Commonly used coin references

Coin descriptions will contain references pertaining to that item. These are the main references used by collectors of their respective fields. A list of the prefixes used here is as follows:

 BCW The Hammered Silver Coins Produced at the Tower Mint During the Reign of Elizabeth I (I D Brown, C H Comber, W Wilkinson). A detailed study of dies, punches and die pairs for Elizabethan silver coins. The definitive reference. (2006)
Dxxxx British Silver Coins since 1816 (Peter J Davies). A list of silver coins struck since 1816 which includes proofs and patterns together with more detailed die varieties than ESC. (1st Ed. 1982)
ESC xxxx (xxxx) English Silver Coinage since 1649 (Maurice Bull). A list of silver coins from 1649 onwards with patterns and proofs included together with a number of varieties, mainly legend or major design differences. The 6th edition published in 2015 resulted in a complete restructuring of the numbering system. We have used the revised ESC references and included those found in the first 5 editions in parentheses for collectors’ convenience. 6th Ed. 2015, (5th Ed. 1992))
Everson The Galata Guide to The Farthing Tokens of James I & Charles I (Tim Everson). The best reference for this coinage. (2007)
Fxxx The Bronze Coinage of Great Britain (Michael J Freeman). A list of die varieties found in the bronze coinage from 1860 which is more detailed than that found in Peck. It includes proofs and patterns. (2nd Ed. 1985, Reprinted 2006)
KM Standard Catalog of World Coins (Chester L Krause & Clifford Mishler). An American reference that has become the standard reference for World Coins. Published annually with updated entries.
Mxxx The Gold Sovereign (Michael A Marsh) and The Gold Half Sovereign (Michael A Marsh). A list of varieties for sovereigns and half sovereigns -2 vols. (Jubilee Ed. 2002 and 2nd Ed. 2004 respectively).
Nxxxx English Hammered Coinage vol.1 c600 – 1272 & vol.2 1272-1662 (J J North). Two volumes that used to be the standard reference for hammered coinage, but have been superseded in certain areas by more detailed reference works. Still useful for identification and for the early Saxon in particular as it lists moneyers, mints and the issues they had been recorded as striking. (3rd Ed. 1994 and 3rd Ed. 1991)
Pxxxx English Copper, Tin & Bronze Coins in the British Museum 1558-1958 (C W Peck). This is still the definitive reference for much of the base metal coinage of this country. It includes all the currency, proof and pattern issues known to the writer. For pre-1860 coinage, there is little alternative. This is also referred to as BMC (British Museum Catalogue). The 2nd edition was augmented with a few pages of previously unrecorded varieties in the British Numismatic Journal 1967. (2nd Ed. 1964).

Coins of England & the United Kingdom (Spink) The Standard Catalogue of British Coins, also referred to in numismatic literature as SCBC. Published annually with updated entries. This is the reference book with the largest chronological range of British coins coupled with the number of varieties, from Celtic to the present day.

A second volume, Coins of Scotland, Ireland and the Islands is also published by Spink. It uses reference numbers in the range 5001 onwards.


Small Change I – V Farthings and Halfpennies (Paul & Bente R Withers), a series of 5 books covering halfpennies and farthings for the period from Edward I to the Commonwealth. (2003-2005).



This list of references is far from exhaustive and could be expanded to fill a complete book in itself.

However, it is worth adding a pair of references which cover the increasingly popular decimal issues:


The Identification of British 20th Century Bronze Coin Varieties (2009) and The Identification of British 20th Century Silver Coin Varieties (2010), both by David J Groom. They provide additional information for the pre-decimal coins, but more importantly, these two books provide a more detailed study of the decimal issues up to the year 2000 which is not available elsewhere.

Other useful references for collectors include the various British price guides published annually:

Coins of England and the United Kingdom by Spink (listed above)

Collectors’ Coins GB pre-decimal issues 1760 – 1970 by Rotographic

Coin Yearbook by Token Publishing

British Coins Market Values by MyHobbyStore

A word of caution is appropriate here. The values given in each volume for the same coin will vary considerably and should not be taken as an accurate figure. They are a guide only. The prices are usually given for the commonest variety only of that type and date. Prices at auction both traditional and on the internet can vary by a wide margin due to bidders either chasing the price higher in an attempt to get that ‘must have’ coin, or not bidding at all due to not being impressed with what is on offer and so again can only act as a guide to historical sales. There are no rules, only a ballpark figure that the individual will feel comfortable in paying.

An excellent reference for the novice collector of British coins is the Standard Guide to Grading British Coins – Modern Milled British Pre-Decimal Issues (1797 to 1970) by Derek Francis Allen. This is lavishly illustrated showing the reader how the various issues progressively wear. This knowledge is crucial if you are to grade correctly.

Robert Pearce
Robert Pearce


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