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Shilling of Elizabeth I

Here we have another coin found by Roger Paul. It’s a shilling of Elizabeth I, which is a larger denomination than usual for a detecting find of this reign. For example, I’ve unearthed lots of small Elizabethan coins and half a dozen sixpences over the last 25 years but have yet to locate a single shilling.

Roger said his find came off a field that has been searched many times in the past. We’ve all heard of similar fields, which suddenly give up a good find after years of searching by clubs and individuals.

There is something very unusual about this Elizabeth I shilling. On the obverse the mint mark is clearly a key, which dates the coin to 1595-98. However, the only way to describe the mint mark on the reverse is that it looks like an oblong. Roger thought it could be a mule but whilst mules might not be particularly uncommon for some reigns they are extremely rare for Elizabeth I.

In April of last year Dix Noonan Webb (now called Noonans) sold the final part of the huge collection of coins of Elizabeth I formed by Walter Wilkinson, who died in 2020.  Lot 255 in the sale was an Elizabeth I shilling, described as a mule with mint mark woolpack on the obverse and key on the reverse. A footnote to the lot read: “As the vendor’s ticket indicates, the obverse mark is not fully visible and might possibly be key over woolpack.”

I enlarged the image of the reverse mint mark as high as I could but it still looked like an oblong. Woolpack dates from 1594-96, so it commenced the year before key but key was used for two years after 1596.

Is Roger’s coin an extremely rare mule? Well, I can only give my opinion.. I believe the mint mark on the reverse is key over woolpack. It doesn’t look like a key, not does it look like a woolpack or any other mark used on coins of Elizabeth I. Whoever was responsible for altering the mark had done his best but a key on top of a woolpack simply ends up looking like an oblong.    

Valuation

The Wilkinson ‘mule’ graded no better than Fair/Fine and sold for only £60 on a pre-sale estimate of £120-150, which suggests that specialist collectors did not consider it to be a mule. On the obverse of Roger’s shilling the bust is weak but the coin is otherwise in Fine condition. It’s much better than the Wilkinson coin so it shouldn’t be worth any less than £100 to a Tudor specialist.

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