By the end of George V’s reign the threepence had become unpopular in England because of its small size. Although it was still popular in Scotland, the government of the day decided to introduce a more substantial thru’penny bit which would have a more convenient weight/value ratio than the silver coinage.
- The silver threepence continued to be minted.
- As previously mentioned, the Scots still liked them
- And, there might have been some uncertainty about how well the new coin would be accepted.
The Royal Mint set about re-designing the threepence coin. The new king expressed his wishes that his coinage would be modern, with new and exciting designs – he hinted at his admiration of the Art Deco style but he also fully understood the conservative nature of the Royal Mint and its traditions.
- He was about to have a new threepence
- It would be struck in a different metal than before
- This was, perhaps, the obvious place to start!
The Royal Mint set about designing the new coins, testing the minting process and, in particular, checking for flaws in the metal flow. The pennies of George V was particularly irksome, e.g. the shadow (ghosting) of the king’s head on the reverse side. The following illustrations give us an understanding of the Royal Mint’s methods.
Trial Piece 1: (1936)
- Alloy: Cupro-Nickel
- Weight: 4.18g
- Designer: Bertram Mackennal
- Uncrowned portrait of George V , facing left
- Legend: GEORGIVS V D. G. BRITT: OMN: REX F. D. IND: IMP:
nine concentric circles
Trial Piece 2: (1936)
- Alloy: Nickel Brass
- Two interlaced triangles
- Legend: ROYAL MINT / ~TRIAL DIE~ / 1936
Edward VIII Brass Threepence
The Edward VIII era saw the planned introduction of a new, larger, nickel-brass (79% copper, 20% zinc, 1% nickel) twelve-sided threepence coin. This coin weighed 6.6 grams and the diameter was 21 mm across the sides and 22 mm across the corners.
The final part of the design process was the effigy of the new king and they needed the king’s approval before they could commence minting on a large scale. This never happened as the king abdicated and his younger brother became George VI in his place.
Meanwhile, the Royal Mint had produced the two patterns shown below. George VI chose the second design and the rest, as they say, is history. In the interim, the Royal Mint destroyed the dies (covering the UK and most of the Commonwealth countries) intended for the production of Edward VIII’s new coinage.
- A left-facing effigy of the new king
- This broke with the convention to alternate the direction
- Legend: “EDWARDVS VIII D G BR OMN REX F D IND IMP”
- A three-headed thrift plant in bloom
- Legend: “THREE PENCE 1937″
A total of just 12 of these coins were struck for experimental purposes and sent to a slot machine manufacturing company for testing.
- The whereabouts of only 6 of those 12 are known.
- However, the other 6 are still out there … somewhere !
- As such, they are extremely rare today
- An example was sold at auction in 2013 for £30,000
These trial pieces were minted in various thicknesses: 1.75mm; 2.0mm; 2.5mm. As some of the thinner patterns could activate existing relatively primitive slot machines instead of a sixpence or shilling, the thickest dimension was eventually decided upon, i.e. 2.5mm.
- There are two types of Edward VIII brass threepences.
- The first type has the date broken by a thrift plant design.
- The second has the date below.
Edward VIII Brass Pattern Threepence (Type 1)
Edward VIII Brass Pattern Threepence (Type 2)
4 thoughts on “O’Brien Coin Guide: GB & Ireland Brass Threepence (Edward VIII)”
This is most interesting.
Please excuse my asking now, but do you know which reverse design was commonest on the Edward VIII trial threepences circulated via slot machines?
Thank you very much.
They were not “circulated” via slot machines: they were sent to a slot machine manufacturing company for testing.
According to Royal Mint records, a total of just 12 of these coins were struck for experimental purposes only, i.e. they did not circulate.