Canterbury groat of Henry VIII

Most coins are fairly easy to pin down but occasionally a really awkward one comes in; featured here is one such specimen.

When identifying a coin the first thing to do is to see what it can tell you. This one is said to be 28mm in diameter, has the old head of Henry VIII on the obverse and the legend on the reverse reads CIVI TAS CAN TOR. Therefore, it is large at 28mm but must be a groat of Canterbury. However, was it struck during the third coinage of Henry VIII or under Edward VI, when groats still had the portrait of Henry VIII?

The mint doesn’t help to pin it down, for it was in operation during both reigns. Sometimes the mint mark can offer pointers but there isn’t one on this coin because Canterbury groats were struck during both reigns without a mint mark. The lettering on this coin is Roman, which usually points towards Edward VI but a few coins of the third coinage of Henry VIII also have Roman letters. Two different busts (1 and 2) were used on Henry VIII third coinage groats and two (5 and 6) on those struck under Edward VI. An immediate snag is that bust 2 and bust 5 are very similar.

Another pointer between Henry VIII third coinage Canterbury groats and those of Edward VI is the stops in the legends. The former have trefoil stops but the latter have a varied range. I thought at first that this coin has slipped trefoils stops (trefoils with a stalk), which pointed towards it being struck during the third coinage of Henry VIII. However, after checking it against a number of specimens it became apparent that the trefoils used during the third coinage did not have a stalk.

So what are the stops on this coin? I’m of the opinion that they are pierced crosses, mostly with the centres filled in. Therefore, after a lot of toing and froing, I eventually identified the coin as a posthumous Canterbury groat of Henry VIII, with Roman letters on both sides, bust 5 on the obverse, with pierced cross punctuation marks and a pellet in annulet in the cross ends on the reverse. It is a variety of (not exactly the same as) class (v), described by Lord Stewartby in English Coins 1180-1551 (page 527) and the generic type is listed in the Standard Catalogue as number 2408. 

The coin was found by John Hinchcliffe, who said that even though it should be base silver the metal looked good. I have to admit that it doesn’t look to be base in the photographs. John gave the weight as 1.58 grams, which is much too light for a groat as the average is 2.20 to 2.60 grams.

Forgeries of Canterbury groats are known but most are fairly easy to spot as the dies are not up to the usual standard. The dies used to strike this coin are of the usual standard and it looks to be perfectly genuine. However, it is way too light and at 28 mm in diameter it must be very thin. We seem to have here a coin that has been struck from official dies but is larger than usual but much lighter in weight than officially struck groats of the period. It is without doubt a curiosity

Valuation

I’d grade this coin as about VF for the issue but a valuation is difficult because of the suspiciously low weight. However, it seems to have been struck from official dies and it does have eye appeal so if I was cataloguing it for sale at auction I’d set the pre-sale estimate at £150 – £200 and see what happened in the saleroom.

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