The 1956 two shilling coin is an example of a now-defunct British monetary unit. Before February 1971, the pound contained twenty shillings, each worth 12 pence. The two shilling piece, also known as a double florin, was issued from 1848 to 1970. Remaining examples of the 1956 two shilling coin are highly collectible pieces worth considerably more than their notional value of 1/20 of a modern pound.
Condition is a primary factor in figuring the worth of 1956 two shilling coins. Coins are graded on a scale that runs from poor and fair through extremely fine and several grades of choice uncirculated. A 1956 double florin in fine condition is worth about one pound in current British money, or more than $1.50, with extremely fine examples worth about three times that much. The metal value of these coins is inconsequential. Although they're silver in appearance, they contain no silver.
Shilling and two shilling pieces were originally silver coins. From at least the 11th Century until 1920, British silver coins were made of sterling silver, a little more than 92 percent pure silver. The remainder of the coins was base metal, to add strength. Pre-1920 two shilling coins contained .3364 troy ounces of silver. In 1920, the proportion of silver in all coins was cut in half. And in 1947, as a result of post-war budgetary demands, the silver was eliminated entirely and replaced with an alloy of copper and nickel.
The 1956 two shilling coin contains a picture of Queen Elizabeth II on the front. The Queen is shown in profile and facing to the right. She wears a wreath of laurel leaves on her head, after the manner of Roman emperors or heroes. The rim on this side of the coin is encircled with the Latin phrase "ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA," or "Elizabeth II By the Grace of God, Queen."
The back of the coin is dominated by a Tudor rose. It recalls the symbol of the royal house of Tudor, the family of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and other English sovereigns. The rose is surrounded by thistles, leeks and shamrocks, the respective symbols of Scotland, Wales and Ireland. An inscription appears along the rim: "FID DEF TWO SHILLINGS 1956." The first two words are abbreviations for "Fidei Defensor," Latin for "Defender of the Faith," a traditional royal title.
Collectors seek the 1956 two shilling piece because of its inherent historical and cultural value. The coin is a relic of Britain's pre-decimal coinage. The old British monetary system of pounds, shillings and pence, celebrated in story and legend, is enshrined in the national psyche. Once known familiarly as "two bob," the two shilling florin is regularly bought and sold by coin dealers and on online auctions.
Brian Adler has been writing articles on history, politics, religion, art, architecture and antiques since 2002. His writing has been published with Demand Studios, as well as in an online magazine. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Columbia University.