Scottish Coins
Early Coinage in Scotland
David I (1124-1153)
Prince Henry (1139-1152)
Malcolm IV (1153-1165)
William I (1165-1214)
Alexander II (1214-1249)
Alexander III(1249-1286)
Margaret (1286-1290)
John Baliol (1292-1296)
Interregnum (1296-1306)
Robert I(1306-1329)
David II (1329-1371)
Robert II (1371-1390)
Robert III (1390-1406)
James I (1406-1437)
James II (1437-1460)
James III (1460-1488)
James IV (1488-1531)
James V (1531-1542)
Mary (1542-1567)
James VI (1567-1625)
Charles I (1625-1649)
Charles II (1649-1685)
James VII(1685-1688)
William & Mary (1688-1694)
William II (1694-1702)
Anne (1702-1714)
James VIII (1688-1766)
Charles III(1766-1788)
Henry IX (1788-1807)
Post Union 1707- coins, etc.
Bibliography & notes

Scottish Coins ~ Mary (1542 - 1567)

Queen Mary Portrait

This incredibly tragic reign began when Mary was only one week old, an inauspicious start to nearly a quarter century of what would deteriorate into factional unrest, treachery, murder, and the abdication of Mary in 1567. The early part of her reign was spent in regency under James Hamilton and from 1554-1558 under her mother, Mary of Guise. In 1558 Queen Mary wedded the Dauphin of France, Francois. In 1560 Francois II of France died, leaving 18 year old Mary as a widow. Her subsequent marriage to Henry Darnley in 1565 would end with his suspicious murder in 1567. Queen Mary married James Hepburn, earl of Bothwell in May of 1567, however she was forced to abdicate from the throne on 24 July, after many of her lords withdrew support for her. Her son, James VI, the son of Henry Darnley was recognised as her heir.

Queen Mary Portrait

Despite rallying some support for her cause in 1568, her forces were overwhelmed by supporters of her son, and she thence fled into exile under the protection of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth in England. Several intriques with the objective of putting her on the English throne were suppressed, resulting in her imprisonment for nearly twenty years, until her final alleged conspiracy in 1586 which resulted in her execution the following year.

Unfortunately for collectors, very very few coins, notably some gold coins, and some silver Testoons, were ever issued with Mary's portrait on them. Most coins were issued with her monogram or that of her and her first husband, Francois of France.

Denominations used during this reign:


  First Period 1542-1558 before marriage

   Abbey Crown or Ecu 20/- or 240d later raised in value to 22/10d in 1543
   Twenty Shillings 20/- or 240d 1543
   Fourty four shillings 44/- or 528d 1553

Mary 22/- Twenty Two Shillings, 1553

    Twenty Two shillings 22/- or 264d 1553

Gold 22 Shillings, crowned shield, I G either side, rev. crowned monogram MR, date in legend, 2.49gms S.5396. The I G on both sides of the shield are for James, Earl of Arran, Governor of Scotland. Curiously, he was next in line to the Scottish throne, being descended from James II. He was appointed regent in 1542, and would subsequently negotiate with the French for Mary's marriage to the Dauphin Francis. For his efforts he was created Duke of Chatellerault. In 1554 the regency was surrendered to Marie of Guise, Queen Mary's mother. The Latin legends on this coin, Maria Dei Gra R Scotorum translates to Mary Queen of the Scots, whilst on the reverse Diligit Iusticiam translates to observe justice. This particular coin is S-5396, and SMA22S-005.

    Three Pound Piece or portrait Ryal, 60/- or 720d 1555-1558
    Thirty shilling piece or half ryal, 30/- or 360d 1555-1558

 Second Period 1558-1560 Marriage to Francis

    Ducat or 60/- or 720d extremely rare

 Third Period 1560-1565 First widowhood

    Crown or 20/- or 240d 1561, unique and very likely a pattern.


First Period 1542-1558 before marriage

   Testoon or 4/- or 48d Type I Issued in 1553
   Testoon or 5/- or 60d Type II Issued in 1555
   Testoon or 5/- or 60d Type III, lighter weight, issued 1556-8
   Half Testoon or 2/6 or 30d Type I Issued in 1553, unique and possibly a pattern

Second Period 1558-1560, Francis and Mary

Queen Mary And King Francis Testoon 1560

   Testoon or 5/- or 60d Minted in 1558-1561, rare 1565 is an error.
   Half Testoon or 2/6 or 24d Minted in 1558-1560

Third Period 1560-65, First Widowhood

   Testoon or 5/- or 60d Minted in 1561-1562, very rare
   Half Testoon or 2/6 or 24d Minted in 1561-1562, very rare

Fourth Period 1565-1567, Mary and Henry Darnley

   Ryal or 30/- or 360d 1565 with portrait of Mary and Henry Darnley facing each other, possibly unique

Mary and Lord Darnley Ryal, 1566

   Ryal or 30/- or 360d 1565-1567, with tortoise climbing palm tree(the arms of Lord Darnley).

Here is an example of a coin with Mary's personal history being played out on the coinage, the inclusion of Lord Henry Darnley's name on the coin as her consort. In an age when it was viewed that a woman could not reign without a man, and a notably passionate woman, she would fall prey to suitors such as Lord Darnley, and later James Bothwell. This would play out tragically in 1567 with the murder of Lord Darnley, her being suspected of having some complicity, and then her unseemly hastened marriage to James Bothwell.

This particular coin was later referred to as a Crookestone Dollar allegedly referring to a Yew Tree in Crookestone Park where it was believed that Lord Darnley courted Queen Mary. But in fact, the tortoise climbing the palm tree is his arms, and doesn't refer to the park.

   Two Thirds Ryal or 20/- or 240d very rare undated, and then 1565-1567
   One Third Ryal or 10/- or 120d 1565-1566

Fifth Period 1567, Second Widowhood

   Ryal or 30/- or 360d 1567 in Mary's name only
   Two Thirds Ryal or 20/- or 240d 1567
   One Third Ryal or 10/- or 120d 1566(very rare) and 1567


First Period 1542-1558 before marriage

Mary Bawbee

One of the first coins issued in the reign of Queen Mary, this coin is a Bawbee or Scottish Sixpence coin. It was a mainstay of small change during that time, and was perhaps the most common coin encountered in daily transactions. The Bawbee had been considerably debased in previous reigns and by the time this was issued, the silver content was down to .250 fine. This coin continues the earlier James V era usage of the thistle on the obverse of the piece, with the legend in Latin "Maria D G Regina Scotorum" or Mary by the grace of God, Queen of the Scots. The reverse of this coin portrays the Cross of St Andrew within a crown and flanked by cinquefoils. The legend Oppidum Edinburgi or Town of Edinburgh encompasses the perimeter of the coin.

   Bawbee or 6d undated, Edinburgh
   Bawbee or 6d undated, minted in Stirling for Mary of Guise(Regent of Scotland)
   Half Bawbee or 3d Type III, lighter weight, issued 1556-8

Mary Plack from 1557

   Plack or 4d 1557

The coin pictured above is a plack, a billon coin worth 4 Scottish pence. It was issued in 1557, many of these coins were counterfeited, resulting in their being called in for examination in 1575. The forged coins were destroyed, and the coins found to be authentic were counterstamped with the star in heart mark and re-released into general circulation.

   Lion, hardhead or 1 1/2d Minted in 1555-1556

Mary Penny ca. 1547 1st coinage

Pennies in 90 percent bronze and 10 percent silver were the first of very few coins struck in Scotland bearing a portrait of Mary, this as an infant. This particular coin is from the first coinage with the portrait of Mary with an arched crown, a particularly rare coin, struck in small quantities, and one of the few with Mary crowned on a coin. The legend on the front of the coin is + MARIA D G R SCOTORVM whilst the reverse is OPIDVM EDNBVR.

Ex David McDonald Collection (Dix Noonan Webb 63, 7 October 2004), lot 710

   Penny or 1d Type I (1547) undated, with infant head of Mary
   Penny or 1d Type II undated, with older face of Mary
   Penny or 1d Type III (1554), crowned facing bust of Mary

Second Period, Francis and Mary 1558-1560

Mary 12 Penny Groat

   Twelvepenny Groat or Nonsunt or 12d 1558, Edinburgh

Queen Mary was betrothed to Frances, the Dauphin of Vienne and the future king of France during her extended stay in France. In 1558 they were married formally and this is reflected on the titles on her Scottish coinage, in this case the legend FRAN ET MA D G RR SCOTOR D.D. VIEN reflects her new title as the dauphiness of France. The reverse of the coin with the legend IAM NON SUNT DUO SED UNA CARO is testament to the royal marriage and means "They are no more twain, but one flesh". Unlike many billon coins from this era this issue was not commonly counterfeited. The coin got Scottish treatment of a nickname and is referred to as a Nonsunt.

Mary Hardhead from 1558, probably counterfeit

   Lion, hardhead or 1 1/2d Minted in 1558-1560, coins with just "58" are likely contemporary forgeries

A very small, 90% copper 10% silver, this coin is called a Lion or "Hardhead". At the time it was worth three halfpence Scottish, or the equivalent of a French Denier. This coin was issued during Mary's very short marriage to Francis, the Dauphin of France in the late 1550's, and has the FM logo that reflected the dual monarchy of France and Scotland from 1558-1560. However, despite the miniscule denomination of this coin, it was heavily counterfeited, and this example is a contemporary counterfeit because of the date, "58" instead of 1558.

Collecting Coins From This Reign

Collectors have many reasons for collecting coins of particular countries, even monarchs. The Dundee Sale in 1976 by Spink and Bowers and Ruddy Galleries was emblematic of a collector that paid particular interests to the reign of Queen Mary. Many collectors in Scotland and Britain like to have coinage from the reign of David I or Robert I, the first being the first to issue coinage in Scotland and the latter for his mark on history. But it is hard to ignore the intriquingly varied coinage with so many historical events being played out on the coinage as during the reign of Mary. Every event of her life was played out on her coinage, her minority, her guardian(James, Earl of Arran, a distant relative, and claimant to the throne) her first marriage, first widowhood, second marriage, and lastly her second widowhood.

Inasmuch as her life travails were played out on her coinage, there are intriquing and fascinating side stories, how the French troops that landed in Scotland in the 1550's were responsible for so many of the contemporary counterfeits that plaqued Scotland. How in 1567 after marrying James Hepburn, Lord Bothwell, he issued an edict banning these minor counterfeits, and lastly how Queen Mary after her flight from the Confederate Lords took her silver and gold plate service to the mint in Edinburgh for melting into coinage to pay her troops. The silver and gold plate services were only partially melted, notably the gold font that weighed 333 ounces that was presented by Queen Elizabeth I to Prince James, future King was only partially smelted when the Confederate Lords seized the mint. Subsequently this silver and gold was melted and used for the first issues in James VI's name later in 1567. In 1567 there were three different types of coinage with monarchs names; Mary and Henry Darnley, then Mary alone, and finally James VI, her infant son.

The coins that are most available from this reign appear to be the billon bawbees which were issued from 1542-1558 which are priced at £15 in VG or the copper Lion or 1 1/2d which were minted from 1556-1560 which are priced starting at £12 in VG. All gold and silver portrait coins from this reign are quite rare, some even extremely rare. The silver Ryal or 30/- from this reign is very popular, and the prices in the past few years are reflecting that.

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Page last updated on 25th April 2013 Года     All pages and images copyright © David Parrish 1999 - 2012 Года