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Elizabeth I coins

Elizabeth I coins
What was it used for? Money
Where is it from? Found near Guildford
When was it made? 1580s - 1590s
How was it made? Hammered
What was it made from? Silver
Size: Diameter 36mm
Museum number LG.4079, RB.3514.8 and RB.3514.16

These two coins both come from the time of Queen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558 - 1603). We are able to date them both precisely because of the designs on them. They were part of a large hoard of coins that were found buried in the ground. They arrived at Guildford Museum under rather mysterious circumstances.

The coin on the left shows the royal coat of arms of Elizabeth I. The shield includes the English lions and French fleur-de-lis. The Latin words around the edge (POSUI DEU ADIUTOREM MEU) mean 'I have made God my helper'. The motto also carries an image of a bell. This allows us to date this coin to 1582 - 83. The other coin shows a portrait of Queen Elizabeth herself. This coin has the words 'ELIZAB D G ANG FR ET HIB REGI'. This means 'Elizabeth, by the grace of God, queen of England, France and Ireland.' The motto also includes the image of a woolpack (a sack of raw wool). We know this means the coin was made between 1594 and 1596.

These two coins were part of a hoard of 175. Their arrival at Guildford Museum is a bit of a mystery. One day in the 1980s, somebody posted the coins through the museum letterbox. The person left a note, saying where he/she had found the coins but didn't give his or her name. The depositor also said he/she had found the coins because the soil surrounding them had worn away. Finds like this have to be investigated by a coroner. In this case, the coroner decided the coins were 'treasure'. This meant the government became the owner of the coins, however the government then gave them to the museum.

The coins in the hoard are all silver. They date from the reigns of Edward VI (reigned 1547 - 1553) to Charles I (reigned 1625 - 1649). We think their original owner deliberately buried the coins for safekeeping some time during or immediately after the English Civil Wars (1642 - 1651). At that time, the country was particularly unstable and dangerous. However, the owner never came back for them. We will probably never know why!