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Brit Tip #21

Shilling dates to watch for 1838-1936

Here we examine some of the better dates of shillings 1838-1936 to be on the lookout for (see Tip #11 for 1937-1970). Some of the dates may be "common" in Krause or even the British price guides, but the ebay prices or general availability suggest otherwise.  Note that I refer to coins in high grade in most cases.

Shillings seem to have a great deal of popularity among collectors, more so than many of the other denominations.  It is resulting in an increasing dearth of good material and escalating prices across the board.


  • All top grade Young Head  Victorian dates are desirable and all are quite rare in uncirculated condition.  They are no longer the bargain basement coin they once were.
  • The key date is 1850.  Valued at a mere 25 in UNC back in 1967, it can now not be had for less than around 150 in date-only condition.

  • A poor second to that is 1854, but you have to be very rich and well connected to own a top grade of this date.

  • Almost as rare are 1840, 1848, 1851, 1862 and 1863.  1840 and 1862 appear to be very undervalued relative to their apparent rarity yet.

  • 1857 with inverted "G," 1863 (3 over 1), 1866 (BBITANNIAR) and 1879 with die number are some prized varieties.

  • The third tier of good dates includes 1841, 1843, 1845, 1860, 1861, 1869, 1870, 1882 and 1887.  In 1967 catalogues, 1882 was thought to be the top date in the entire Victorian series, valued at 35!!

  • The small Jubilee Head of 1889 is the only key.  1888 without overdate appears to be scarce, even though catalogues don't bear that out.
  • Veiled Head shillings are all comparably available and relatively easy to find, even in top grade.  In spite of their age, they are not particularly expensive.
  • Edward VII has become a very difficult monarch to collect.
  • 1905 is the key of the series, with very low mintage and high circulation.  Beware of fakes.

  • 1903, 1904, 1908 and 1909 are all very tough to find in uncleaned top grade.

  • 1902, 1906, 1907 and 1910 are much easier to get than the others.  Soft strikes in 1906 and 1907 may make UNC specimens appear less than they are.  That said, even these pieces are rarer than all Victorian Veiled Head dates.

  • The George V series is loaded with semi-key dates but nothing that really stands out.  There is good reason to suspect that any of the dates 1913, 1921, 1924, 1925 or 1930 could emerge as the toughest date.
  • 1912, 1913 and 1919 are the top dates in the sterling silver era (1911-1919).  EF and AU slider grades are relatively easy to locate.  1913 is considered by many to be the key date of the entire George V series.

  • Every date of the debased coinage of 1920-1927 (the first reverse) is tough except for 1926.  In my opinion the key date of the entire George V  is 1921.  How can this be, when 22.6 million were minted??  First, a very poor debased alloy was used.  Second, most of the issue tarnished to an unattractive colour.  Finally, the early dates saw extensive circulation as the debased coinage took root.  1924 and 1925 are also very difficult to obtain as UNC.

  • A very underrated date is 1930 (3.1 million minted).  Many are available in low to near EF grades, but finding an uncirculated specimen presents a bigger challenge than the casual reader of catalogues is led to believe.

  • In addition to 1930, the Type II dates of 1931-1935 are tricky to find in true top grade and all are undervalued.

  • So what's left?  Well, you have the coronation (1911) and death (1936) years, which are usually easy to obtain.  The war years of 1914-1918 are among the most commonly found dates in top grade.  1922 is common in spite of its valuation.  Type II dates 1927-1929 are easy to locate.

Posted 3/13/2011 and linked to CU