World Coins

Cromwell’s crown features famous image of usurper

A silver 1658/7 crown coin honoring usurper Oliver Cromwell highlights a Sept. 5 and 6 auction near Los Angeles.

Coin images courtesy of Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles.

The English Civil War pitted pro-royalist forces against Oliver Cromwell and the pro-parliamentary group, with Cromwell’s supporters ousting Charles I as king, then beheading him in 1649. 

Cromwell emerged victorious to govern the Commonwealth as Lord Protectorate. It would be several years before he was featured on new coins of the Commonwealth, but when the so-called Cromwell crown was made, it became an instant classic. 

An example of this celebrated coin highlights Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles’ Sept. 5 and 6 Pre-Long Beach world coin auction.

Cromwell established the Protectorate in December 1653 and production of coins featuring the Lord Protector’s portrait was authorized some two years later. 

A new series of coins was launched soon after the Commonwealth began. These coins, except for the halfpenny, were uniform in type and “lamentably ugly,” according to G.C. Brooke in English Coins From the Seventh Century to the Present Day. The obverses display St. George’s cross (a shield) and the reverses feature an “ill-drawn device” of the shield and an Irish harp, the design lending itself to the scornful designation as “a fit stamp for the coin of the rump,” wrote Brooke.

The Cromwell design by master engraver Thomas Simon (1618 to 1665) is quite different from those of the Commonwealth. 

The obverses have a laureate and draped bust of Cromwell, while the reverses have a crowned shield with the cross of St. George in two quarters, the cross of St. Andrew in one quarter, a harp in one quarter and an inescutcheon (a smaller embedded shield) with a rampant lion. 

Each denomination was produced in relatively small numbers, and most authorities are of the opinion that these coins were never placed into general circulation, but were possibly distributed to those in high rank as examples of the new method of coin production.

All were machine made in the presses of the Frenchman Pierre Blondeau, struck from the dies prepared by Simon.

An edge inscription on the crown of the English usurper Oliver Cromwell warns against a form of currency abuse — clipping precious metal from the edge of a coin. The inscription translates from the Latin: “Let no one remove this from me or suffer death.”

Cromwell ruled until 1660 when the monarchy was restored and Charles II was installed as king. With the monarchy restored, the Cromwell coinage was recalled to be recoined. Few survived the recall, thus the scarcity of these pieces today.

The Goldbergs offer an overdate 1658/7 example graded About Uncirculated 58 by Professional Coin Grading Service. 

The cataloger describes the coin as a “beautifully struck piece with a subtle blue pastel tone and prooflike surfaces.” The coin has an estimate of $8,000 to $9,000. 

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