuum waiting to be filled, and Charles II was the willing contestant. His march into London in May 1660 was met with very little opposition, in fact many were enthusiastic to see the probability of stability returning to their lives. Charles was married in 1662 to Katherine of Braganza, by whom he fathered 3 children all stillborn. He had numerous extramarital affairs(at least 7 are recorded) and produced 16 children of at the very least questionable legitimacy. Charles II religion is subject to debate even to this day, he publicly professed Protestantism, however it has been suggested by some authorities that he converted to Catholicism on his deathbed in 1685.

Numismatically some of the most significant events in Scottish coinage occurred during the tenure of this reign. For the first time significant numbers of milled coins were issued, beginning in 1663 with the minting of the bodle or Scottish twopence coin. These first examples were undated, however subsequent issues were dated from 1677-1679 with a design change. Silver coinage was initiated beginning in 1664, the values ranging from the quarter merk / sixteenth of a dollar on up to the four merk or one dollar coin. One of the striking curiosities from this era was the use of three denominations on all silver coins. For example the quarter merk or sixteenth dollar coin was tariffed at three shillings sixpence Scottish. Even though the dollar denomination was used in describing these coins, it appears to have not been a contemporaneously used description.

The silver coinage of this reign represents one of the most significant issues of larger denomination coins since the reign of James VI. In many ways they served to replace much of the earlier and well worn examples which continued to circulate long after issue because of the Civil War. Whilst at the time it was by comparison to earlier times quite common to encounter the new milled coins, for later collectors they would prove to be rather elusive, due in no small part to the recall after the Union of 1707 in which most coins were exchanged for the new coin of the realm. The recall collected significant numbers of known coins, which were subsequently melted into the English style coins with the E Mintmark from 1707-1709.

Fortunately this reign authourised large numbers of copper coinage, the undated bodles of 1663 followed up by the issues of bodles and bawbees from 1677 - 1679 created a circulating medium for smaller denomination coins, which because of the Crowns later lack of desire to supplement small change requirements throughout Britain after 1707 resulted in their circulating quite late into the 18th century. Whilst the small change situation in the late 17th century was desperate, later would be proven by example to be even more dire. Perhaps because of this coin shortage, it was determined in 1682 that far more copper coins were minted than had been authorised in various Acts, resulting in an investigation and closure of the mint whence it had been determined that certain mint officials including Mintmaster John Falconer had engaged in fraudulent activities in the minting of these coins.

This coin is a bawbee or sixpence minted in 1679, obviously one of the coins which saw a long term of service beyond normal, because of the accute coin shortage in Scotland during the early 18th century. Some of the copper for this issue was imported from Swedish mines. Because this coin managed to circulate long after the Union of 1707 as a halfpenny, it became common vernacular to refer to halfpennies as bawbees, a practice which continued on up to the demise of the halfpenny in 1971.

 

Denominations used during this reign:

  Silver

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This particular piece is a 4 Merk, or for some reason when it was issued in 1681, this coin was referred to as a Dollar, even though that latter was never used in common vernacular. This coin is from the second coinage and is S-5618, or SC24M-075 in Coincraft. This particular piece is quite rare in nicer grades. The value of this coin was raised to 56/- from the old 4 Merk standard of 53/4 by proclamation in 1681.

4 Merks - Dollar - 53 Shillings 4 Pence - Coined from 1664-1675, Dollar from 1676-1682
2 Merks - 1/2 Dollar - 26 Shillings 8 Pence - Coined from 1664-1675, Half Dollar from 1675-1681

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The merk as pictured above was the most common silver Scottish coin from the reign of Charles II that circulated in Scotland. It was the equivalent of 13/4 or Thirteen Shillings, Four Pence and was the last vestige of the Merk reckoning used in Scotland for hundreds of years. Curiously the term "Quarter Dollar" was not used contemporaneously, but only as a reference much later on, so in effect it is not really accurate in describing these coins. This coin is S-5620 in Seaby and SC-21M-135 in Coincraft.

1 Merk - 1/4 Dollar - 13 Shillings 4 Pence - Coined from 1664-1675, Quarter Dollar from 1675-1682
1/2 Merk - 1/8 Dollar - 6 Shillings 8 Pence - Coined from 1664-1673, Eighth Dollar from 1676-1682
1/16 Dollar - 3 Shillings 4 Pence - Sixteenth Dollar from 1677-1681

  Copper

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Bawbee or 6 pence dated 1677

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Bawbee or 6 pence dated 1678

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Bawbee or 6 pence dated 1679. These Bawbee coins are very typically found in miserable condition like the above three coins, unfortunately there was never a pressing need to provide small subsidiary coinage after the Union of 1707, and these coins served long hard lives deep into the 18th century circulating as halfpennies until approximately the 1760's or 1770's when halfpennies minted in London began to takeover in circulation. A result of their long circulation is that until the 1971 conversion to decimal coinage, Scots referred to halfpennies as Bawbees.

6 Pence - Bawbee - Coined from 1677-1679, these coins are the most commonly encountered from this reign, though usually well worn.
2 Pence - Bodle - Coined in 1663 with CR monogram
2 Pence - Bodle - Coined in 1677-1679 with crown over crossed sword and sceptre, second most commonly encountered coin.

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Fascinating! I knew nothing about Scottish coinage, and have no coins that I know of from Scotland, even post-Act of Union, other than this 1707 Queen Anne crown minted in Edinburgh:

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Two questions: What is the etymology of "bawbee"? And, is "merk" related to the German denomination "mark"?

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9 minutes ago, DonnaML said:

Fascinating! I knew nothing about Scottish coinage, and have no coins that I know of from Scotland, even post-Act of Union, other than this 1707 Queen Anne crown minted in Edinburgh:

image.jpeg.1a2a067fa3dc51069e33c19f8c991f97.jpeg

Two questions: What is the etymology of "bawbee"? And, is "merk" related to the German denomination "mark"?

Merk started out as mark, Scotland traded with the Hanseatic League early on - in fact one of William Wallace's very rare seals is on a trade document seeking trade with German traders.

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Great write up. I've left Scottish coinage from James VI/I onwards on the back burner, but there are a lot of interesting issues. It was the success of copper in Scotland that persuaded James VI/I to give it a go in England, but those efforts fizzled out during the Civil War. Charles II then brought it back with Britannia on the reverse for the first time in 1600 years. It's interesting that this wasn't used in Scotland, although the Romanesque laureate bust was (which seems to have started with Cromwell).

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22 hours ago, The Eidolon said:

Lovely coins!  Here's my only coin from Scotland, I think.  Must have been a junk bin or mixed lot pickup.  I think it's a Charles II 1 Turner.

 

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I'll do a post for Charles I(1625-1649) in the near future.  The 17th century in Britain was rather rough on it's inhabitants, Civil War, religious wars, the Glorious Revolution, the Commonwealth etc.

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This is one I gave to a friend of mine on his retirement. His name is Scott Turner.

SCOTLAND. Charles II. 1649-1685. CU Turner – Twopence (19mm, 2.60 g, 6h). Edinburgh mint. 1677. Sword and scepter crossed in saltire; crown above / Thistle. Burns 1 (fig. 1060); SCBI 35 (Ashmolean & Hunterian), 1672; SCBC 5630. VF, brown surfaces, old collection number (“4845”) written in obverse field. Ex CNG.

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