George III. 1760-1820. AR shilling. 26 mm. "Northumberland." 1763. His laureate bust right / Shields in cruciform. S. 3742. ESC 2124 (1214). NGC AU 58; attractive coin with light gray tone over fresh surfaces.
The “Northumberland” shilling is more a story of the energetic and influential Hugh Percy, an important figure in the court of George II, than it is of a lone silver coin issued in limited numbers—3000 or fewer—in the midst of a period of nearly a half century without any silver currency coming from the mint.
Percy’s influence carried over into the reign of George III, the 22 year old grandson of George II whose reign began in 1760. In 1763, early in this reign, Percy now the Earl of Northumberland, was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Soon after he arrived in Dublin he had a silver shilling with a portrait of the young George III struck, a reflection it seems of his remarkable influence when one considers the absence of silver minting during this period.
This is the only silver coin showing the young head of George III issued during an era where gold coinage was the only thing that kept mint workers occupied. The total mintage is estimated to be fewer than 3000, and all of these were shipped to Ireland where Percy handed them out. They were not distributed to the population generally, but were handed out piecemeal to friends, colleagues, and new acquaintances over a period of time.
The design of the coin was also special. The last shilling of George II in 1748 and the 1787 shilling of George III were both typical low relief examples of coins designed to be produced in quantity. This 1763 issue has a fuller face portrait of the young king that shows up with an appealing higher relief and definition reflecting the gold issues of the time. The same portrait was used for the gold issues early in George III’s reign.
Most of the coins that show up now show signs of limited use. “Choice mint state” is a description that applies to very few examples. “Good Very Fine” to “nearly Uncirculated” seems to encompass most of what is available to modern day collectors. Some time spent in pockets or being passed around as a curiosity or casually placed in a drawer as a memento is probably the best explanation for why we see the coins as we do now.
This lot is a very pleasing example of the issue. The “AU58” grade indicates a coin with all the design present and just the loss of some original luster, reflecting just a bit of handling.
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