Collectables: Change for your portfolio

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The English Civil War period is full of numismatic curiosities.

Charles I reigned from 1625 until his execution in 1649, although effectively his kingship was over by 1642. Between 1642 and 1649 periodic battles at Edgehill, Grantham, Marston Moor, Naseby and elsewhere were joined between the Royalist forces and Parliament's New Model Army under Oliver Cromwell. Later, of course, Cromwell dissolved Parliament and became Lord Protector until his death in 1658.

Curious though it seems today, coins were struck at several mints around the country during this period. One interesting example is a mint established at Aberystwyth to produce coins from silver mined in Wales.

The French die-maker Nicholas Briot produced high-quality, machine-made coins, but these could not be produced in sufficient volume to replace those produced by traditional hammering process.

Coins were struck several towns in the Civil War for areas under Royalist control. Places including Carlisle, Chester, Pontefract, Scarborough and Newark all had mints.

There is curiosity value in these coins. Many have a brief form of the declaration made by Charles in Shropshire in 1642, promising to uphold the protestant religion and liberty of Parliament, two of the issues that had sparked the war.

Perhaps the most eye-catching are the gold triple unites struck at Shrewsbury and Oxford. A triple unite struck in Shrewsbury in 1642 will set you back more than £50,000 if you can find one in a condition regarded as very fine (VF) by dealers.

Those struck in Oxford are more common, but still fetch between £10,000 and £30,000 in VF condition. Even more interesting are the oddly shaped pieces struck as emergency coinage in Royalist cities that were besieged by Parliamentary forces. Metal was scarce and many of the coins were made from diamond-shaped pieces of metal, cut from a large sheet.

These coins, usually in denominations from a crown or half-crown downwards, appear crude but are eminently collectable and have an interesting historical resonance. In VF condition a Carlisle besieged shilling fetches around £7,000 and one from Pontefract around £2,500.

The length of siege governs the scarcity and condition of the coins. The longer the siege the more coins were produced, and the more worn they became.

Newark was besieged several times in the 1645-46 period before surrendering in May 1646. A Newark besieged half-crown catalogues for 1650 in VF condition but has recently been fetching rather more than this.

I have an example in my own collection, bought recently for £2,100. A similar one went at auction in the last few weeks for £2,800 including buyer's premium.

Peter Temple is an active investor in coins.

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