Proclamation Coin Great Britain 1797 Cartwheel Penny

December 8, 2008

Proclamation 1797 Cartwheel Penny

In my previous entry about Australian proclamation coins I mentioned the 1797 cartwheel penny of Great Britain which was valued at 2d in the proclamation. These large (36 millimetre diameter) copper coins were struck in copper in the years 1797 to 1799. Their large distinctive raised rims were reminiscent of cartwheels and they were nicknamed accordingly. The cartwheel penny and twopence were the first coins minted anywhere in the world using steam powered coin presses, and this new technology allowed the mass production of a well struck yet very large coin. The coins themselves weighed exactly 1 ounce (avoirdupois) or 28.35g. This was intentional and allowed the coins (and their 2 penny brethren which weighed 2 oz) to be used as weights for scales.

The coins were minted at the Soho mint (the mint mark is visible on the reverse) in Birmingham. The mint itself was setup by Matthew Boulton, the well known 18th factory owner and manufacturer. His mint used steam powered coin presses, with the steam engines designed and manufactured with his business partner and steam engine pioneer James Watt.

The obverse of the coin depicts a laureate bust of King George III facing right. The unusual incuse legend in the cartwheel rim reads Georgius III D.G. REX. This translates to George III, by the grace of God, King.

The reverse of the coin depicts robed and seated Britannia facing left holding a trident. She is depicted on a back drop of the ocean with a ship at the bottom left, this symbolized Britains naval might and reliance on sea trade at the time of the striking of the coins. The mint mark SOHO can be seen in small incuse letters just below the figure of Britannia in the exergue. The incuse legend in the rims reads Britannia 1797.

A key problem with purchasing these coins is the sheer size and weight of the coin. This can lead to significant rim bruising that (if possible) should be avoided when purchasing a coin. That being said attractive mid grade coins are readily available at reasonable cost. Higher grade coins (extremely fine and above) are obtainable if you are willing to wait for a coin to appear. Interestingly proof specimens of the cartwheel penny are available in straight copper, gilded, and bronzed copper. These are stunningly attractive coins but priced accordingly!

Posted by mnemtsas at December 8, 2008 1:54 PM
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