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Essay Contest - British Copper Penny

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A simple contest and a chance to make some money writing about coins. The rules are simple, you must write an essay about the copper penny of the UK 1797-1967. 250-750 words, winner selected by me. The details are spelled out below (I think I covered most of the common things). If you do decide to make it more factual/historic than personal annotations will be appreciated for any non obvious facts :ninja:


Any feedback on the format will also be appreciated


Contest Rules


1. The subject must be the large British Copper Penny 1797-1967. Other than that the essay can focus on personal collections, connections, history etc.

2. The submission must be in essay form 250-750 words

3. Photos are welcome along with the submission

4. Submissions can be posted here or Pmed to me. Attachments are O.K.

5. Entry deadline is 6:00 GMT October 29th

6. Winner to be announced once I have finished reviewing any and all entries (if there is only one it won’t take too long)

7. Winner must agree to let me publish the essay online at http://www.coinvalues.us or http://www.ancientcoinvalues.com.

8. Payment will be mailed after signing of standard contract on point #7 above

9. In the event the winner is not a US citizen payment will be maid in mutually agreed upon terms (International Money Order or similarly accepted payment).

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If it had been sixpences i could have knocked something up. Pennies i'll have to think about.


By the way they were only copper from 1797-1860, in 1860 they were replaced by lighter bronze pennies. The copper/bronze collectors are very particular about this.

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Interesting. This is an area I know little about but I will try my hand at it...just to challenge myself if nothing else! I think I can cover that number of words rather easily but will have to do some research on the topic, that is for sure.


Not sure about the standards of essay form but whatever I come up with, in Stujoe form, you are welcome to use any way you see fit...odds are it will not be very impressive, though. :ninja:

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Matthew Boulton's 1797 Pennies


The penny and Twopence of 1797 were monumental contributions to the coinage of Britain for many reasons. Aside from privately or municipally issued tokens which were issued over a couple of hundred years, the penny denomination was only a scantily issued diminutive silver coin which was not a popular circulation item. In fact the silver pennies were issued as late as 1820 but were more souvenirs or keepsake pieces than actual workaday coins.


In 1797 Matthew Boulton was engaged to produce a new coinage in bronze. In effect it was a token coinage, since it was not a precious metal issue, but in another sense it was not since the value of the bronze due to the large size of the piece was closer to the actual value of the piece, which is not typical of tokens. The penny of 1797 weighed in at one ounce, and was sized similarly to the old Spanish 8 Reales coins, however was twice as thick. Striking such a piece was impossible with the then commonly used screw press because of the enormous pressure necessary. However the advent of the steam powered coin press developed by Mr. Boulton greatly enhanced the ability of minters to strike larger and thicker coins whilst retaining the desired details of the design.


So the 1797 bronze coinage was significant, because for the first time in over a hundred years pennies were re-introduced into circulation in Britain. They were made by steam powered coin presses, a product of the new industrial age in Britain. These coins were issued in such significant numbers that they were to remain in circulation well into the 19th century and made an important contribution to the burgeoning British economy.


They made such an impact on circulation coins, that in a survey in Scotland and Northern England in the 1840's they were found to be some 40% of the circulating penny denominated coins still in circulation.


There are several trivial facts about these coins, being referred to as "Ounce Pennies" they were often used in burials to cover the eyes of the dead to keep eyes closed, any other coin was either too significantly valued or too light to perform the task at hand.


These remain popular coins for collectors, they are the largest circulation British coin ever issued. I have several in varying grades, the lower graded examples have seen service as paperweights.


note- I wrote this from the cuff.

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The Largest of the Large

By Stujoe


The year 1797 brought a large change to British coinage. Prior to 1797, British Pennies were struck in silver harking back to their Roman Denarius lineage. Small, high quality, silver British pennies had been minted on and off for many centuries. These coins were a staple of the British monetary system of the time.


Under the reign of George III, however, a change would come to the British Penny - a very large change, indeed. In 1797, the copper penny was introduced. Weighing in at one ounce– its full intrinsic value - it was a very large coin especially for its small denomination. At one ounce and with a diameter of 36 mm (approx 1.4 inches), it was just slightly smaller and lighter than a US Silver Dollar. The large size of these new coins soon earned them the nickname of Cartwheel Pennies. The weight of the coin, being exactly once ounce, also prompted its use as a convenient unit of measurement – often as a kitchen weight.


Matthew Boulton and James Watt, two of the most famous British coiners ever, minted the new coin at their Soho Mint using machine presses. Their skill and machinery resulted in a high quality coin typical of their professional work. The design is somewhat simple, with little extra ornamention, but it is very well executed.


The obverse of the coin, as is standard with British coins, features a bust of the current monarch - King George III. This obverse design is a rather simple one with the monarch shown wearing a wreath around his head and dressed in a Roman style garment. No other main features ornament the main obverse design giving the coin a rather understated, but certainly imperial, look and feel.


For the reverse design a representation of Britannia, the allegorical figure of Britain, was chosen. Britannia, in this design, is shown seated, facing left. She is holding a trident, representing British naval power, in her left hand and an olive branch, representing peace, in her right. A shield ornamented with the Cross of St George and the Scottish Cross of St Andrew – a precursor to the famous Union Jack - is shown resting against her on the left side. Britannia is gazing out over the ocean with a ship shown sailing in the distance. This was not the first use of a Seated Britannia design on British coinage However, it was a design that would be continued on British pennies up through decimalization in 1970.


The rim of the coin is quite distinct, especially for its time. It is large and raised above the fields. The lettering on the rim was also incuse – stamped into the coin – rather than being raised above the design as is typically seen. The obverse lettering is: GEORGIOUS III . D : G . REX. This translates to George III, By the Grace of God, King. The reverse simply features: BRITTANIA and the date of 1797.


The 1797 penny was issued for several years with the date remaining the same. In 1806, the British copper penny was redesigned to a smaller size and weight. This reduction in size was to be continued through latter years. From a single example to collecting by the many different design varieties, the history and uniqueness of the 1797 British penny makes it an interesting addition to any coin collection





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It's not much and I hope it is at least reasonably factual :ninja: but that is what I came up with. I also wish I had a picture to stick at the top of it but no such luck.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well I am prepared to announce a winner!

A couple of submissions went over the rather small word count isted in the rules so I have removed them from consideration (helps the decisioning process).


Anyway, drum roll, and...


The winner is Stujoe.




I will contact you with some more details about your prize shortly.


I also thank all who submitted entries, I hope to either have more contests and/or solicit other works and integrate them online over time.

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