Cartwheel Penny


Pennies as Big as Cartwheels

Although I currently collect tokens rather than coins, there are some coins that catch my eye, for one reason or another. I had my eye on King George III Cartwheel pennies, and I finally found one that I liked in my price range.

King George III (1760-1820) struck a penny and twopenny coin that were so large that they were nicknamed "cartwheel". They featured King George's portrait on the obverse and the seated figure of Britannia on the reverse.

Who is She?

The personification of Britain (or Britannia) is common on copper coins and tokens.

She is seated facing left, holding an ivy branch in her right hand, and a trident in the crook of her left arm.

Her shield, with the English Red Ensign design, leans at her side. Just ahead of her feet, a ship can be seen sailing in the distance.

Beneath her shield on the right is the mint mark SOHO, indicating that it was struck at the Soho mint in Birmingham. The legend reads "BRITANNIA 1797".

Here is a close-up of the ship.
It doesn't quite capture all the detail.

The trident, the ship, and the waves in the foreground of the picture all emphasize the importance of the sea to the economy and empire of the island of Britain.

How big is it?

The reverse of the coin is pictured here with a Canadian toonie (2-dollar coin) for comparison. The coin weighs a whopping 30 grams. I believe the toonie weighs about 7 or 8 grams. I think that even some of my heavier Roman coins only weigh about 15 to 20 grams.

The reverse legend reads "GEORGIUS III D.G. REX".

I like the way the legends are struck into the coin. It reminds me of the edge lettering on tokens. The raised edge divides the legends from the field rather nicely, framing the images like a portrait. That's one reason why I used the bimetallic toonie for comparison, although it frames its subject in a different way.

My Two Penny Cartwheel

Update (Spring 2007): I bought a two penny cartwheel. It's a little rough around the edges, but good.

The detail on her face and body is still pretty nice. On my other coins and tokens, the face is usually the first thing to show signs of wear. Just ahead of her feet, a ship can be seen sailing in the distance - Not as clear as on my penny, but it has good detail when magnified.

Beneath her shield on the right is the mint mark SOHO, indicating that it was struck at the Soho mint in Birmingham. The legend reads "BRITANNIA 1797".

The reverse of the coin is pictured here with a Canadian toonie, for comparison. It's not a lot larger in diameter than the penny above, but it is one-and-a-half times as thick, and exactly twice as heavy. You can really feel the weight of this one in your pocket. It couldn't have been very easy to carry a number of these around as change.


Back to the History page.


 

Some famous Romans and me

Questions? Comments? Reach me at: