O’Brien Coin Guide: Maltravers ‘Patent’ Rose Farthings (1636-42) for Charles I


Introduction

In 1636, directions were given to Lord Maltravers and Sir Francis Crane “to make a new sort of farthing token which should have a little brass in the middle of the copper to distinguish the true farthings from forgeries.” The harp on the reverse was replaced by a rose, and hence these pieces are known as the Rose farthings, and are the last made under the patent of Charles I, which was abolished during the interregnum.

  • This is the first time this ‘brass plug’ method was used on coinage
  • It is a concept similar to the so-called St Patrick’s farthings. so it is natural that one might look for a link between the two
  • Tokenhouse introduced a brass segment into the new Rose issues, which virtually defeated the forgers at a stroke
    • Consequently, Rose counterfeits are RARE.

These Rose farthing was much smaller and thicker than the Maltravers, but the revolutionary development was the metal and construction of the coin; most of the coin was copper, but a small “plug” of brass was inserted into part of the coin. This made the Rose farthing an early example of a bimetallic coin and also almost impossible to counterfeit, and the production of forgeries soon ended.

  • The obverse shows two sceptres through a crown, and the legend CAROLVS DG MAG BRITCharles, by the grace of God, of Great Britain
  • The reverse shows a double rose and the continuing inscription FRAN ET HIB REXFrance and Ireland, King.
  • These issues have inner circles on both sides of the coin, between the legend and the design element.
    • Diameter:  17.5 mm
    • The average weight of the Rose Farthing pieces is about 13 grains, ranging from 9 grains to 17 or 18.
    • Exceptionally heavy pieces occur and are known to weigh 21, 25 and 26 grains.
The Maltravers Rose Farthing shown here is one a series of 'transitional mules' that seem to fall the between double and single type groupings. The obverse displays a single arch crown with crossed scepters behind. On this variety the scepters appear extend into the double ring, however based on the poor condition of the coin I am not sure if there are stops with die cracks at these tow points or if the scepters actually extend down.

A brass wedge is also found on many examples, which was used to deter counterfeiting. It is believed that a rod of copper was produced with a notch in it, and then molten brass poured into the wedge, finally the rod was sliced to create the blank flans. After nearly 400 years, some of the brass plugs are now darker than the surrounding copper.

Variations of the Maltravers Rose Farthings

Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 1

Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 1

  • Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 1 : 
  • A rather small coin, at 13-14 mm,(though thicker and heavier) than  the Maltravers (16-17mm) it replaced.
  • The design is rather similar to the Maltravers with a (plain) inner circle.
    • The obverse design features a chunky crown and sceptres, which lie entirely within the linear circle.
    • The reverse depicts a crowned double rose, with the large rose touching the inner circle.
    • Brass wedge at 12.00 o’clock.
    • Two privy marks are known – lis and martlet, and may be located at 12.00 (obv.) and 10.00 o’clock (rev.)
    • Privy marks may be on either, or both, sides.
    • Both marks may appear on the same coin.
    • One issue with lis/lis has no obverse linear circle.
    • Die axis on all Roses is unrotated.
  • Rose Type 1/2 Mules
    • This is a pairing of obverse type 1 with the reverse of type 2.
      • One issue has pm=lis both sides but reads HIBER.
      • Another  has pm=lis on reverse only – but reversed  N in FRAN.
      • A third variant has pm=martlet on obverse, with pm=lis on the reverse plus reversed N in FRAN
  • Rose Type 1/3 Mule
    • Type 1 obverse with its large crown paired with a type 3 reverse.
      • Only one issue known and this has an error – namely HIBE.
      • Unfortunately the privy marks are unclear on the 2 specimens seen
Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 2

Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 2

  • Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 2 :
  • Much smaller emblems are used, with the sceptre handles through the tiny crown just crossing the linear circle.
    • Lis is the only privy mark used and is found on both sides except for a couple of issues where it is omitted from the reverse, on one of which the legend reads HIBER rather than HIB.
    • Another piece reads IIIB.
Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 3

Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 3

  • Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 3 :
  • This group is something of a catch-all covering all Roses which cannot be slotted into types 2 or 4. The obverse crowns – always double arched – can vary in shape and design, whilst the (double) rose emblem can also differ from one piece to another.
    • BRIT and BRI are both used, and one issue reads HIBE.
    • Privy marks known are – lis/none, none/lis, lis/lis, lis/cross patée, cross patée/lis, cross patée/none, lis/mullet, mullet/lis, and mullet/mullet.
    • Various legend oddities occur such as inverted A for V, inverted V for A, over-struck letters, mis-spelled legends and misplaced punctuation.
      • Apart from two very common issues – E.165a/P.305. lis/lis and E.172a/P.314. mullet/mullet, all coins of this type range from rare to excessively rare.
Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 4a

Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 4a

  • Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 4a :
  • This is the simpler design with single arched crowns both sides, a single rose, but still retaining the longer legends.
    • Privy marks can be – lis/lis, mullet/mullet, mullet/crescent, crescent/mullet, and crescent/crescent.
    • This last having a variety with the N of FRAN reversed., and others with distinctly rounded obverse crowns.
  • Rose Type 4a/3 Mule
    • This features the 4a obverse with the double rose type 3 reverse
    • Reads CAROLVS DG MAG BRI. Privy mark=crescent/mullet
  • Rose Type 4a/4b Mule
    • Obverse of 4a reading CAROLVS, but 4b reverse reading FRA and HI instead of FRAN and HIB
    • Two versions recorded – one with pm=lis/crescent, the other crescent/crescent
Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 4b

Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 4b

  • Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 4b :
  • All now read CAROLV DG MA BRI – FRA ET HI REX.
    • Privy marks are – mullet/mullet, crescent/mullet, mullet/crescent, and the EXR crescent/none.
    • The final pairing – crescent/crescent – is by far the most numerous, and probably accounts for 80% of all Roses found today.
    • Inevitably with such a long production run several striking errors occur, leading to letters being over-struck etc.
    • One great rarity has an inverted A substituted for V in CAROLV.
  • Rose Type 4b/3 Mule
    • Combining 4b obverse with the type 3 reverse.
    • Reads CAROLV DG MA BRI. Privy mark crescent/mullet
  • Rose Type 4b/4a Mule
    • This pairing reverts back to a 4a reverse (FRAN-HIB) linked to a 4b obverse (CAROLV – MA)
    • Privy marks found are crescent/lis, crescent/none and crescent/crescent.
    • Only the latter is common, the others being excessively rare.
  • Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 4 Irregular :
  • Some type 4 pieces occur with irregular legends.
  • These can be – CAROLV MAG, MA OR M on the obverse.
    • Also known are FRA HIB and FR HI on the reverse.
    • All bear the crescent/crescent privy mark, except for one with mullet/mullet.
    • All are very rare to exceptionally rare pieces
Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 5a

Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 5a

  • Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 5a :
  • This final series differs from all others in that the sceptres are crossed beneath the obv.crown.
    • Type 5a having bosses on the sceptre handles.
    • Privy mark is  mullet/mullet.
    • The legend reads – CAROLV D:G MAG BR and FRA ET HIB REX.
Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 5b

Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 5b

  • Maltravers Rose Farthing, Type 5b :
  • Very similar to 5a with crossed sceptres below the crown – but now the handles are plain.
    • Several combinations of legend occur, using – MAG  BR, MA BRI or MA BR. on the obverse – twinned with FRA HIB, FRA HI or FR HIB on the reverse. Pm=mullet/mullet.
    • One issue has an inverted A for V in CAROLV, whilst another has the cross missing from the central orb of the obverse crown.

Privy (private) marks recorded on the James I & Charles I ‘patent’ farthings

In line with the previous patent farthings, the Maltravers Rose Farthings included a series of Privy Marks which were an additional device to prevent / deter counterfeiting.

In line with the previous patent farthings, the Maltravers Rose Farthings included a series of Privy Marks which were an additional device to prevent / deter counterfeiting. The only deterrent that actually worked, however, was the insertion of a brass plug.

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