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University of St Andrews, Museum Collections

Museum Collections Unit

University of St Andrews

87 North Street

St Andrews

KY16 9AE


tel: +44 (0)1334 461683




twitter: @musa_standrews


email: [email protected]; [email protected]



Contact details: Claire Robinson


Date of visit: 26 August 2014


Nature and extent of collection


13,150 pieces (around 12,000 communion tokens, around 800 coins and around 350 medals). The University of St Andrews, Scotland’s oldest university, was founded between 1410 and 1414. Over the last 600 years, the University has collected artefacts of significance that reflect the institution’s history, personalities, teaching and research activities.


All numbers below are estimated


Greek coins: One copper alloy Roman provincial coin dating from the reign of Trajan (98 - 117AD)


Roman coins: Approximately 300


British coins: University’s collection contains over 300 coins from the Upperkirkgate Hoard, one of the largest hoards found in Scotland. Excavated in the Upperkirkgate area of Aberdeen in 1886, the hoard contained coins dating from the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.


In addition, the collection includes coinage from the reigns of Cnut or Canute (1016-1035), Edward III (1327-1377), Edward VI (1547-1553), Elizabeth I (1558-1603), James VI of Scotland (1567 - 1625), and Charles I (1625 - 1649).


British tokens: The University possesses one of the largest collections of Communion tokens in the UK and includes two important private collections formed early in the 20th century by two St Andrews alumni, Reverend AA Milne and Reverend AR Taylor, as well as several smaller collections, including that accumulated by St Mary’s College.  The Milne collection includes the tokens that he gathered when compiling his standard reference work on Irish Communion tokens, Communion tokens of the Presbyterian churches in Ireland, 1920.  Most of the tokens are Scottish and virtually every known variety of every parish is represented. Several unique specimens are held, including the earliest datable Scottish token, attributed to Alexander Henderson at Leuchars in the early 17th century.  The collection also contains examples from virtually every Scottish emigrant community, thus charting the Scottish diaspora in England, Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australasia.


European coins: Coins from Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, Switzerland.


The collection of approximately 150 Polish coins, dating from the 16th century to early 1940s, were collected by General Sikorski (1881-1943), Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile and Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces during the Second World War.


Asian coins: Small number of coins from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.


American coins: Small number of coins from the United States of America, including a copper one cent coin dating from 1798.


Modern and paper money: Small number of Hanoverian Coins dating from the reigns of George III (1760-1820) and George IV (1820-1830).

Set of four Maundy coins from Edward VII (1901-10).


Medals (commemorative or military): The medal collection largely comprises medals that relate to the heritage of the University and the achievements of individuals associated with the University; ranging from class medals awarded to students, to medals awarded to staff and alumnus by external institutions, and medals produced to commemorate important events in the University’s history. The military careers of St Andrews’ alumni are represented by First and Second World War medals.


A small number of medals relate to important historical events including the Jacobite Rebellions (1688-1746), War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739 -1748) and the founding of Quebec (1608).


Most unique of all are a collection of 70 silver medals and three silver arrows, dating from 1618 to around 1754, that relate to the University’s Silver Arrow archery competition.








Specific strengths: Classical coinage (Roman); medieval; European, particularly Polish coinage; communion tokens.


Library: A small library collection.





Database used: Adlib.


Proportion of collection on database: The vast majority of the collection is included on our collections database.


How much detail in database entries? Varying levels of detail.


Are images incorporated? A large proportion of our object records include images.


Is the database accessible to the public? Yes.


Is the database publicly accessible online? Yes.





Are there permanent numismatic displays? Yes. The University’s collection of 70 silver medals and three silver arrows from the University’s Silver Arrow archery competition are on permanent display.


Is numismatic material incorporated into more general displays? Yes.


Is there a facility for temporary exhibitions? Yes.


Have there been numismatic exhibitions in the past? If so, what? N/A



Access to the collection


Is there a study facility? The MUSA Collections Centre, an open access storage facility for the University’s collections (numismatics, fine and applied art, silver, textiles, furniture, chemistry and historic scientific instruments), has study facilities for researchers. Researchers are requested to make an appointment at least one month in advance of their visit.


Is equipment (balances, magnifying glasses, etc.) provided? We have balances and magnifying glasses that can be supplied to researchers, as required.



Public engagement with numismatic collection


Is there a handling collection? N/A


Are numismatic collections used in Education sessions? Yes.


Do numismatic collections feature in gallery talks, lectures? Yes.


Are there other engagement activities based around numismatic collections? N/A



ID and public enquiries


Does the museum offer a service for identifying objects and other public enquiries? Yes.



Curatorial knowledge


Is there any numismatic expertise in-house? If so, who, and in what areas? N/A


Is there access to external expertise? If so, who and in what areas? N/A


If there is expertise in-house, is there a willingness/capacity to share that with other museums? N/A

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