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Silver penny of King John, England, 1199-1216

This coin was struck in the spring of 1205, and has a unique portrait of John. English kings were generally shown full-face on medieval coins from Henry II (1154-89) to Henry VII (1485-1509), but here John is portrayed in three-quarter profile. It is a much livelier image than the very flat and static pictures on most coins of the period. Early in 1205, John ordered a recoinage to replace the accumulated ‘clipped’ coins in circulation, which people had been cutting down to take the silver for themselves. From the king‘s point of view, as well as restoring the quality of the currency, the recoinage was also a useful money-earner, as his mints charged a fee to re-coin old money. However, the recoinage did not solve John‘s severe financial problems, and his need to levy heavy taxes contributed to the baronial revolt of 1215 and the signing of Magna Carta.

Collection