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History of the Florin

By AG    |   Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The Double Leopard

In 1344, during the reign of England's King Edward III, an impressive gold coinage comprising the Florin or Double Leopard, valued at six shillings, and its half and quarter, the Leopard and Helm respectively, were introduced. The design of the Florin was based on the contemporary gold issues of France's Philip de Valois. These issues were not successful and were replaced, later the same year, by a heavier coinage, the Noble valued at 6s 8d (ie. 80 pence or one third of a pound). It would be nearly 500 years before the Florin would re-appear as a coin denomination.

The Kingdom of Holland

Following the Napoleonic wars, in 1795 the French ended the United Dutch Republic and formed the Batavian Republic. Napoleon made his brother King of Holland in 1806. In 1807, the Kingdom of Holland issued it's first coinage, a silver Florin equal to 20 Stuivers. For the florin denomination, this represented a 'false start' as in the following year, the coin was renamed the 'Gulden', a denomination which would, after the abdication of Louis in 1810 and the expulsion of the French in 1813, become the basis of the Kingdom of the Netherlands decimal monetary system from 1815 where 100 cents = 1 Gulden.

The Godless Florin

In 1849, during the long British reign of Victoria, as a first step towards decimalisation, the florin got a 'second chance'. A silver florin, valued at one tenth of a pound, was added to Great Britain's coinage. On the legend of this first of the modern florins, the usual Dei Gratia coinage inscription was omitted leading to the nickname of the 'Godless' florin. This anomaly was rectified in 1851 with the release of the 'Gothic' florin issues from 1851.

Modern Florins

The florin was issued continuously in Britain from 1851 until 1967 when the introduction of decimal currency saw it replaced by a 10 new pence coin.

In South Africa, .925 fine silver florins were first issued in 1892 under the banner of the independent Boer South African Republic (Zuid-Afrikaansche Republick). These issues stopped in 1897 with the Boer's loss to the British and did not recommence until 1931 under the auspices of the Union of South Africa. Interestingly, all South African florins are denominated as a 'Two Shillings' rather than 'Florin'. South Africa continued to strike two shillings until 1960 when the country relinquished dominion status to enter the turmoil of the apartheid era. The florin was replaced by a 20 cent coin.

In 1910, the Florin was one of four silver denominations released in Australia after Federation. Prior to this, British issues circulated as legal tender throughout the States of Australia. The Florin continued to be issued in Australia until 1963 when plans for the introduction of decimal currency in 1966 saw it replaced by a 20 cent piece.

Between 1849 and 1919, the British florin was issued in .925 fine silver. The silver content was reduced to .500 fine (50%) between 1920 and 1946. From 1947, with silver needed to repay war loans to the USA, all normal British silver coin denominations, including the florin, were struck in copper-nickel.

In Australia, all Florin issues were produced in silver, .925 fine between 1910 and 1945 reducing to .500 fine between 1946 and 1963. It was not until decimalisation in 1966 that Australia first issued circulating copper-nickel coinage.

New Zealand, like Australia before it, utilised British issues for circulating legal tender coinage until issuing their own coinage in 1933. The initial 5 silver coins (3 pence, 6 pence, shilling, florin and half crown) were all struck in the debased .500 grade silver and, at the same time as Britain (1947), replaced by copper-nickel equivalents.

Ireland issued .750 fine silver florins between 1928 and 1943. After an 8 year gap copper-nickel florins were struck between 1951 and 1968.

Fiji issued .500 fine silver florins between 1934 and 1945, replacing them with copper-nickel from 1957 until 1965. A war-time aberration saw .900 fine Fiji florins produced by the San Francisco mint in 1942 and 1943.

Other countries to issue Florin denominated coins include:

  • Aruba - Nickel bonded steel issues since 1986 in a monetary system where 100 cents = 1 Florin
  • Austria - .900 fine silver issues from 1857 until 1892 where 100 Kreuzer = One Florin (Guilden) and Two Florins = One Thaler
  • East Africa - .500 fine silver issues in 1920 and 1921
  • Malawi - A copper-nickel-zinc issue in 1964

The Double Florin

In 1887, at the time when Queen Victoria's portrait was changed to the 'Jubilee Head' design, Britain introduced an unusual coin, the Double Florin, valued at 4 shillings. The coin was not popular and was issued for only 3 years until 1890.

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