Announcing a birth, 18th century style

Anne 1709 shilling engraved with name & birthday baby 1766

Queen Anne 1709 shilling engraved Sarah Cowdrey Jany. Ye 10 1766, obverse engraved LS, price £75 (CA137)

Note from Coin News Dealer’s Pick – December 2020 edition of the magazine.

Most of the items shown in ‘Dealer’s pick’ have been super expensive, highly desirable numismatic items.  But not all covetable things are in the zillionaire bracket, price wise. 

Because this is Coin News I’ve chosen a Queen Anne 1709 silver shilling which has been altered.  Many years after the date of issue, someone has turned the coin into a keepsake, a private medal by hand engraving the baby’s name, Sarah Cowdrey, and her date of birth, January 10th 1766.  Mimicking official medals, the craftsman has  embellished the design with leafy branches in the manner of laurels.  Who was she?  I don’t know.  Why are the initial L S engraved on the obverse of the coin either side of the queen’s head?  Another mystery.  Personally I find such objects fascinating.  Sometimes research leads to identification and more storytelling.  Sometimes not.

Over the years, we’ve had all sorts of altered coins pass through our hands, from sweetheart tokens to sad parting gifts from transported convicts.  Less innocent is the altering of the coinage for political propaganda, such as happened during the Troubles in Ireland.  In  the last ten years, there’s been a spate of fake ‘Votes for Women’ altered pennies of Edward VII, thanks to the publicity given by the British Museum’s A History of the World in 100 objects.  I’ve two fake ones, but would love a real one.  I’m looking forward to the exhibition next year on this niche area of numismatics at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.  Meanwhile I’ll content myself with handling this memento of the arrival of a baby girl.

Frances Simmons Simmons Gallery Ltd.