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The Coinage in Sherlock Holmes’Era

1996, by Sébastien Canevet

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The adventures of Sherlock Holmes contain a lot of innuendos to the victorian coinage. Anywhere, this coinage is misunderstood, so we are able to show it.

This exhibition has three parts :


The Pound & the Golden coinage *

The Shilling & the Silver coinage *

The Penny and the Bronze coinage

And the Guinea?


and the golden coinage

The Pound was originally a certain amount of silver (the metal). It was equal to 20 shillings or 240 pence. During the XIX century, the Pound was a prestigious golden coin. The coins of one Pound (sovereign) and a half-pound (half-sovereign) were usually stricked, even the five and two pounds coins were struck only for sepcial events

Three kind of effigies were used during the Victoria reign :

Victoria "with the young head"

Coin of One Pound, or Sovereign

Struck in 1853

Victoria "with the Jubilee chest"

Coin of One Pound, or Sovereign

Struck between 1887 and 1892.

Victoria "with the old head"

Coin of One Pound, or Sovereign

Struck between 1893 and 1901

THE POUND THE SHILLING THE PENNY Return to the Dix Sept Marches

And the Guinea ?

The Guinea is an ancient British coin. It was struck for the first time in 1663 with a value of 20 shillings, and 21 shillings from 1717. It disappeared in 1813.

So, at the Sherlock Holmes’s era, they were no Guinea. But the canonical writing refer to this coin, sometime :

"Ce sera le même tarif que d’habitude, plus une guinée à celui qui trouvera le bateau."

(Sherlock Holmes to its Irrégulars, The Signe of Four, Chapiter VIII)

How could you explain this mystery ?

In facts, at the victorian era, if the Guinea had disappear yet as a coin, it was also used as a "virtual-coin". Its value is 21 shillings, also one Pound and one shilling.

It seems that certain professionals, like the physicians, were paid with Guineas... when others were paid with Pounds. It is probably an extra payment for their knowledge.

At present, The Guinea is no more used as "virtual-coin", except by some rare persons, who think it is really fashionable, even it is madly elaborate :-)

THE POUND THE SHILLING THE PENNY Return to the Dix Sept Marches

Other interesting sites...


Royal Mint United Kingdom *

American Numismatic Association *

Numismatic International *

Acknowledgments :

John Mc Gowan - Roger Burrows -

This exhibition would be impossible without their help and encouragement.

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