World Coins

A kingdom under siege spurs money of necessity during English Civil War

A siege shilling of Charles I, from Carlisle, is in a Feb. 2 auction.

Images courtesy of Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles.

Could a rift between the legislative body, with the power to tax, and the nation’s ruler, with tendencies to promote specific religious beliefs, ever lead to a nation split asunder, brother fighting brother, neighbor against neighbor?

It can, and it did, in 17th century England, leading to the English Civil War. (What, you thought this was a discussion of modern politics?)

The coins of the English Civil War are a fascinating and tangible connection to the mayhem and machinations of Charles I’s troubled reign.

One such piece, created by a loyalist outpost in a time of need, is being offered in Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles’ Feb. 2 and 3 Pre-Long Beach auction.

Though causes are far too many to summarize here effectively, the suspension of Parliament for 11 years, the attempt to arrest five members of Parliament, and religious battles are generally cited as the largest and most obvious dominoes among events bringing on the division.

By 1645, toward the end of the war, many towns and castles in royalist hands had become isolated. In the artificial conditions within a sieged area, there was often no need for money, according to Coins and Medals of the English Civil War by Edward Besly.

Money of necessity

“In a few cases, however, ‘money of necessity’ was coined in an attempt to pay the garrison and to maintain day-to-day transactions,” Besly wrote. “Such issues were produced by local governors acting on their own authority and are characterized by simple designs and often by unusual shapes and weight standards.”

Three garrisons, including Carlisle, issued these coins in 1645 to 1646.

In May 1645 the citizens of Carlisle were ordered to surrender silver plate (tableware, etc.) to be used to make coins.

Two denominations were made, shilling and 3 shillings, from some 1,076 ounces of silver surrendered by at least 41 citizens, according to Besly.

Charles I’s crown appears on the obverse of the shilling, with XII (representing 12 pence, or 1 shilling, below). 

The letters OBS on the reverse of the coins represent either the Latin word obsessum (meaning besieged) or obsidio (siege).

The coin in the auction is graded About Uncirculated 58 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., and has an estimate of $5,000 and up.

Consigned: 1645 silver shilling of Carlisle, England
Condition: About Uncirculated
Auction Location: Los Angeles
Auction Dates: Feb. 2, 2021
Details: Rare silver siege shilling was made during the English Civil War by supporters of Charles I

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