Artifact of the Day for May 16th, 2017 — 1882 Penny (Victorian Large Cent)

Today’s find was by Brianne, who found this coin while clearing back an area under the clinker pile by a mortared stone wall!

Canadian Victorian Large Cent, 1882.
Canadian Victorian Large Cent, 1882.

These coins were designed by Leonard C. Wyon in 1858. There are six variants in the obverse. 1858 and 1859 were the first two issue years and portrayed a youthful Queen Victoria in a laurel wreath.

1859 Canada Penny with Young Victoria.
1859 Canada Penny with Young Victoria

It appears as though Wyon took some artistic liberties, as Queen Victoria was already 39 at the time the effigy was struck. The legend on the obverse says “VICTORIA DEI GRATIA REGINA.” which means “Victoria, by grace of God Queen”.

In 1876, Obverse Style 1 was created, which is a more mature effigy of Queen Victoria wearing a crown instead of a laurel wreath. The lower jaw is very round and curving back to the throat. This style appeared on coins struck from 1876-1886.

Obverse style 1, Mature Queen Victoria. Note the rounded, taut jawline.
Obverse style 1, Mature Queen Victoria. Note the rounded, taut jawline.

A second obverse effigy was produced beginning in 1881 and was used until 1892. This is another more realistic portrait of the Queen’s visage. In this style, you can see the jawline is less taut and there is a dimple under the chin.

Obverse Style 2, Mature Queen Victoria. The difference is the chin, with a little softening of the jawline and a dimple between the chin and throat.
Obverse Style 2, Mature Queen Victoria. The difference is the chin, with a little softening of the jawline and a dimple between the chin and throat.

There were three other obverse styles, all showing the effigy with increased age changes. Obverse Style 3 (1891-1892) has a quite old-looking queen, with a square chin and a pronounced dimple between the chin and throat. I can’t help but think that Queen Victoria was not happy with that bust, as it only lasted for one year (and it wasn’t very flattering). Mind you, she was 72 at the time!

Obverse Style 4 (1892-1901) is almost identical to Obverse Style 1, with the taut jaw, but the lips are thinner and closer together.

Please visit this site for other images of the obverse styles on non-archaeological coins in much better condition than ours!

Our coin is Obverse Style 1, with the rounded jaw instead of the dimpled jaw.

1882 Penny Obverse Style 1.
1882 Penny Obverse Style 1.

The reverse design, also engraved by Wyon, depicts a maple wreath with sixteen leaves. The wreath surrounds the legend “ONE CENT” and the date. In some years, the Royal Mint contracted with Ralph Heaton & Sons to mint these coins. Coins minted by Heaton display their “H” mintmark on the reverse. As you can see, our coin has an “H” under the date, which means our coin was minted in Birmingham, at the Heaton Mint.

Traces of the Heaton Mint remain. It was still active until 2003, after a 209-year existence. Although most of the building was demolished in 2007, the facade on Icknield St, Birmingham, UK was preserved and is now a lodging.

Our coin also has a Provincial reverse, which was also found on coins dated 1858, 1859, 1876H, 1881H. The Provincial reverse has medium sized leaves attached to a thin vine and very thin leaf stems. The punch began suffering damage after sinking the first three dies, so as a result all later dies either have damage to the wreath or show signs of re-engraving where the engraver repaired the damaged section by modifying the working die. After 1884, a new reverse was used that has a thicker vine, thicker stems, and larger leaves.

1882 Penny Reverse. The H stamp is centred below the 1882 date stamp.
1882 Penny Reverse. The H stamp is centred below the 1882 date stamp.

Using the avoirdupois system (common in English-speaking countries before metric) of a 16 ounce pound (7000 grains), pennies for the province of Canada (1858 onwards) were 4.54 grams, and so 100 of them made a pound. Since they are also an inch in diameter, that meant they were often used for quick reckonings, as they had a useful length and weight!

Our penny, though, is a Dominion one, as it comes after the Dominion of Canada was formed. The first Dominion-issued coinage was 1870, but the one-cent coin wasn’t issued until 1876. These pennies are 5.67g (meaning it takes 80 coins to make a pound), 1-inch diameter, and composed of 95.5% copper, 3% tin, and 1.5% zinc.

This is basically what our coin would have looked like if it was in good condition instead of being buried for (at most) 135 years!
This is basically what our coin would have looked like if it was in good condition instead of being buried for (at most) 135 years!

In 1882, the property was owned by Irwin, Smith and Boyd, and the big sawmill was still in operation.

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