Holed Sixpence

Clipped 1602 sixpence

Project details

  • Object number – 89-JR
  • Material – Silver
  • Place of Origin – England
  • Date – Early 17th Century
  • Context – James Fort
  • Location – Archaearium
  • Category – Religion

The gentlemen wrote the records of the early James Fort. The workers left their story in the personal objects that archaeologists have found on the fort site. Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists have found book hardware from liturgical texts, jet rosary beads, and small brass religious medallions. This silver English sixpence had been modified by a colonist to wear as a lucky charm. The coin had been clipped into a rectangular shape around its 1602 date and pierced for wearing as a pendant. In addition, the clipping has created a Greek cross, with arms of equal length, out of the long cross dividing the Royal coat of arms on the coin. The careful incorporation of the cross and the date suggests that the year was of significance to the pendant’s wearer, for whom the coin held extra powers such as protection or connection to distant loved ones.

Belief in the magical properties of coins was a particularly long-held tradition in the British Isles. For centuries before Jamestown, individuals ascribed supernatural powers to coins as amulets for healing or for protection against bodily harm. “Crossed” coins, or those incorporating a cross symbol in the decorative elements, were particularly favored. Even today, British brides often walk down the aisle with a sixpence in their shoes for good luck. Hence the saying:

Something old, something new

Something borrowed, something blue

And a silver sixpence in her shoe.