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Elizabeth I threepence

Amongst the finds most frequently unearthed by detectorists are the low denomination hammered silver coins of Elizabeth I. Most of these are not in good condition but occasionally a really nice specimen turns up.

Pictured here is a threepence piece of Elizabeth I, which was found by Duncan Eccles. The coin has what appear to be faint scratches on the queen’s face and costume but these could be due to what is known as ‘blank filing’: if a blank disk of silver was slightly over-weight for the denomination then the surface would be rubbed over with a file until it was the correct weight. When the disc was struck between dies the marks of a file were sometimes left on the coin. Apart from the faint marks on Queen Elizabeth, Duncan’s find would grade nearly VF and as such it is in well above average condition for a detecting find.


The coin is dated 1566 on the reverse and the mint mark on both sides is a clearly defined portcullis. There are a number of minor varieties of this coin. On 6 April of this year Dix Noonan Webb sold the final part of the wide ranging collection of coins of Elizabeth I formed by Walter Wilkinson. Lot 152 in the auction was a 1566 threepence, mint mark portcullis, which could have been struck from the same obverse die as Duncan’s coin; it was described as being rare, graded as about VF, and the hammer price was £340.

So, if a specimen very similar to Duncan’s sold for £340 would his coin sell for a similar figure? That is highly doubtful. The £340 figure was for a coin from a famous collection, sold in a well-advertised auction where bids would be received from specialist collectors the world over. Duncan’s 1566 threepence would be more likely to sell for around half the figure achieved by the Wilkinson specimen, say £170. However, there is always the possibility that it could achieve a higher figure if two potential buyers entered into a bidding battle.

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