Gold Demy

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The demy is a type of Scottish coin that is now relative obscure except in numismatic circles that specialize in distinct coinages from certain periods and places. The demy was essentially an early type of Scottish gold coin that was made to follow to the standards of already preexisting English coins – the half-noble and quarter-noble. The making of the demy was a long-time coming, with Scotland’s earliest currency being the gold Lion which was minted during the reign of Robert III in circa 1395. With the introduction of the gold Lion based on the English Leopard coin, a denomination known as the demi-lion (demi lit. ‘half’) was created, which later became the inspiration of the demy coin proper, minted during the reign of James I in circa 1408.[1] The creation of the demy was a double-edged blade for Scottish currency as it initially served two purposes: to create a currency of their own which was on par with the quality and purity of English coinage; and to develop coinages that would instill a certain degree of individuality for the constantly besieged and beleaguered Scottish nobility that was at all sides under threat from the English prior to its eventual allegiance with England. The gold demy circulated alongside preexisting Scottish silver coins and was highly valued due to the slow but eventual debasement of Scottish silver coinage.[2]

Unlike its predecessor the lion and demi-lion which were worth five shillings and two shilling and sixpence respectively, the gold demy was worth a whole four shillings more than the former coins despite its ironic name. A smaller denomination called the half-demy was also issued, and was worth four shillings and six pence. In another play of irony, a half-demy is literally half of a half (despite not being an exact half of the demy in value), and was meant to imitate the demi-lion.

The gold demy’s face value did not remain a constant throughout the whole of its production however, as economical troubles eventually called for a devaluation of the demy under from the original nine shillings to a mere six. There was also not only one run of the demy’s production, but two, with the second being created during the reign of James II in circa 1437. Meant as a revival of the earlier type of coinage (the Lion) under Edward III, the term demy had become so ingrained in the general public’s mind by then that James II’s lion and demi-lion were colloquially referred to as demys and half-demys, resulting in its becoming interchangeable with the lion coins which it was originally meant to imitate.

King James I’s gold demy design was taken from the aesthetics of Edward III lion coin, and is shown depicting a rampant lion facing sinister (to the left) bordered by a square with flowery designs on each point of the square, bordered by yet another, plainer square which, in heraldry is known as a lozenge. This is surrounded by a border of dots meant to represent beads, with an inscription around it in Latin, stating: IACBVS DEI GRACIA REX SC (Iacobus Dei Gratia Rex Scottorum – James, by the Grace of God King of the Scots) ending in a stylized crown. The reverse of the coin bore an orle composed of six arches bearing quatrefoils fashioned after the fleur de lis on its points. The interior of this bore the cross of Saint Andrew (X-shaped cross) with two fleur de lis on the central upper part of the cross. The inscription on the margins of the coin begins with a stylized equilateral cross which is followed by the Latin legend SALVVM FA OPVLVM TVVM DNE (Salvuum Fac Populum Tuum Domine – O Lord save Thy People).[3] James II’s reissue of the demy also bore similar designs and legends to the original one minted by James I, although it was usually referred to as a lion, in the same vein as the coins from Edward III’s time.[4] By around this time, the devalued demy that amounted to six shillings was then again revalued to a larger amount of ten shillings.

The demy eventually fell out of fashion after the end of James II’s reign and was eventually replaced by a new type of coinage by the time of James III in circa 1462. Today, gold demys are extremely rare and valuable, with extant examples selling for more than a thousand dollars. However, due to their relative obscurity, they are not as well sought after for bullion coins, although they are prized by numismatists for their historical value as well as their fact that they are made from gold.

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Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for ©

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