Fakes, Forgeries and a Bender

Originally written five years ago and now resurrected with many updates.

At the close of the detecting session, I bent down and scooped up a silver coin, which I placed carefully in my foam-filled finds’ tin. On arriving home, the ‘silver’ George II shilling was clearly a forgery (replica?) I had been duped and was bitterly disappointed, just like many others before me.

George II Shilling Forgery. © JW

Forgers have always been with us, of course. It will be a clue to how many years ago I wrote this if you saw the original text. Only last week I was given a dud £1 coin in my change and only realised the fact when it failed to be accepted by two different car park ‘pay and display’ machines.

In any society there are always those who profit from the innocence and gullibility of people like myself. Every year 2 million fake coins are spotted and taken out of circulation – it’s that easy to fake. It’s thought that 3% of all £1 coins are counterfeit – that’s a total value of £47 million! I wrote at the time, It’s illegal to spend or pass on a fake pound; instead you should take it to a police station.

The last of the old-style coins rolled off the production lines sometime in December 2015. It is believed that the new twelve-sided £1 coin will be far more difficult to counterfeit, but we shall wait and see!

It’s now 2021 and it seems that the new pound coin has stumped the counterfeiters … unless you know different!

Most Valuable Coin Ever Seen in England

Incidentally, our current £1 coin wasn’t the first one. That honour goes back to Henry VII who, in 1489, ordered the officers of the Royal Mint to ‘produce a new money of gold’. The result – Henry VII’s sovereign – had a value of £1 sterling, then the most valuable coin ever seen in England. A pound in 1489 would be worth over £750.00 today!

The first Sovereign, with its double rose showing the union of York and Lancaster © The Royal Mint

Coin Forgery – Severe Penalty

From the Treason Act of the 14th century right up to 1832, the penalty for coin forgery was severe. After hanging males were disembowelled and quartered as a deterrent to others. Women were burnt at the stake or boiled alive. In 1814 hanging was considered the ultimate penalty. In those days it was easy to pass forgeries in a dimly lit pub or shop. Like now, few people bothered to read their coins closely.

Male forgers were disembowelled and quartered as a deterrent to others. Women were boiled alive or burnt at the stake.

The following is an extract from the six volume, History of Old and New London by Walter Thornbury published between 1872-8.

Dawson and eight others were dragged on hurdles from the new gaol in Southwark to Kennington Common, and there hanged. After being suspended for three minutes from the gallows, their bodies were stripped naked and cut down, in order to undergo the operation of beheading and embowelling.

Colonel Towneley was the first that was laid upon the block, but the executioner observing the body to retain some signs of life, he struck it violently on the breast, for the humane purpose of rendering it quite insensible for the remaining portion of the punishment. This not having the desired effect, he cut the unfortunate gentleman’s throat.

The shocking ceremony of taking out the heart and throwing the bowels into the fire was then gone through, after which the head was separated from the body with a cleaver, and both were put into a coffin. The rest of the bodies were thus treated in succession; and on throwing the last heart into the fire, which was that of young Dawson, the executioner cried, “God save King George!” and the spectators responded with a shout.

Charles I Half-Crown

Contemporary Forgery – Charles I Half Crown © JW

Another coin from my collection is a contemporary forgery of a Charles I half crown, perhaps circa 1636-49. I understand that there are a lot of them about and it all has something to do with the Civil War when the Tower Mint fell into the hands of Parliament. 

The silver coinage of Charles I started off well, but with the advent of the war many different mints started striking coins and spurious issues appeared. You need an expert numismatist to give the full and accurate details. I am merely a storyteller! What I can tell you – and I suspect you already guessed – is that the half crown (two shillings and sixpence) was a lot of money in those days! I reckon a few pence at least! 🙂

The half crown above depicts one I’ve borrowed from an eBay seller and looks ‘almost’ the same as mine. It all depends on rarity and condition of course, but the latest bid for this coin is £220. A bargain compared with other prices I’ve seen.

Charles I SixpenceModern Replica

This modern cast copy ‘Tower Mint’ sixpence is a replica found in 2012. The coin was made by Westair Reproductions Ltd, whose initials are stamped on the rim above HR of CHRISTO. Found in Bedfordshire.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Did you know this about Love Tokens?

Bender – A sixpence was known as a bender because, due to its silver content, it could be bent in the hands. This was commonly done to create ‘love tokens’, many of which survive in collections to this day. The value of a sixpence was also enough to get thoroughly inebriated as taverns would often allow you to drink all day for tuppence. This gave rise to the expression ‘Going on a bender’. Info from the Royal Mint

19 thoughts on “Fakes, Forgeries and a Bender

  1. And now I know where that term ‘going on a bender originated’, John.. I learn something new every day… always a good thing.

    And there were certainly some severe punishments back in the day..These days you can kill a person and get on with almost a slap on the wrist…

    Thank you again my friend

    I love reading your musings


    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Male forgers were disembowelled and quartered as a deterrent to others. Women were boiled alive or burnt at the stake….”
    That’s harsh! I can deal with disembowelled but quartered? No, no and no.
    Yup. Rough justice! (John)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi John, just checked my pocket coins 2 different £1 coins, 3 different 20p coins, 2 different 50p coins and 2 different 10p coins.
    How on earth does anyone know what is legitimate?
    Perhaps forgery is the way forward with present day interests.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello John, have just read this latest blog regarding coinage, very interesting, a small coin can convey so much information.
    I was also interested to see the belt buckle, as mentioned in the film ‘The Dig, from one of your previous blogs, it was good to see the buckle in more detail and learn a bit more information behind the film.
    Many thanks for this insight.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I never knew the source of “bender” until now — thanks! I also didn’t know that counterfeiters were hanged, drawn, and quartered. A severe punishment for just about anyone, though in the older days I think they weren’t even humane enough to kill the victims before carrying out the sentence.

    It’s strange to think how many common coins are counterfeited. We usually think of silver and gold coins, but I’ve heard even pocket change here in the US are faked.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think my mother in law must have been involved in forgery as I have heard people refer to her as bit of an old boiler.


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