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James VI Scottish quarter merk

Early Scottish coins were struck at the same weight and fineness as their English counterparts. However, close to the start of the 15th century the weight of Scottish silver coins was reduced and some issues were debased. Lots of Scottish coins dating before 1400 are found in England but far fewer dating between 1400 and 1600. The situation eventually improved after James VI came to the throne and when he became James I of England large numbers of Scottish coins started to circulate again this country.

Pictured here is a James VI Scottish quarter thistle merk, which was unearthed by Michael Young. On the obverse are the crowned arms of Scotland and on the reverse a crowned thistle. There would be a date at the end of the reverse legend but it doesn’t show up.

The Scottish eighth coinage (1601-04) was made up of merks, half merks, quarter merks and eight merks. Each denomination was struck for every date except for the eighth merk, which was struck only in 1601, 02 and 03.


The obverse on Michael’s coin is well struck and would grade Fine; the reverse is nearly Fine but has been struck off centre. The missing date will reduce its value but to a collector it should still be worth around £35 – £45.

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