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Brit Tip #14

Die numbers were used to see when the dies would die

Back in Victorian times several die number experiments were performed. Presumably, most were used to determine the lifetime of specific dies. The most well known was that on the silver coinage of 1864-1879, namely the sixpence, shilling and florin. The threepence was left out of the mix and the halfcrown was suspended until 1874 in hopes the florin would catch on. No die numbers appeared on subsequent halfcrowns.

Die numbers were also used in the gold coinage from 1863-1874 on sovereigns and 1863-1880 on half-sovereigns. On the sixpences and shillings of the time, the die numbers are located above the date. The florins have die numbers below the obverse portrait. See the pictures below.

Figure 1.  Sixpence die no. above date. Figure 2.  Shilling die no. above date.
Figure 1.  Florin die number below bust amd just above first W in "W    W."

Die number collectors are probably satisfied with a coin in any condition given the likelihood of finding some of them in UNC being negligible. With only few exceptions, different die numbers do not differentiate a coin's valuation. The exceptions refer to scarce or rare coin varieties that may be accurately identified with a single die number, such as the sixpence's DRITANNIAR error in 1878, which only occurs with die #6.

Posted on CU 12/13/2003