A License to Print Money?
Obsidional or Siege Coins
The local historian J. Potter Briscoe wrote the following article about the unique Siege Coins that were minted at Newark during the First English Civil War of 1642 – 1646.
His article (reproduced here in edited form) first appeared in the journal Notts. and Derbyshire Notes and Queries Vol.2, May 1894
‘In addition to the regular coins in use during the troublous times of Charles the First, which were of a size and denomination well known as the currency of this kingdom, there were others of irregular form and value struck by Charles and his adherents, in order to supply that Sovereign with the means necessary for carrying on the wars. From their being struck in places which were in a state of siege, they have become known to us as “siege pieces,” or “money of necessity.”
‘The nobility and gentry who favoured Charles’s cause were applied to for the use of their plate, as were also the wardens and fellows of the different colleges in the universities, and the mayors and corporations of cities and towns. This plate was clipped up, for the greatest part, into pieces of varying shapes – oblong, diamond, and round. The siege pieces were stamped with hastily-formed devices, intended to represent the castle in which they were struck, or with the name of the place. Other pieces bear an imperfect representation of the place, and in consequence cannot be assigned with certainty. Some of the pieces of silver retain the mouldings of the salvers from which they were clipped…
‘First in point of local history were the silver pieces struck at Newark, that town then being the stronghold of the Royalists. These were of the values of half-a-crown, one shilling, ninepence, and sixpence, and were all marked with Roman numerals, indicating the number of pence for which they were to be current. They were all of lozenge form, with a pearl border along the edges, and of the same type. On the obverse of each of these pieces was struck a large crown, between the initial “C.R.” (for Carolus Rex), with value, in the form indicated, placed beneath it. The reverse was “Obs.[idional] Newark,” with the date 1645 or 1646.
‘The weight of the Newark siege pieces were 128 grains for the half-crown, 95 grains for the shilling, 70 grains for the ninepenny piece, and 38 for the sixpence…. Newark specimens are the most frequently met with of all English siege pieces. The half-crown and shilling are not uncommon, the ninepence is rare, and the sixpence is now very rare.