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 ENGLISH COINWEIGHTS FOR 
       FOREIGN GOLD COINS      


INTRODUCTION


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Due to expansion of trade in the late-17th and 18th century many gold coins from Portugal, France and Spain were current in England and sets of coinweights were made and issued to control them. Some of these weights with harp and shield were for use in Ireland but some were undoubtedly used in England too as many have been found by metal detector users here. The Acts of Parliament for the 'new standard' guinea and for the testing of coinweights (1774-5) had rid England of many lightweight coins but some foreign coins probably still circulated until the great recoinage of 1816. Included in the Act of Parliament of that year was the declaration that:-
'gold coin of this realm was to be the only legal tender for payments
within the United Kingdom of any higher amount than forty shillings.'
1


mybak Sp Escudoh mybak Sp Escudot  
 
THE SPANISH ESCUDO


Charles I of Spain (later the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) issued a new 22 carat gold coin in 1537 called the escudo which continued to be struck until the 19th century. Thirty years after its introduction multiples were issued of the double and quadruple escudo - the double commonly being called a 'pistole'. The Spanish-Mexican gold double-pistoles (4 escudos) which were in use throughout Europe from the 16th-18th centuries were also at first known as 'doubloons' but this term was later used more commonly for the quadruple pistole of 8 escudos.


mybak Louis d'orh mybak Louis d'ort

 
 
THE FRENCH LOUIS D'OR


This 22 carat gold coin was first issued by Louis XIII in 1640 and continued to be struck until 1793. The name louis d'or was first used for the unit which was tariffed at 5 livres at its inception but was soon transferred to the more internationally popular double or 10 livre piece. Universally both the Spanish double-escudo and the French louis d'or were known as 'pistoles'. Some idea of the number of these coins circulating in England can be gauged from the result of the Proclamation of February 1700-1 that the French louis d'or and the Spanish pistole 'should not go for more than 17 shillings' which brought so many to the Mint that 1,400,000 in English money was coined from them.2  Previously the pistole had passed current at up to 18 shillings.

The pistole coinweights found in this country mostly relate to the French louis d'or and many have on the obverse the bust of Louis XIII (1610-1643) or Louis XIV (1643-1715) with the legend LVD XIII (or XIV) D.G.FR.ET NA.REX with a reverse of three fleur-de-lis and I PISTOL W. in three lines. Coinweights for the half pistole are also known with the same obverse and H. (for ½) PISTOL W. Another type has on both sides PISTOLE and the weight 4. 8. with DW. GR. over. Yet another has the Arms of France and Spain in a shield and on the reverse - I FRENCH SPANISH P. in four lines. There are a great number of varieties many dating from the period of William III and the early-18th century. Some pistole weights are known with the bust and title of William III.


mybak Moidoreh mybak Moidoret

 
 
THE PORTUGUESE MOIDORE



A Portuguese gold coin principally the 4 cruzado piece struck in large quantities from 1663 to the 1720's. Multiples of 2½ and 5 moidore were also issued. After the discovery of gold in Brazil (a Portuguese colony until 1822) the Bahia and Rio mints issued even greater amounts of these coins until the 1770's. The word 'moidore' is a contraction of moeda de ouro or literally 'money of gold'. The design on these coins is the crowned Arms of Portugal on the obverse and the distinctive Cross of Jerusalem on the reverse. Under the universal name of moidore it became the most commonly traded coin in the New World and was internationally the principal gold coin of the 18th century.

The earliest coinweights usually just have the word MOIDORE or a contraction of it on one side and the Cross of Jerusalem on the other. On some of the later weights the reverse legend of the coin is also used - IN HOC SIGNO VINCES - some of these are dated 1746-48. The value of 27 shillings is also shown on the later weights (in script probably from the 1770's) - 13s 6d for the half moidore and 6s 9d for the quarter moidore. Weights are not so commonly shown but are 6dwt 22¼gr for the unit - 3dwt 11gr for the half and 1dwt 17gr for the quarter.


mybak Port Escudoh mybak Port Escudot

 
 
THE PORTUGUESE ESCUDO


In 1722 John V introduced a new coinage based on the gold escudo. The design was the royal bust and title on the obverse and the crowned Arms of Portugal within a decorative shield on the reverse. A popular name for these portrait pieces was 'Joeys' or 'Joes' from the royal title on the coins - Joannes (John V, 1706-1750) and Josephus (Joseph I, 1750-77). The coin is also referred to as a 'Portuguese Piece' or 'Port Piece' on the coinweights and box labels that have survived.

Many of the weights show the obverse of the coin with bust and title IOHANNES V PORT.REX or IOSEPHUS I D.G.PORT.REX and on the reverse the weight or more usually the value - A THREE POUND TWELVE for the 8 escudo - THIRTY-SIX SHILLINGS - EIGHTEEN SHILLINGS - NINE SHILLINGS - FOUR SHILLINGS AND SIXPENCE for the parts. Many of the portrait coinweights have the name I. KIRK a London scalemaker on them and the date 1747 or 48. Some also have an edge reading - I.KIRK.F.LONDON. Another type has the value in letters on both sides within a decorative and crowned shield which imitates that on the coin. Again there are a large number of varieties.


REFERENCES
1. Gold Coins of England - Kenyon R.L. 1884 (reprinted as Kenyon's Gold Coins of England, 1969) p206.
2. as above p180.


THE FRENCH - SPANISH PISTOLE
* Estimated from the Proclamation of 1700-1 that the pistole value was 17s
Unit Coin Tolerance Weight English value
Quadruple Pistole  
(Doubloon)  
  4 French louis d'or
  8 Spanish escudo
17dwt   8gr  3   8s 0d*  
Double Pistole     2 French louis d'or
  4 Spanish escudo
8dwt 16gr  1 14s 0d*  
One Pistole     1 French louis d'or
  2 Spanish escudo
4dwt   8gr  17s 0d    
Half Pistole     ½ Fr. louis d'or
  1 Spanish escudo
2dwt   4gr  8s 6d*  
THE PORTUGUESE MOIDORE
Weights and values from coinweight box label of c1773. * Estimated
5 Moidore     20,000 reis 1oz 14dwt 15¼gr  6 15s  0d*  
2½ Moidore     10,000 reis 17dwt   7½gr  3   7s  6d*  
1 Moidore       4,000 reis 6dwt 22¼gr  1   7s  0d    
½ Moidore       2,000 reis 3dwt    11gr  13s  6d    
¼ Moidore       1,000 reis 1dwt    17gr  6s  9d    
THE PORTUGUESE ESCUDO
Weights and values from coinweight box label of c1773.
(Double Joe) Port Piece       8 escudo 18dwt    10gr  3 12s  0d    
(Joe) Half Port Piece       4 escudo 9dwt      5gr  1 16s  0d    
Quarter Port Piece       2 escudo 4dwt 14½gr  18s  0d    
One eighth Port Piece       1 escudo 2dwt   7¼gr  9s  0d    
One sixteenth Port Piece       ½ escudo 1dwt   3½gr  4s  6d    


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