As a teenage boy of 13 years my first job was that of a newspaper delivery boy. I rose at 6.00am from Monday to Saturday and I received fifteen shillings a week.
Those fifteen shillings today are 75 new pence and worth a fraction of what I earned. Those fifteen shillings in the 16th century were fifteen Testoons and their value I would have loved as my teenage salary.
During the reign of Henry VIII these Testoons were causing quite a scandal. It was in the 1540s and following a secret order that their silver content was gradually downgraded and replaced with copper as the Kings Treasury tried to raise much needed funds. This change undermined the principal at the time that the bullion value of the coin was broadly equivalent to it’s face value.
As the 1540s wore on the silver content of the Testoon continued to reduce. It eventually became so thin that it rubbed off easily from prominent parts of the coin, including the King’s nose. This gave rise to the King’s new nickname, ‘Old Coppernose’.
By the late 1540s the Testoon was being withdrawn and melted down as silver coins were being re-introduced. Although common at the time good examples of the Testoon are hard to find today. Our stamp, coin and medal department recently had a specialist auction which featured a Testoon. All the way from the time of good old King Henry to our saleroom. It was a very good example and sold for a buyers premium inclusive £10,020 (pictured above).
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
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