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a long OT: my new 1567 dollar

Posted: Sat May 28, 2022 6:29 pm
by DHalladay
1567 Sword VF25.jpg
1567 Sword VF25.jpg (184.32 KiB) Viewed 1355 times

I recently acquired this upgrade to my Scotland 30 shillings Ryal set: a 1567 “Sword Dollar” graded VF25 by NGC. It replaces a PCGS F12 example that started my set in 2002 – one that within a few years became clear would eventually need to be replaced.

Since the set began I have tried unsuccessfully to find even the smallest scrap of information (or even a guess) about Ryal mintages. But my hunt has at least convinced me the number is small – which makes perfect sense because their face value was so huge, being approximately equal to 50 days of wages for a skilled tradesman. (It was also enough to buy a cow, which, as a former dairy magazine editor, makes me smile.)

Ryals were made from 1565 to 1571 in two very different types. (They were also made in 20- and 10-shilling denominations.) I’ve always considered the side with the date to be the obverse, although reference books and sometimes grading companies say I am wrong. But since this is my thread I am going to do it my way:

The “Palm” or “Mary” type was issued under the reign of Mary Queen of Scots from December 1565 to July 1567. Its obverse shows a tortoise climbing a crowned palm tree whose trunk divides the date. (Yes, that is totally weird. I have been to Scotland several times and I have never even heard of tortoises or palm trees being there, let alone seen any. And it goes without saying that tortoises can’t climb.)

The “Sword” or “James” type was issued from August 1567 to 1571 under the reign of James the 6th, Mary's son, who was made King at age 1 when Mary was deposed and eventually imprisoned after being accused of plotting to kill her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England. Its obverse features a large vertical crowned sword whose blade divides the date. A hand and extended finger point to the Roman numerals XXX (the smaller coins have XX or X) indicating the denomination.

Palm-Sword pair.jpg
Palm-Sword pair.jpg (169.89 KiB) Viewed 1355 times

Ryals are hammered coins and thus are crudely made. Their published specifications are 44 mm in diameter (although some references say 41 mm), 30.46 grams in weight, and .917 in fineness -- versus 38.1 mm, 26.73 grams and .900 for U.S. silver dollars.)

Most Ryals, however, are not perfectly round nor uniform in size. Every one I have seen has also had multiple and/or uneven striking to some degree; I would love to see an example of any date that doesn’t have any weak, partial, or missing letters or design elements. Reverses are always rotated, in amounts that vary all over the place. If any properly aligned coin or medal turn examples do exist, I’m convinced they happened by accident.

Planchet quality is often poor and sometimes awful. Surface voids, particularly near the rim, are common. So are radial flan cracks (not surface die cracks), which can be ragged and unsightly. Many Ryals were counterstamped with a thistle-shaped mark applied by the government in 1578 to increase their value to 36 shillings and 9 pence, after inflation and rising bullion prices had pushed their melting value well above face value and caused an exodus of silver coins out of the country. The accepted value of Ryals was officially raised by Parliament again in 1597, this time to 50 shillings.

I could see from the eBay auction photos of the VF25 coin that something odd was on each side of the sword hilt, plus the lettering on both sides looked downright goofy. So I was eager to get it in hand and put a loupe on it. When I finally did I got a huge surprise; it is amazingly messed up.

Here is a closeup from a previous Heritage auction lot which shows that absolutely nothing is supposed to be around the sword hilt area:

correct obv close.jpg
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Now, here are photos of my F12 coin that show how the lettering on a 1567 Sword Dollar is supposed to look. (The planchet of this coin is unusually round and high in quality. The strike has minimal doubling and lettering around the rims on both sides is unusually bold, complete, and well centered. But the center of the obverse is also unusually weak. Central weakness is not uncommon on Ryals, due to their large and poorly protected design, but the amount of obverse wear on this F12 makes me wonder if perhaps some might be due to being carried and rubbed as a pocket piece):

LFCP obv 12.jpg
LFCP obv 12.jpg (364.14 KiB) Viewed 1355 times
LFCP rev 12.jpg
LFCP rev 12.jpg (358.18 KiB) Viewed 1355 times

Despite its low grade, the F12 clearly shows that the Latin motto around the obverse has 17 letters: PRO ME • SI • MEREOR • IN • ME (“For me, but against me if I deserve”), and the much-abbreviated Latin legend on the reverse has 28 letters and one number: .IACOBVS.6.DEI.GRATIA.REX.SCOTORVM. ("James 6th by the grace of God King of Scotland").

Re: a long OT: my new 1567 dollar

Posted: Sat May 28, 2022 6:36 pm
by DHalladay
In stark contrast to the F12 coin’s clarity, here are photos of the VF25 for comparison:

LFCP obv 25.jpg
LFCP obv 25.jpg (329.84 KiB) Viewed 1353 times
LFCP rev 25.jpg
LFCP rev 25.jpg (302.71 KiB) Viewed 1353 times

The “something” I had noticed on either side of the sword hilt in the auction photos turned out to not be edge marks or damage, but parts of the coat of arms and shield from the reverse:

VF25 overstrike.jpg
VF25 overstrike.jpg (321.52 KiB) Viewed 1353 times

The reason why I pointed out that 17 letters are supposed to be in the obverse motto is because:
– The VF25 coin’s obverse motto has 19 letters, 4 of which belong on the reverse.
– Since I know what to look for, I also see remnants of 8 other letters on the obverse that belong on the reverse.
– Plus, there is no trace whatsoever of two letters that should be on the obverse.

Like I said earlier, this coin is amazingly messed up. Here are 3 closeups from the obverse as examples:

obv gang letters.jpg
obv gang letters.jpg (234.66 KiB) Viewed 1353 times

• In the top photo, the letters IN and M (with a fragment of E to the right) belong there. What looks like a fat dot between IN and M really is a fat dot and it also belongs there. What doesn’t belong are the partial letters O and R in SCOTORVM from the reverse that are struck off-center/high between IN and M. Above ME are the very top edges of the V.
• In the middle photo, EI • GRA are letters from the reverse that have perfectly obliterated MS • SI • that is supposed to be there.
• The bottom photo is a mess. The letters closest to the rim are OBV in IACOBVS that belong on the reverse. Under the first O is the base of the P in PRO that is supposed to be there; the two ‘feet’ of the R are to the right, and the O is mostly complete. Inside the second O is the bottom of the tilted S in IACOBVS.

The reverse has plenty of overstriking too, but it is harder to unscramble. Here are 3 closeup examples:

rev gang letters.jpg
rev gang letters.jpg (220.16 KiB) Viewed 1353 times

• The top photo should show (going from left to right) ATIA in GRATIA. The A and most of the T are there (preceded by the tip of the right ‘foot’ of the R), but the last two letters are simply gone. In their place is the closely spaced ME in MEREOR from the obverse.
• The second photo again shows the closely spaced ME in MEREOR, followed by EX in REX that is supposed to be there. It is thoroughly unclear whether the vertical thing between E and E is part of the R in REX, or an off-center strike fragment of the first R in MEREOR.
• The bottom photo shows the X • in REX • that is supposed to be there, followed by the mangled bottom halves of SCO (and most of the T) in SCOTORVM that is supposed to be there. At the top of the X is the off-center ghost of an O and most of the last R in MEREOR •. I am unable to confidently decipher what the mess of fragments is at the top right of the photo.

In addition to the photos shown in this post, there is plenty of evidence of multiple strikes from the correct dies on each side of the coin, as is normal. Each side shows at least two, but I’m not certain there aren’t three. Plus, there is also at least one poorly centered strike on each side using the die from the wrong side.

I asked our kind resident experts on All Numismatic Things Weird and Wonderful (J.B. and J.R.) what the correct term is for my Frankenstein coin and was told, “a flip over double-strike”. When I tried to envision how that might have happened, this is the 100% guess scenario I came up with:

Strikes were first done on each side, then inspected and found to be bad; either very weak and/or off-center (in addition to which ever one started out being rotated). The coin was then struck again on each side, but probably not carefully, and after having been turned upside down by mistake. Another inspection was done – followed by expletives when that mistake was discovered. So the coin was struck yet again on each side, but this time with the correct dies.

Four hundred and fifty-five years later, the crazy result of those FUBAR striking errors has found its way into the hands of a crazy collector who likes it even more – much more – than he expected to.

Re: a long OT: my new 1567 dollar

Posted: Sat May 28, 2022 9:14 pm
by RogerRock
THANKS for the pictorial and discussion on Scotland Ryal (s). Interpretation of overstrikes on old crown size coins is fascinating work! I managed to unscramble the host coin date on two different Brazil 960 Reis. The 1817-R was overstruck on an 1816 Spain Madrid GJ 8 Reales (ANACS XF 45 Details) and the 1820-R was overstruck on a 1809 Bolivia PTS PJ 8 Reales (ANACS XF 45 Details).

Overstrikes produce a jigsaw patchwork of letters, numbers, and symbols in different levels of relief. Sometimes enough of the host coin details remain to determine date, mint, and type. Usually, it takes detailed lengthy study in order to decipher these host coin marks if the overstrike has not obliterated them.

Re: a long OT: my new 1567 dollar

Posted: Sun May 29, 2022 6:25 am
by keilg1
@DHalladay, what a wonderful read. Thanks for sharing and educating us.

Living in the UK now I'm fortunate to attend multiple talks on coin histories and perspectives I'd never known living in the U.S. One club I am a part of and will be presenting to in the autumn (on VAMs!) is the Numismatic Society of Nottinghamshire. I'd love to link you in with some of the members who might share a similar passion as yours and might be able to network you in their collective activities.

Let me know if you'd be interested.

Again, wow and thanks for the read. So much to learn and so little time. Better get crackin!


Re: a long OT: my new 1567 dollar

Posted: Sun May 29, 2022 2:00 pm
wow nice coins Dennis

Re: a long OT: my new 1567 dollar

Posted: Sun May 29, 2022 2:25 pm
by Mhomei
Congrats and thanks for the tutorial
I am happy you found it.

Is that the one you have been looking for ?

Re: a long OT: my new 1567 dollar

Posted: Sun May 29, 2022 2:30 pm
by DHalladay
Mhomei wrote:
Sun May 29, 2022 2:25 pm
Congrats and thanks for the tutorial
I am happy you found it.

Is that the one you have been looking for ?

Alas, no. The one I still need is the 1568, which is identical to the 1567 except it has an 8.

Re: a long OT: my new 1567 dollar

Posted: Sun May 29, 2022 4:36 pm
by vampicker
Can we take a moment to acknowledge just how cool this coin is?

Re: a long OT: my new 1567 dollar

Posted: Sun May 29, 2022 5:16 pm
by messydesk
vampicker wrote:
Sun May 29, 2022 4:36 pm
Can we take a moment to acknowledge just how cool this coin is?
Indeed, it is exceedingly cool, even without being flipped over between blows. The sword and flying fickle finger of fate made me reserve the 1571 spot in my prime number set for one, even if it's the 20 shilling piece.

Re: a long OT: my new 1567 dollar

Posted: Mon May 30, 2022 11:47 am
by morganman
Simply amazing what coin collectors elect to collect Congrads as collect what
makes one HAPPY

Re: a long OT: my new 1567 dollar

Posted: Mon May 30, 2022 2:51 pm
by Longstrider
That is a super cool coin. Thanks for the photos and history.