World Coins

Morton & Eden auctions English silver groats

A 1279 silver groat of Edward I, among the first examples of the denomination introduced by the king’s coinage reform in 1279 and 1280, realized £5,040 March 17 in London.

Images courtesy of Morton & Eden.

The English coin known as a groat was equivalent to four pennies and was introduced during Edward I’s coinage reform of 1279 to 1280.

Prior to the groat, the only English coin in circulation was the penny. The denomination lives on today only in the annual sets distributed by the monarch on Maundy Thursday, which this year was conducted on March 24.

London auction house Morton & Eden on March 17 conducted an auction of the Motcomb Collection of English groats. A total of 242 lots realized £211,512 ($298,924 U.S.), including the 20 percent buyer’s fee. 

The groat is a medieval denomination, and was influenced by other European nations. In the century prior to the groat’s release, Italy and France adopted larger silver coins, and England’s burgeoning international trade necessitated higher value coinage to compete with them and make transactions easier. 

According to Richard G. Doty in The MacMillan Encyclopedic Dictionary of Numismatics, “For a medieval coin it is quite large (28 millimeters in diameter) and relatively heavy (about 5.8 grams). It reveals what a medieval coin designer could do with the larger space in which to work than the penny afforded him.”

None of the changes (ornamental cross, various legends) were radical, according to Doty, “but they look better and are more pleasingly executed than earlier coins — and for that, the groat is to be thanked.”

One of the highlights of the collection is a groat from 1279, the first year of the denomination. On the coin the king has a “broad face with short hair,” according to the auction house, which graded the coin Good Fine. It realized £5,040 ($7,123 U.S.) against a £4,000 to £5,000 estimate. 

For more details of the auction, visit the firm’s website.

Community Comments