English Sixpence
English Sixpence

This English sixpence, dated 1602, is one of 16 English sixpence that have been excavated from the site. Not all of the sixpence still have visible dates like this one, but other markings on the coins give us clues to their date of manufacture. At least four of these 16 coins include a bust of Queen Elizabeth I, indicating that these coins were minted between 1561-1603. At least two of the coins include a bust of King James I, indicating that they were minted during his reign, between 1603-1625.

Many of the English silver coins found at the James Fort site had been clipped to make change, including seven of the 16 sixpence. This was a necessary and common practice in England, for there was a chronic shortage of money in low denominations, making small monetary transactions harder. Clipping pieces off of coins was an easy way to make change: unlike today, the intrinsic value of the metal was equal to the worth of the coin. For example, a halfgroat, worth 2 pence, has been halved into a penny piece; a threehalfpence has been halved to make a coin worth 3/4 of a penny; and a shilling, normally worth 12 pence, has been cut into a wedge worth only about 1 1/2 pence.

English coins were made in only gold or silver until 1613, when James I granted a patent to Lord Harrington to produce copper royal farthings.