History of Scottish coins explored in new exhibition at The Hunterian in Glasgow
Scotland’s Own Coinage is the first major exhibition at The Hunterian on the subject of Scottish coins. The overwhelming majority of the coins have never been on public display before.
Issuing coinage is an important symbol of a nation’s independence, status and power. Scotland struck its own coins for hundreds of years before the Act of Union with England created a British coinage in 1707. The exhibition guides visitors through six centuries of unique coinage, struck during some of the most turbulent and dramatic periods of Scottish history.
Increasing varieties of denominations made the Scottish coinage one of most diverse and exciting in Europe. From nobles, lions, unicorns, ryals and testoons to merks, dollars, bawbees, groats and placks, Scotland’s Own Coinage features a spectacular variety of gold, silver and copper coinage to explore.
Highlights from the 187 coins on display include one of the earliest examples of a Scottish coin, a David I silver penny minted in Roxburgh in c.1150, a scarce Alexander III penny struck in Glasgow and the exceedingly rare gold noble of David II, one of only four known specimens.
Also highlighted are the coinages of James III, Mary Queen of Scots and James VI, featuring some of the most outstanding and distinctive portraits of any Scottish monarch.
The majority of the coins on display come from the collection of Dr William Hunter (1718-83), who collected over 30,000 coins and medals in the last thirteen years of his life. Other coins have been selected from The Lord Stewartby Collection, gifted to The Hunterian in March 2017, and the William Cuthbert Collection.
Scotland's Own Coinage highlights
- David I Penny
Minted over 850 years ago during the reign of David I, this silver penny is the earliest example of a Scottish coin in the display. It was struck in Roxburgh in around 1150. GLAHM:14513
- David II Noble
This is probably the rarest of all Scottish coins. Minted in gold in Edinburgh in about 1357, nobles were struck in payment for the release of David II from English captivity. The example on display is one of only four known in the world. It also marks the first appearance of the lion rampant on a Scottish coin. GLAHM:18629
- James III Groat
This silver James III groat, struck in Edinburgh between 1484 and 1488, shows a unique ‘renaissance’ portrait, with a modern design flair not seen on the coins of any other Scottish monarch. The Lord Stewartby Collection 2220
- Mary Queen of Scots Thirty-Shilling Piece
One of Scotland’s best-known and tragic figures, Mary’s coinages were the first to feature portraits of a female monarch. This gold thirty-shilling piece was struck in Edinburgh in 1555. GLAHM:38995
- James VI Thistle Merk
One of the most famous symbols of Scotland, the thistle first appeared on Scottish coins in 1471. This thistle merk, struck in Edinburgh in 1602, offers one of the best illustrations of the national flower on a coin. GLAHM:39025
Scotland's Own Coinage is at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow until 1 July 2018. Admission is free.
Hunterian Museum, Gilbert Scott Building, University of Glasgow G12 8QQ; website.