Florin (English coin)

The Florin or Double Leopard was an attempt by English king Edward III to produce a gold coinage suitable for use in Europe as well as in England (see also Half Florin or Leopard and Quarter Florin or Helm). The florin, based on a French coin and ultimately on coins issued in Florence, Italy, in 1252, was a standard coin widely used internationally, with a value of six shillings. Unfortunately the gold used to strike the coins was overvalued, resulting in the coins being unacceptable to merchants, and the coins were withdrawn after only a few months in circulation, in August 1344, to be melted down to produce the more popular gold Noble. This is unfortunate as few specimens survived of what is often regarded as one of the most beautiful medieval English coins ever produced.

The obverse of the coin shows the King enthroned beneath a canopy, with two leopards' heads at the sides (the leopard being the heraldic "lion" on the English coat of arms); the legend is EDWR D GRA REX ANGL Z FRANC DNS HIB (Edward by the Grace of God King of England and France Lord of Ireland). The reverse of the coin shows the Royal cross within a quatrefoil, a leopard in each spandrel; the legend is IHC TRANSIENS PER MEDIUM ILLORUM IBAT (But Jesus passing through their midst went His way).

Only three examples of this coin are known to exist: two discovered on the River Tyne in 1857, and one discovered in January 2006. The latter coin was sold at auction in July 2006 for a record price for a British coin, of £460,000.

For the nineteenth and twentieth century florin worth two shillings, see florin (British coin). For other denominations, see British coinage.

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