For some time now, Jerry Greensted of Easington has been finding coins in the sand on the beaches of Kilnsea and Easington. Unlike many modern-day treasure hunters, he does not employ sophisticated metal-detectors but simply feels under the surface of the sand with his fingers or uses a metal bar to scuffle through it and expose what lies beneath.
Over the years he has collected an amazing assortment of coins ranging from modern pound coins (always very acceptable!) to coins of much earlier date. Most of the coins that he finds, however, are pre-Decimal coins of the 19th and 20th centuries — half-crowns, florins, shillings, sixpences, threepenny bits, both bronze and silver, pennies, halfpennies and farthings from the reigns of Queen Victoria to the present monarch.
Not all the coins are British — one wonders how an American cent and a French franc, for example, came to rest upon our local beach. Such coins are however the exception to what usually turns up, as are coins predating the 19th century.
Of particular interest in this latter group is a (rather worn) copper penny from the reign of George III dated 1797. This coin is a heavy copper coin which when it was issued had the same nominal value as the copper of which it was made. It was minted in Birmingham at the Soho forge by the engineer, Matthew Boulton, and was the penny counterpart to the famous ‘cartwheel’ twopence issued at the same time and the heaviest British coin ever to be minted. Both coins had a relatively short circulation life of just a few years until the price of copper went up and they became worth more than their nominal price of one penny and twopence respectively. Many in fact were melted down for their metal.
The oldest coin in the collection is a mediaeval silver long-cross penny. It is rather worn but appears to be from the reign of Edward III (reigned 1327-1377). The crowned head of the king facing front has the typically shaped prominent side curls of this monarch and although the legend around the edge of the coin is faded almost beyond decipherment, it is possible to make out the letters ‘EDW’ to the right of the mintmark (a cross) above the king’s head.
The reverse of the coin has the typical design of many mediaeval silver pennies – an upright cross over a central circle containing three pellets in each of its quadrants with a legend going around the edge of the coin outside the circle. In the case of this coin, the arms of the cross extend to the coin’s rim hence the term ‘long-cross’ penny. As might be expected ‘short-cross’ pennies have a smaller short-armed cross. As with the obverse, the legend on the reverse is very faded but the letters ‘OR’ can be clearly made out to the left of the upper arm (in the photograph) of the cross.
Coins were minted in Edward III’s reign at a number of provincial locations including especially Durham. In the standard catalogue of British coins, Spink’s Coins of England. 43rd ed. (2008), the only reverse legend given which includes the letters ‘OR’ is ‘CIVITAS DORELME’ (Durham province) which appeared on a coin (no 1614 in the catalogue) in 1361. It is therefore tempting to date the coin to that year although given its worn nature, such an identification can only be tentative. The obverse legend probably read ‘EDWARDVS REX ANGLII’ (Edward King of England) which appeared with minor variations on most of the coins issued by this monarch.
It is interesting to reflect that this coin was probably minted just a few years after Ravenser had been washed into the sea and that it might well have been in the area when Henry IV landed at Ravenspurn in 1399 and 1471 when Edward IV landed there.
Coins are always interesting and none more so than those which we find ourselves especially when they date from a bygone age as does this one. We might not all have Jerry’s luck or skill in finding them, but the next time you are walking on one of our local beaches, it might just be worth poking about in the sand. You never know what you will find!
Peter A. Crowther, 12th January 2007