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Groat meaning

A groat could mean one of two things typically. The first would be a kernel of grain such as a wheat. More related to this page however, a Groat is the name for a number of different coins used over the years.

The word Groat is often a broad term used to describe any large coin, and could refer to several different coins used across Europe. It is, however, most commonly an old coin circulated in Great Britain between the 13th and 19th centuries. The British Groat coin had a face value of four old pence - written 4d. That is equal to one-sixtieth of a pound. Until the 16th century, when Henry VII introduced the Testoon, it was the largest silver coin in circulation.

Along with the Groat, Half Groats or twopence coins were also minted.

The Groat is related to the ancient Roman ‘Denarius Grossus’ and other early European coins. These include the French ‘Gros Tournois’ and Italian ‘Grosso’. It is also strongly linked to the Dutch ‘Groot’, or ‘great coin’, from which its name is derived.

Chart showing pre-decimal British currency.

What is a Groat?

The English Groat coin has a long history of nearly 600 years. A small number were first minted during the reign of King Edward I, 1272 to 1307.

They became common currency during the reign of Edward III, 1327 – 1377, and would continue to be minted periodically for most monarchs. It was not until 1856 that the United Kingdom ceased minting the Groat.

After this time, from 1857 to 1862, some commemorative proof Groats were still minted. Additionally, British territories in the West Indies continued to strike and use Groats in their circulating currencies, and they remained in circulation in British Guiana until 1955.

Today, Groats continue to be struck, but only in the form of Maundy Money. These collectible pieces are highly sought after, and valued far above the four pence face value.

A 1964 Maundy Money Groat coin.

A 1964 Maundy Money Groat.

Noteworthy coins

The silver content of four the penny coin declined throughout its long history. Early coins were pure silver and, like bullion coins, worth their weight in silver.

After this, smaller and smaller coins were minted from 925 fineness – sterling silver. Very early Edward IV silver Groats weighed 3.03 g and measured 25.2 mm. By 1660, Charles II Groats had shrunk to 1.8g and 19mm.

Due to its face value, a Groat is often known as a fourpence. When a new design was issued in 1836, it was more commonly known as a fourpenny piece.

The new fourpence weighed 1.9g in sterling silver and measured 16mm. It was introduced as the result a lobbying by Joseph Hume MP and was then nicknamed a 'Joey'.

Joseph Hume, the man who lobbied for the new Groat coin, more commonly known as the Joey coin.

Joseph Hume MP campaigned for the introduction of the four-penny coin that then became known as a ‘Joey’.

Hume thought the coin would be convenient for paying London cab fares which at the time cost four pence. The new Groat (Joey), proved unpopular with the cab drivers however, as previously they were often paid with a sixpence coin and kept the change!

Circulating issues, such as the popularity of the threepenny and one penny coins, meant that use of the fourpence declined. As a result, the common currency fourpence or 'Joey' was last minted in 1856.

Buying and collecting groats

With such a long history there are many groats or four penny coins available to numismatics or coin collectors. Even some very early examples are available. Currently prices range from a little over £100 to over £2,500 for rare mint-state examples. This makes them a popular denomination for the basis of coin collections.