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Worn pre 1920 silver


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Ever notice how a silver Crown/florin/ shilling especially from the Victoria era can be extremely worn on the obverse but the reverse always seems quite decent.  There's probably an obvious answer to this ,but I never worked it out. I know most sellers on ebay nearly always have a photo of the reverse as the lead pic.  

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My thoughts are:

The obverse is higher relief and as @tallthinkev stated, the portrait takes the brunt of the circulation wear on the obverse. The reverses tend to be very heavily filled with decoration (especially the jubilee and old head varieties), but the lower relief makes them very hard wearing. Vicky shield sovereigns are a perfect example of a hard wearing reverse.

Ironically bronze coinage - pennies and half pennies, seem to lose their reverses first and it can't all be down to shove ha'penny or pitch and toss! 😁

Edited by SidS
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Interesting observations and topic.

I have done while ago an experiment about which coins wore faster in circulation, .925 or .500 in another topic with the same name, but I haven't in my mind as objective to see obverse vs reverse.

I have not time now to do a similar experiment using pre 20 coins, but for sure I will do it in September.

I will copy/paste my previous pseudo-scientific experiment, maybe will be interesting for someone.


"Hi, all!

As I have promised you, I've done an experiment using four coins threepence, different years, to cover all four compositions. I have tried to have relatively similar initial weight and grade.


I have rubbed them on seven rounds, applying the same treatment for all of them, the same finger pressure and the same number of up-down courses, using sand paper 40 grit for Round 1, 100 grit for Round 2-3 and 220 grit for Round 4-7. 

Of course, because I have not specific tools to measure the pressure and very accurate scale, this experiment it is not a very scientific one and my results are only pseudoscientific. But it is better than nothing. I have weighted three times every coin, and the recorded and valid weight was an average or the weight showed by scale two times. The recorded weight can be a little different than in pictures, with a difference of +/- 0.01g.

The coins used for this experiment are below, with pictures before and after:

1. 1917, 0.925 silver, 0.075 copper, weight initial 1.43g, final 1.23g, losing 0.20g.





2. 1921, 0.500 silver, 0.400 copper, 0.100 nickel. Initial weight 1.40g, final weight 1.19g, losing 0.21g




3. 1925, 0.500 silver, 0.500 copper. Initial weight 1.41g, final 1.20g, losing 0.21g.




4. 1936, 0.500 silver, 0.400 copper, 0.050 nickel, 0.050 zinc. Initial weight 1.40g, final 1.15g, losing 0.25g.




The initial, intermediary and final weights and total loss of these four coins are recorded in this chart:


The pictures are not great, but I've done the best I was able.


In term of resistance,

0.925Ag/0.075Cu alloy lost less, 0.20g, but what is interesting, is almost blank now, unrecognizable.

0.500Ag/0.400Cu/0.050Ni/0.050Zn alloy lost 0.25g, apparently the worst, but again it is interesting, it is not blank, still having some details.

0.500Ag/0.400Cu/0.100Ni and 0.500Ag/0.500Cu lost the same 0.21g. Nothing to add about condition. George V is still there a little, in the mirror.😊

I hope this experiment will be useful for all of us. Can be repeated by another TSF member, having a total cost of @£10 (coins, sand paper),but is time consumer (@3h for me).

All the best!

Stefan. "


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