English Penny, Charles II
English Penny, Charles II
  • Object number – 02263-JR
  • Material – Coin: Silver
  • Place of Origin – England
  • Date – 1660 – 1685
  • Context – Statehouse
  • Location – Collections
  • Category – Exchange

Charles II was King of Scotland directly after the execution of his father Charles I in 1649, but did not become King of England and Ireland until the monarchy was restored to power in May 1660. Because of this, official coinage of Charles II was not printed until November-December 1660. Charles II was 30 years old when he returned to London to take the throne, and ultimately was a popular King. He oversaw the reopening of theaters and was engaged in a number of scientific, medical, alchemical, and botanical pursuits, installing clocks and a telescope at the Palace of Whitehall, and founding the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. During Charles II’s reign, England gained control of New Amsterdam, renaming the land New York City in honor of the Duke of York, Charles II’s brother.

Charles II requested that his coinage be struck by the “Mill and Presse” as opposed to hammered by hand, which required much effort by the Mint to fulfill their orders. Both milled test coins and official hammered coins were produced during 1660-1662, and a number of individuals were brought into the mint in an attempt to produce Charles II’s coinage quickly so that Commonwealth coinage could be removed from circulation. By November 1665, all official coinage was milled.

The Jamestown collection only includes one penny minted during Charles II’s reign. The obverse of this coin depicts the crowned bust of Charles II in armor facing to the left. Behind the bust is the numeral I, indicating the value of the coin. The bust is surrounded by a dotted circle. A crown mint mark is placed above the bust, and just before the surrounding legend, which reads: CAROLUS II D G MAG BRIT FRAN ET HIB REX, meaning “Charles II by the Grace of God King of Great Britain, France and Ireland”.

The reverse side depicts a squared shield on a cross fleury containing the royal coat of arms. The shield is contained within a dotted circle. The surrounding legend reads, CHRISTO AVSPICE REGNO, meaning “I reign under the auspices of Christ”.

More extensive research into the design of the coin could narrow its manufacture date further, however it was definitely minted during 1660-1685. It was found near the foundations of the Statehouse, and was likely dropped by someone present for a House of Burgesses and General Court meeting in the building that stood from about 1663 until its destruction by fire in 1698.