Two shilling coin
|Composition||75% Cu, 25%Ni|
|Years of minting||1849–1967|
|Design||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Design||Tudor rose surrounded by thistles, shamrocks, and leeks|
The British two shilling coin, also known as the florin or "two bob bit", was issued from 1849 until 1967. It was worth one tenth of a pound, or twenty-four old pence. It should not be confused with the medieval gold florin, which was nominally worth six shillings.
In 1968, in the run-up to decimalization, the two shilling coin was superseded by the decimal ten pence coin, which had the same value and initially the same size and weight. It continued in circulation, alongside the ten pence, until 1993, when the 10p was reduced in size.
Victorian issues (1849–1901)
In 1847 a motion was introduced in Parliament calling for the introduction of a decimal currency and the striking of coins of one-tenth and one-hundredth of a pound. The motion was subsequently withdrawn on the understanding that a one-tenth pound coin would be produced to test public opinion. There was considerable discussion about what the coin should be called, with centum, decade, and dime being among the suggestions, before florin was eventually settled upon, partly because of its connection with old English coinage, and partly because other European countries also had coins of approximately the same size and weight called florins.
The first florins were struck in 1849 as silver coins weighing 11.3 grams and having a diameter of 28 millimetres. These first coins would have come as rather a shock to the public, as for the first time in nearly 200 years a British coin featured a portrait of the monarch wearing a crown. Even more of a shock, including (allegedly) to Queen Victoria herself, was the omission of D G – Dei Gratia ("by the grace of God") – from the coin's inscription, which resulted in it being popularly known as the godless florin. The inscription around the obverse read VICTORIA REGINA 1849. The reverse featured four crowned cruciform shields with a rose in the centre, with the shields separated by a rose, thistle, rose, and a shamrock; the inscription on the reverse was ONE FLORIN ONE TENTH OF A POUND. The "godless florin" may have also been minted in 1850 and 1851 with the date 1849.
In 1851, the florin was redesigned in a most unusual way. The diameter was increased to 30 millimetres, and all the lettering on the coin was in Gothic script, resulting in it being known as the Gothic florin. The date was rendered in Roman numerals. The inscription on the obverse read (e.g.) victoria d g britt reg f d mdcccli ( F D – Fidei Defensor, defender of faith), while the reverse read one florin one tenth of a pound. The Gothic Florin was produced each year until 1887 (mdccclxxxvii).
In 1887, to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, a new older "Jubilee Head" of the queen was used and the various flora were removed from the reverse and replaced by sceptres between the shields and a Garter Star in the centre. The diameter was reduced to 29.5 millimetres. All the inscriptions were in Latin letters and Arabic numerals. The inscription on the obverse read (e.g.) VICTORIA DEI GRATIA, while the reverse read FID DEF BRITT REG date, with no indication of the value. The Jubilee Head issue was released each year between 1887 and 1892.
In 1893, a new "Old Head" showing the veiled head of the queen was introduced, inscribed VICTORIA DEI GRA BRITT REGINA FID DEF IND IMP, together with a completely new reverse showing three shields separated by a rose, shamrock, and thistle surmounted by the Garter crown and inscribed ONE FLORIN TWO SHILLINGS. The diameter was reduced again, to 28.5 millimetres. This issue was released each year between 1893 and 1901.
Edward VII (1901–1910)
Following British custom, when Victoria died and her son ascended to the throne, the florin was redesigned along with all other British coins. The florin of King Edward VII was minted each year from 1902–1910. It remained at 11.3 grams weight and 28.5 millimetres diameter. The obverse shows the right-facing head of the king, inscribed EDWARDVS VII DEI GRA BRITT OMN REX FD IND IMP, while the reverse features a unique design showing Britannia standing holding a shield with her left hand and a trident with her right, and inscribed ONE FLORIN TWO SHILLINGS date.
George V (1910–1936)
Florins bearing his left-facing effigy were minted in each year of the reign of King George V (1910–1936) except 1910 and 1934. Whilst the weight and diameter of the coin were unchanged, the metal composition was changed in 1920 from 0.925 silver to 50% silver, 40% copper, 10% nickel, then again in 1922 to 50% silver, 50% copper, and again in 1927 to 50% silver, 40% copper, 5% nickel, 5% zinc. The design of the reverse was similar to Queen Victoria's Jubilee florin. Until 1926 the inscriptions on the obverse were GEORGIVS V D G BRITT OMN REX F D IND IMP and on the reverse were ONE FLORIN date, while from 1927 the obverse inscriptions were GEORGIVS V DEI GRA BRITT OMN REX and the reverse ones were FID DEF IND IMP date ONE FLORIN.
Edward VIII (1936)
After the end of George V's reign, the word "florin" no longer appears on British coins. Throughout 1936, coins of all denominations continued to be struck using the designs of George V, pending preparation of the new monarch's coinage. A pattern florin exists for King Edward VIII, which would have been due to receive approval around the time that the king abdicated in Dec. 1936 – the obverse shows the left-facing effigy of the king inscribed EDWARDVS VIII D G BR OMN REX, while the reverse shows a crowned rose flanked by a thistle and shamrock, with E below the thistle and R below the shamrock, and the inscription FID DEF IND IMP TWO SHILLINGS 1937.
George VI (1936–1952)
King George VI's florins, produced each year between 1937 and 1951, look very like the one planned for his brother Edward VIII. The obverse shows the left-facing effigy of the king inscribed GEORGIVS VI D G BR OMN REX, while the reverse shows a crowned rose flanked by a thistle and shamrock, with G below the thistle and R below the shamrock, and the inscription FID DEF IND IMP TWO SHILLINGS date until 1948, and without the IND IMP from 1949, in acknowledgement of India's independence. The metal content was changed, as for all British silver coins, from 1947 to 75% copper, 25% nickel. This removal of all the silver meant that most of the earlier coins which contained silver were removed from circulation fairly quickly (see Gresham's law).
Elizabeth II (1952–1967)
Florins were produced for Queen Elizabeth II each year between 1953 and 1967, with proof coins again produced in 1970. The obverse shows the Mary Gillick head of Queen Elizabeth, inscribed ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA BRITT OMN REGINA (1953 only) or ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA (all other years), while the reverse shows a tudor rose in the centre surrounded by thistles, shamrocks, and leeks, with the inscription FID DEF TWO SHILLINGS date. In accordance with the plan for decimalisation of the currency (120 years after this denomination was first introduced in the first plan to introduce a decimal currency), from 1968 the decimal ten pence coin was introduced of the same size, weight, and metal composition as the florin. Florins (usually dated 1947 or later) remained in circulation until the size of the decimal ten pence was reduced in 1992, and they were finally demonetised on 1 July 1993.
The florin is called 盾 in Chinese, which literally means "shield". This derives from the shields in the coin's original, 1849 design. The Dutch guilder is also called a florin (ƒ and fl. are the symbols for the guilder), and therefore is also called 盾 in Chinese, as are the Netherlands Antillean guilder and the Aruban florin, both derivatives of the Dutch guilder.
- Chard. "The Story of the Florin or Two Shilling Piece". Retrieved 2007-12-18.
- Levi, Leone (1880). The History of British Commerce and of the Economic Progress of the British Nation, 1763-1878, 2d ed. John Murray.
- British Coins - Free information about British coins. Includes an online forum.
- Florins - History and values of UK florins.
- Pictures of Florins - Tony Clayton's pictures of UK two shilling coins