Inspiration: The coins which accompany our favorite historical TV series

Reading time: 7'9"
Daniel Maclise - Première rencontre d'Henry VIII avec Anne Boleyn

Painting: “Henry VIII’s First Interview with Anne Boleyn” by Daniel Maclise (1836)

Epic historical dramas have been gracing our screens with success for a number of years now.

What a perfect opportunity to treat your eyes, your ears, and your collector’s instinct all at once with this little exercise to hone your skills. An anthology connecting each of these series of historical coins periods or linked directly to one in particular. From Ancient Rome to the reign of Elizabeth II, here are nine recent series to discover or rediscover...


The Birth of an Empire

Period: Ancient Rome

The series explores the final years of the Republic and the dawn of the Empire with vigor and flamboyance. In it we encounter famous figures including Julius Caesar, Pompey Magnus, Mark Antony, Brutus, Cicero, Cato the Younger, and none other than Cleopatra herself!

Coins from the period


Julius Caesar, Denarius, MS(60-62), Silver, Cohen #12, 3.58



Marcus Junius Brutus, Denarius, Rome, EF(40-45), Silver, Crawford:433/2


Coin, Marcus Antonius, Denarius, 32-31 BC, Uncertain Mint, EF(40-45), Silver


Coin, Mark Antony and Octavian, Denarius, 39 BC, AU(50-53), Crawford 528/2b


The Bloody War of Succession

Period: Late 15th century (Renaissance)

It’s true, we can’t really class Game of Thrones as a historical first glance. However, if you take a closer look, there are definitely links to actual historical events which were most certainly real and clearly inspired the novelist and scriptwriter, George R.R. Martin.

Notably, the War of the Roses in England. This war of succession fought between 1455 and 1487 saw two branches of the House of Plantagenet, the Houses of York and Lancaster, clash heads.

It is not difficult to recognize the association between the House of York and House Stark as well as the House of Lancaster and House Lannister. Cersei Lannister appears to have been directly inspired by Queen Margaret of Anjou, a queen with a sinister reputation and incidentally married to Henry VI.

Coins from the period


Coin, France, Henri VI de Lancastre, Salut d'or, Paris, EF(40-45), Gold


France, Henri VI, Blanc aux Écus, Amiens, AU(50-53), Billon, Duplessy:445

Main character: Henri VI (1422-1453). Coin rarity : rare, rare in this quality. Our coin condition comments : good quality.


The Waltz of the Queens

Period: First half of 16th century (Renaissance)

Following directly on from the War of the Roses mentioned above, Henry VIII was the son of Henry VII, who finally brought an end to the dispute by uniting the two warring factions through his marriage. All that doesn’t make the history of the British monarchy any less extraordinary and bloody though.

In fact, Henry VIII, well known for his short temper, has also gone down in history for having married no fewer than six women over the course of his reign. He had two of them beheaded and was the inspiration for Charles Perrault’s Bluebeard – although Henry’s was actually a fiery red. We also have him to thank for the birth of Anglicanism, the Christian tradition which resulted from the schism with Rome in 1534.

The four series of the show cover almost the entirety of his reign, from his divorce from Catherine of Aragon until his death. Among other historical figures, we encounter King Francis I of France, Charles V the Holy Roman Emperor, and even Pope Clement VII.

Even if the series isn’t completely loyal to the character from a historical perspective, the impeccable casting and marvelous filming make up for these minimal flaws delightfully.

Coins from the period

Henry VIII

Coin, Great Britain, Henry VIII, Groat, London, AU(50-53), Silver, Spink:2337E


Coin, France, François Ier, Ecu d'or, Toulouse, AU(50-53), Gold, Sombart:4860


Coin, France, François Ier, Teston, 1541-1547, Paris, EF(40-45), Silver

Teston of 10th Type Coin struck in high relief, with a fine portrait of the King. Coin rarity : rare in this quality. Our coin condition comments : superb quality, high relief.


Spanish Netherlands, BRABANT, Charles Quint, Ecu d'or, 1543, Anvers, VF(30-35)


Italy, Medal, Etats Pontificaux, Clément VII, 1525, MS(60-62), Bronze


Scotland with a sprinkling of sugar

Period: Second half of 16th century

This series, which employs a little too much poetic license to be qualified as historical strictly speaking, portrays Mary Stuart as a starry-eyed girl. Our story begins in the French royal court of Henry II and then whisks us away to Scotland.

It is a world far away from the somber universe depicted in The Tudors and, as usual, CW sugarcoats history to the point where it becomes sickeningly sweet.

We’ll therefore let you decide for yourself about the quality of this particular series. Nevertheless, it does not cast any doubt on the intrinsic authenticity of the coins presented below associated with it.

Coins from the period


Coin, Scotland, Gros, 1558, Edinburgh, EF(40-45), Billon


Coin, France, François II, Double Henri d'or 1st type, 1560, Poitiers, EF(40-45)


Chandeliers, windows and mirrors

Period: 17th century

We now leave the Anglo-French struggles and the British wars of succession behind us to rejoin the sunniest of kings: Louis XIV. A Belgo-French-Canadian superproduction, the series begins just after the Fronde and explains against backdrops of sumptuous decor the origins of the construction of the Palace of Versailles and the reign of Louis XIV.

Coins from the period

Louis XIV

Coin, France, Louis XIV, 1/2 Écu à la mèche courte, 1644, Paris, AU(55-58)

Louis XIV

Coin, France, Louis XIV, Louis d'or aux 8 L et aux insignes, 1701, Montpellier


The war of the two Georges

Period: Late 18th century (American Revolutionary War)

Inspired by the novel Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose, the series is set at the time of the American War of Independence and tells the story of the first “organized” spies. The series is a work of fiction, albeit inspired by historical facts and events. Following the two roses, now we have the two Georges (George Washington and George III). And the English are being hauled over the coals again.

Coins from the period or associated with the series

George III

Coin, Great Britain, George III, Guinea, 1774, MS(60-62), Gold, KM:604


United States, Half Dollar, 1926, Philadelphia, MS(60-62), Silver, KM 160


A crazy end to the century

Period: End of the 19th century

The series is an adaptation of the best-selling novel by Caleb Carr. Dark, dense, and intense, it takes the viewer deep into the most perilous neighborhoods of the city of New York. The alienist in question attempts to apply a form of profiling while there is a serial killer on the loose. If you’re not a fan of series, we seriously recommend you check out the book – it’s awesome!

Coins associated with the series


United States of America, Medal, Les Présidents des Etats-Unis, G. Cleveland


Between two worlds

Period: Start of the 20th century

This series is one of the greatest successes of British television in recent years, and it’s a joy to see the English back to their former glory. The series begins in 1912 with the sinking of the Titanic and continues until the interwar period. With a wealth of finesse and in a truly luxurious setting, it depicts the far-reaching changes in British society at the time on the example of a prism of a “so British” aristocratic family and their servants. The casting is perfect, the decor simply splendid. A movie following on from the series is currently in production.

Coins from the period

George V

Coin, Great Britain, George V, 1/2 Sovereign, 1912, London, EF(40-45), Gold

The Titanic

France, Medal, Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, Titanic, C. Gondard


Frome one century to another

Period: Second half of 20th century.

This interminable series tells the life story of Queen Elizabeth II from 1947 to the present day. It is intended to run for exactly six seasons, with each one covering a decade of the monarch’s reign. Math, my dear Watson.

Coins from the period

Elizabeth II

Coin, Great Britain, Elizabeth II, Sovereign, 1965, AU(55-58), Gold, KM:908

Elizabeth II

Great Britain, Elizabeth II, 100 Pounds, 1 Oz, 2007, MS(63), Gold, KM:1094


Have we forgotten a series? Then please leave us a comment with your suggestions and recommendations!

Article composed in collaboration with Julien Deboucq, a NumisCorner expert.

Article translated by Michael Wright.

Selection published on 26/11/2018
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