S.G. Onions and his Teaching Money

In his short time ‘history hunting’ in the north-east of England, Mark McMullan has dug-up many ‘treasures’ including countless coins. He says, “I’ve unearthed all sorts of things. They are not always the most valuable but I have found a gold sovereign from 1889 and medieval objects going back to the 1100s. It’s not about value, but about the history. When I find something, I want to know everything about it, plus its link to the area. I find the hobby addictive, astonishing, and fascinating.

I’m going to tell you about he day Mark found something rather mundane on his ‘pit permission’ near Bishop Auckland, that turned out to be a cracker. The subsequent research revealed the sort of detail and social history that a gold sovereign could never match.

‘Mystery Coin’ © Mark McMullan

Now, the coin above looks rather unremarkable but, after careful cleaning, Mark revealed some fascinating detail. First, I show you a better picture ‘borrowed’ from eBay.

An “Onions’ teaching coin made of brass and 5mm in diameter. On the obverse is a portrait of the infant Albert Price of Wales, the future king Edward VI. On each reverse, there are individual money statements with relevant number of dots. This one has the statement ’12 pence make one shilling’ and, did you notice, to reinforce learning there are 12 dots above the statement?
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George III Coin and Somalian Stunners

George III Sixpence

My previous blog was about busy, busy Grant Maxwell, an administrator on Detecting Scotland.

I highlight another one of his finds, this time because of its rarity. He started out detecting with a Minelab CTX 3030 and is still using it about eight years later.

He said: The sixpence was the first find on a Detecting Scotland dig. When I cleaned the coin at home I found a couple of oddities.

Unusual Coin

In a twist to what we usually read when detectorists find something rather different, we learn that the coin was Grant’s first find at the rally and he discovered it after he’d only taken a few steps whilst walking away from the car! A clean-up back at home revealed a couple of oddities that made the coin not your usual 1816 sixpence.

One of the most important parts of any British coin’s design is its portrait of the monarch at the time, and there wasn’t anything unusual there. The date on the coin tells us when it was minted and this was when David noticed the first oddity – the shape of the first ‘1’ in ‘1816’ was most unusual! There are two views here with different lighting. Have you ever seen one like this before? Grant thinks that he may have picked up ‘more than he bargained for’ with his first signal.

George III 1816 Sixpence

If you look carefully at some coins, preferably with a magnifying glass if your eyesight is like mine, you can usually see the designer’s initials. But this coin had what appears to be the counter-stamped with initials that could be GB or GR, unless you know different.

Counter- stamping, for many reasons, was quite prevalent in the 19th century, but not always easy to identify. Generally, coins werestamped to advertise a business, to make a political statement or as personal identification. Maybe it was a kind of ‘test’ mark, showing that the coin was genuine. I’m no expert. Perhaps someone can provide a more valid explanation. And now for something completely different.

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