The Coins of Maundy Thursday
Maundy Coin Sets in Rago’s Online-Only Coin Auction
14 June 2019
by Sam Grillo, Cataloger, Coins + Currency
Diverse traditions worldwide mark the occasion of Easter. The Thursday before Easter in Great Britain is known as Maundy Thursday.
Maundy Thursday dates to medieval times. On this day before Good Friday, church leaders would wash the feet of the poor as Jesus did to express his humility. The practice grew to such prominence that reigning English monarchs began taking part, bestowing boons of food, clothes, and other gifts to the poor, including small silver coins.
The coins given were taken directly from the circulating currency until the 18th century, when the Royal Mint began minting separate, non-circulating pieces specifically for use in the Maundy Thursday service. Four Maundy denominations were minted: one penny, two pence, three pence, and four pence. The obverse of the Maundy coins always features the reigning monarch of the time, while the reverse has remained relatively unchanged and features a crowned numeral surrounded by a wreath.
Queen Elizabeth II regularly attends current Maundy ceremonies where she hands out leather pouches of Maundy coins to those selected to receive them. Several lots in our inaugural online-only coin sale present Maundy coin sets from the 1700s-1800s. Many of these sets are easily obtainable for collectors on more modest budgets as they typically sell below $1000.