George III (1760-1820) cartwheel penny, 1797.

This big heavy coin was found at St Andrews' post office and offers an example of the first copper penny circulated in Britain.

The obverse design bears the robed and laureate bust of King George III with long hair. On the reverse seats Britannia, holding an olive branch and a trident, with a shield resting beside and a small ship in the left background.

The inscription is incuse (impressed with a stamp) and on the rim on both sides. On the obverse, the Latin reads 'GEORGIUS III. D: G. REX', which translates as 'George III by the grace of God King'. The reverse quotes 'BRITANNIA', that is 'Britain', with the date below, 1797.

Created to combat counterfeiting, these coins were the first in England to be minted on a steam powered press, developed by James Watt and the manufacturer Mathew Boulton at the Soho foundry in 1788. In 1797, the government agreed to let Boulton coin a penny and a two pence. Each denomination is perfectly round and the excellent craftsmanship eliminated counterfeiting. The wide raised rim led to the term 'cartwheel’. The copper penny was minted for two or three years, but continued to carry the date 1797.


Date Made
dia 35.3mm (dia 1 3/8")
Property Information
Object Number
Access Status