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Lenox type farthing of James I

Colin Barton said he found this coin many years since. It’s a Lenox type farthing of James I and he said he hadn’t been able to identify the privy mark. He wondered if the coin would still be of interest to a collector with the uncertain mark.

Firstly, rather than using the term ‘mint mark’ Colin has used ‘privy mark’ instead. Mint mark is used throughout the Standard Catalogue (and many other publications) to refer to various symbols placed at the start of legends on English hammered coins. For a long time a cross was used but from the reign of Edward IV onwards a far greater range of marks appeared on coins. Occasionally a mark might signify a mint but in most cases it didn’t. They were marks that meant something to those who controlled the coinage. Even when dates started to appear on coins they still had marks at the start of the legends. I’ve seen the occasional high quality forgery, which has been given away because it had the wrong marks on it. Therefore, even though mint mark is very widely used, privy (meaning secret) mark is in fact a more fitting description.

On the obverse of Colin’s find is a crown and crossed sceptres, together with a legend reading IACO D G MAG BRI. On the reverse is a crowned harp and on this side the legend reads FRA ET HIB REX.


The crown on both sides has nine jewels in the band of the crown, so this farthing is an example of Lenox type 4 (number 2680 in the Standard Catalogue). This type has the privy mark on the obverse only and after blowing up the image of Coin’s find I can see what looks to me like a triangle with the apex cut off. Triangle is known for the type and if I was a prospective buyer I would accept it that it was the mark on this coin.     The obverse of this farthing would grade VF but the reverse only about VF and both sides have been struck off centre. In its present condition it should be worth around £20 to a collector.

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