Front Page Titles (by Subject) English Silver Coin. - Money and the Mechanism of Exchange
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
English Silver Coin. - William Stanley Jevons, Money and the Mechanism of Exchange 
Money and the Mechanism of Exchange (New York: D. Appleton and Co. 1876).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
English Silver Coin.
The further subdivision of the pound is effected by token coins of silver and bronze, which are made of such weights that there is no danger of their metallic values rising above the metallic value of the gold coins for which they are legally equivalent. Previous to the year 1816, the troy pound of standard silver, containing 925 parts of fine silver and 75 parts of alloy in 1000, was coined into 62 shillings, so that each shilling would contain 92.90 grains of standard metal. Under these regulations gold was rated as 15.21 times as valuable as silver. As silver, however, may sometimes become more valuable relatively to gold, Lord Liverpool very wisely recommended in his letter to the king, that the weight of the shilling should be reduced. By the Act 56 Geo. III. ch. 68, it was ordered that the troy pound of silver should be coined into 66 shillings, a reduction of weight of about 6 per cent. The new Coinage Act maintains the chief provisions of that of 1816, so that the English shilling now has the weight of 87.27272 grains of standard silver (5.65518 grams), and the weights of all the other silver coins are exactly corresponding multiples or submultiples of this. The mint remedy in weight for the shilling is a little more than the third part of a grain, and in simple proportion for the other coins. The remedy in fineness is in all cases four parts in one thousand. The denominations of coins authorized are nine in number, namely, the crown, half-crown, florin, shilling, sixpence, groat, or fourpenny piece, threepence, twopence, and penny. All, except the crown, are coined in greater or less quantity, but the fourpence, twopence, and penny, are now only struck in very small quantities as Maundy money, which, after being distributed by the Queen annually in alms, appears to find its way into numismatic cabinets or to be melted down.
All such coins are legally current, irrespective of their weights, so long as they are not called in by proclamation, or so worn and defaced that the impress of the mint cannot be recognized. The coin in circulation is actually reduced in weight by abrasion to a considerable amount, often one-fourth or one-third of its original weight. Moreover, the fall in the value of silver relatively to gold reduces the metallic worth of the coins, so that no one can export them to foreign countries, or melt them for sale as bullion without losing from 10 to 30 per cent. of their nominal value.
It would obviously be a cause of grievance if a person could be obliged to receive unlimited amounts of this token money in discharge of a debt. Merchants might often have thousands of pounds worth of such coins thrown upon their hands, the full value of which could only be realized by gradually putting it into circulation again. It was therefore provided by the Acts of 1816 and 1870, that silver coin shall be a legal tender only to the amount of forty shillings in any one payment. This limit was chosen apparently because the two-pound piece was in 1816 regarded as the largest coin then in circulation, or likely to be issued.