Prior to decimalisation in 1971, a pound was divided into twenty shillings, with twelve pennies to a shilling. The half crown was worth two shillings and sixpence, so there would have been eight of these coins to a pound. It is called a half crown, because there was a rarer and older English coin called a crown that was worth five shillings. The British crown coin came into being with the Union of England and Scotland in 1707. It was always a large coin. The smaller half crown was first issued in 1549 in the reign of Edward VI and was more popular and was issued up until 1967. It was withdrawn from circulation in 1970.
As with other ‘silver’ coins, the half crown was made from silver until 1919, when the silver content was reduced to 50%. From 1946 the coin was made cupro-nickel.
The coins people are most likely to have seen or kept are those from the reigns of monarchs from Victoria to Elizabeth II. No coins were produced and circulated during the short reign of Edward VIII. On a change of Monarch not only was the portrait on the obverse changed, but also the pattern on the reverse. The half crown featured here has a portrait of a young Queen facing right and a shield surmounted by a crown on the reverse with the value shown and the date of issue.
The words in abbreviated Latin featured on the obverse are ‘Dei Gratia Regina’ or ‘By the grace of God, Queen’. On the reverse are the words ‘Fid Def’ or ‘Defender of the Faith’. Prior to Indian Independence coins would add ‘Ind Imp’ meaning ‘Emperor of India’.
Common coins that are no longer in circulation may have little monetary worth, but are of historical and artistic worth. Studying the differences is well worth the effort.