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British coin Quarter Guinea

At the beginning of the reign of King George I (1714-1727) the price of silver had risen considerably, resulting in much of the British silver coinage being melted down and few silver coins were being struck. Sir Isaac Newton, the Master of the Mint, wrote a minute dated 21 September 1717 in which he blamed the overvaluation of the Guinea at twenty one shillings and sixpence for this, and this resulted in a Proclamation of 20 December reducing the value of the guinea to twenty one shillings. In 1718 it was thought appropriate to strike a new gold coin equal to a quarter guinea to provide a useful coin worth approximately the same as the silver crown (in fact, worth five shillings and three pence).

The new coin had to be proportionate in size to the other gold denominations, and this resulted in a coin which weighed 2.1 grams and was 16 millimetres in diameter. It had not been realised at the time that a coin of this size was impracticably small to use, and would prove unpopular. 37,380 coins were minted, but many of them were put aside as keepsakes and many of the rest were lost. The coin was discontinued after 1718, and for the next few years there was an increased output of Guineas and Half Guineas.

Despite its' miniscule size, the coin took the form of a scaled-down version of the guinea and half-guinea, including all the intricate cruciform shields on the reverse and all the king's Hanoverian titles. The coin is a fine example of the mint's work, although a magnifying glass is needed to properly appreciate it. The obverse shows a right-facing portrait of the king with the legend GEORGIVS D G M BR FR ET HIB REX F D, while the reverse shows four crowned cruciform shields separated by sceptres, with a central Star of the Order of the Garter, and the legend BRVN ET L DVX S R I A TH ET PR EL 1718 -- Duke of Brunswick and Lueneburg, Arch-Treasurer and Prince Elector of the Holy Roman Empire.

When George III came to the throne in 1760 the price of silver had again risen dramatically. Despite the unpopularity of the 1718 quarter guinea it was considered necessary to produce this coin again, to the same size and weight as before, to fill the gap between the low denomination silver coins and the larger gold coins. Unfortunately it met the same fate as its predecessor and was only produced in 1762. The obverse shows a right-facing portrait of the king with the legend GEORGIVS III DEI GRATIA, while the reverse shows a large crowned shield bearing the arms of England and Scotland, France, Ireland, and Hanover, and the legend M B F ET H REX F D B ET L D S R I A T ET E 1762 -- King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick and Lueneburg, Arch-Treasurer and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire.

For other denominations, see British coinage.

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