English Halfpenny
English Halfpenny, coronet mint mark
  • Object number – 01990-JR
  • Material – Silver
  • Place of Origin – England
  • Date – ca. 1607-1609
  • Context – James Fort
  • Location – Collections
  • Category – Exchange

This artifact is one of the first coins recovered by Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists at Jamestown, and is one of the smallest precious metal coins ever recovered from a North American archaeological site. Measuring less than 10mm in diameter, these halfpennies were issued by King James I as part of a second period of coinage during his reign, from 1604-1619. Already King James VI of Scotland when he succeeded Queen Elizabeth I as King of England and Ireland in 1603, James united the three countries under his rule. In 1604, he assumed the title King of Great Britain. This unification is reflected in James I’s coat of arms, and in these halfpennies, which include a Tudor rose on the obverse, representing the monarch of England and Ireland, and the thistle, the traditional symbol of Scotland on the reverse. Similar rose and thistle symbolism is seen on other artifacts in the Jamestown collection, including Kings Touch Tokens.

Only 5 of these silver halfpennies have been recovered from James Fort. Each halfpenny in the Jamestown collection includes a mint mark, which were stamped above the thistle in an attempt to prevent forgeries. The mint marks correspond to more specific dates of production. The earliest minted halfpennies of this style in the Jamestown collection are those with the rose mint mark, which is present on just one of the coins in the collection. The rose mint mark was established June 20th 1605 and continued to be produced until July 10th, 1606.

Two of the coins include a small crown, or coronet mint mark (seen on the image above). The order for the coronet mint mark was established on November 11, 1607, so these halfpennies would not have arrived with the very first men who arrived at James Fort, but could have arrived as newly minted coinage with the First Supply, which landed in Virginia on January 2nd, 1608. Perhaps one of these coronet mint marked halfpennies traveled in the pocket of Robert Cotton, a pipemaker who traveled with the First Supply, and whose tobacco pipes and scraps of pipe production were found alongside one of these coins. The coronet mint mark was produced until May 17th, 1609.

Two halfpennies include a cinquefoil mint mark, indicating they were minted beginning October 10th 1613 – May 17th, 1615.

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