“Raising Scepters”

Previous articles on this blog have discussed a common counterfeiting technique known by eighteenth century contemporaries as ‘Raising Scepters’. This is where my ignorance comes into play, as I have just mentioned the technique briefly without thinking that some readers may not actually know what I’m talking about. As an eighteenth century historian, I assume that everyone else knows the same as I do about the period, and that there is a high degree of popular understanding concerning methods of making one coin appear to be another. Therefore, I apologize profusely and hope to amend such grievances.

The term concerns the design of the coin itself. The Obverse of both shillings and guineas were more or the less the same, both baring the image of the ruling monarch at the time of minting.

Obverse of 1758 George II ShillingObverse of 1759 Guinea

Keen eyed readers will note that the images different slightly – George on the shilling is a lot grander, with his robes and ceremonial armour, while the guinea is a simple bust. This might have something to do with the value of the coin, the guinea may be worth more but the shilling is still important – thus presenting a more impressive monarch.

It is on the reverse of the coin that the more striking difference can be seen.

1758 Shilling, George II, EF ReverseReverse of 1715 George I Guinea

The striking difference is the scepters that perturb from the centre of the guinea. Raising Scepters is thus creating scepters on the reverse of the shilling and colouring over to be able to pass as a guinea – considering that a guinea piece in the 18th century was worth 21 shillings, this was quite a profitable – yet difficult – thing to achieve.

It would be a great artisan who would be given the task of engraving the likeness onto the coin. Or in some cases, the scepters are physically placed there (I am yet to discover who this method was achieved). This was a common crime in London – the Mint wrote in 1742 that it ‘was a great evil that had arrived in the city’. It become such that during the reign of George II the guinea’s design had to be altered – not unlike the issues I was worrying over in a previous blog post concerning the new pound coin…


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