From the later medieval period onwards weights were specially made to check that coins were up to the correct standard. By the 17th century and even more so during the 18th, sets were made to check both English and foreign coins. The weights were mostly for gold coins, as even a slight discrepancy could reduce the value of a coin by a shilling or more.
James I Rose-Ryal weight
Shown here is a square weight, which measures 18mm by 18mm by 4mm thick and weighs 11.90 grams. Anthony Hopkinson said he unearthed it during his first detecting outing in six weeks. He assumed the XXX on one side stood for 30 pence but Anthony wanted more information about the denomination, period of issue and if it was rare or common. Well, on one side is a quartered shield of arms and on the other XXX (standing for 30 shillings) with a crown above and a letter S below. This was made to check if the very large (42mm in diameter, 13.83 grams) gold rose-ryals of James I were up to the correct standard.
Rose-ryals were first issued during the second coinage with a face value of 30 shillings. In 1612 the value was raised to 33 shillings. When the third coinage commenced in 1619 the weight of the rose-ryal was reduced to 12.58 grams. I traced a few weights with the denomination XXXIII (described as rare or very rare), which will have been used to check rose-ryals struck before 1620.
Interesting piece of history
Anthony’s find is a good half a gram lighter than it should be. It will have been made to check the slightly lighter rose-ryals dating from the third coinage of James I. I traced only one example of the XXX type, which points to it being at least very rare. The condition could be better. However, it is nonetheless an interesting and very rare find and part of our nation’s financial history.
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