COINWEIGHTS FOR ENGLISH  |
In other European countries weights for silver coins are in early use but it is not until the reign of Charles I that coinweights for English coins become common. The weight and fineness of English silver coins remained constant from 1603 to the 1800's and therefore some of these coinweights could have been in use for a very long time. Some of them have the inscription WITHOUT GRAINS as the ratio of 12 to 1 between gold and silver coins meant that the tolerance weight of silver coins was wide and adjustment with grains was pointless. The appearance of coinweights for silver coins during Charles I's reign is probably due to the large number of types and varieties coined at provincial mints during the Civil War.
Coinweights which relate to the silver coins of Charles I are known for the half crown, shilling and sixpence. For the half crown the most distinctive type has on the obverse, in crude imitation of the coin, the king on horseback with raised sword above his head. The surrounding legend reads - HONI.SOIT.QUI.MAL.Y.PENSE (Evil to him who evil thinks) which is the motto of the Order of the Garter and is first used on half crowns during this reign. Another type for the half crown has on the obverse a crowned C with small IR monogram within flanked by the value IIS VID. The reverse is similar but with an R crowned. A third type has a large crown over CR with XXXD below and several fleur-de-lis in the field. Weights for the shilling and sixpence are also known for these last two types. Similar weights with lions rampant and crowned Tudor roses in the field instead of fleur-de-lis are believed to be of Scottish origin.
Fairly crude apparently home-made weights are encountered from time to time. The circular bronze varieties have marks of value on them in Roman numerals - usually on both sides. Square lead weights with marks of value and again of crude appearance are also known. In some coinweight boxes from the late-17th century onwards are found a small nest of cup-weights similar to those used for other commodities since late-Medieval times. These however are intended for weighing silver coin and are marked VS (for the crown), 2S 6D, IS and ½S or 6D. These were probably used during transactions for weighing quantities of worn clipped coins or even scrap up to an actual coin value and are not strictly therefore coinweights. Other weights that may be found from these coinweight boxes are the square pennyweights (dwts) marked with numerals from 1 to 5 indicating the number of pennyweights represented and small pieces of foil which are the grain weights. These are often marked by circular punches or dots, the number of dots being the amount of grains represented in the weight. Both the grain and pennyweights may or may not also have certification marks stamped upon them. These weights also are not strictly coinweights but are Troy weights used as remedies to correct the deficiences of the coins being weighed.
Sometimes apothecaries or chemists weights used for weighing drugs have found their way into the coinweight boxes which is probably not too surprising as the system is based on the same grain unit as the Troy scale used for weighing precious metals. The Troy scale is based on the grain, the pennyweight (of 24 grains), the ounce (of 20 pennyweights or 480 grains), there being 12 ounces to the Troy pound. The apothecaries scale never had a pound but was based on the grain, the scruple (of 20 grains), the drachm (of 3 scruples or 60 grains) and the ounce (of 8 drachms or 480 grains). The use of symbols or the words scruple and drachm will identify these as apothecaries weights.
Other coinweights that may be encountered from time to time may be from sets of foreign weights used in this country. There are a great many types but those of the Low Countries seem to turn up more than most and these usually date from the late-16th century onwards. They are square and often have the Arms of the town from which they originate on one side with the maker's mark or initials. Examples found in England include the emblem of Antwerp(an open hand) with the maker's initials HF and SI. Square weights with the patron saint of scale-makers (St. Michael) and the initials DM are from the 18th century and are by the Delmottes of Brussels. The very large number of foreign weights must await separate classification.