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A question for Maundy Coin Experts

BillJonesBillJones Posts: 33,364 ✭✭✭✭✭

I have been studying the coinage during the reign of King George III. During that time there was a severe coin shortage because the Town of London Mint was old and antiquated.

I noted in the Spink guide that there are extensive listings for the 1, 2, 3 and 4 pence silver coins in the circulated grades. Did those coins, which were used for Maundy sets, have any impact on the coin shortage? Did they just slip out into circulation after they were issued, or were they made to be used in commerce?

Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible. I am also collecting at least one coin for each Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to ... ?

Comments

  • John ConduittJohn Conduitt Posts: 346 ✭✭✭

    I don't believe there's any evidence that before the Great Recoinage of 1817 any special Maundy coins were issued. It was all for circulation in the first place.

    I don't think the coin shortage was because the Royal Mint was antiquated. There were all sorts of problems to do with silver availability, striking copper coins worth less than face value and counterfeiting. The problem with the silver 'Maundy' coins might've been that they would've been worth more than face value and so kept back or melted down for counterfeits.

  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 33,364 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thank you for your response.

    I know that the British were issuing their coins under the “commodity theory of money” which held that coins derived their value from their metal content. That idea is totally false. If coins’ melt for more than their face value, they won’t circulate. If the melt is less than face, chances are they will. The British should have learned that from their past (weight reductions under Henry IV, Edward IV, James I with the gold laurel and others), but they didn’t.

    I am still not sure about the abilities of the Tower of London Mint. The place had grown in physical size to an area that covered about a fourth of the wall in the fortress, yet its output was very limited. Copper coins were needed, but it only issued them from 1770 to 1775. The demand was there because counterfeiters were filling the void. Then private minters picked up the slack (Condor tokens) until Soho stepped in starting in 1797 with the cartwheels. Much of the facility must have been sitting idle or run very inefficiently.

    This a period that fascinates me. I have been unable to get all the answers. It’s interesting to note that one of the problems the American colonists had with England was that the mother country supplied very few coins to them, which stunted their economic growth. It had been my understanding that this was due the mercantilist policy which tried to prevent the colonists from trading with any company other than England. I was surprised to learn that there was a coin shortage in England as well.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible. I am also collecting at least one coin for each Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to ... ?
  • ExbritExbrit Posts: 1,232 ✭✭✭✭

    @BillJones said:
    Thank you for your response.

    I know that the British were issuing their coins under the “commodity theory of money” which held that coins derived their value from their metal content. That idea is totally false. If coins’ melt for more than their face value, they won’t circulate. If the melt is less than face, chances are they will. The British should have learned that from their past (weight reductions under Henry IV, Edward IV, James I with the gold laurel and others), but they didn’t.

    I am still not sure about the abilities of the Tower of London Mint. The place had grown in physical size to an area that covered about a fourth of the wall in the fortress, yet its output was very limited. Copper coins were needed, but it only issued them from 1770 to 1775. The demand was there because counterfeiters were filling the void. Then private minters picked up the slack (Condor tokens) until Soho stepped in starting in 1797 with the cartwheels. Much of the facility must have been sitting idle or run very inefficiently.

    This a period that fascinates me. I have been unable to get all the answers. It’s interesting to note that one of the problems the American colonists had with England was that the mother country supplied very few coins to them, which stunted their economic growth. It had been my understanding that this was due the mercantilist policy which tried to prevent the colonists from trading with any company other than England. I was surprised to learn that there was a coin shortage in England as well.

    Consider all the problems the colonists had dealing with England and England’s refusal to provide proper coinage that was very much needed at the time. Virginia finally was granted some relief when the 1773 half cent was officially approved. It did not go into circulation until 1775 and then only for a short time as the revolution was just around the corner. It is a fascinating time period.

  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 33,364 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Here is a British half penny from the period.

    And here is a Virginia half penny.

    The Town of London Mint was not supplying enough coins to the English residents, let alone the American colonists. I didn't realize this until I got into the collecting British coins.

    Here is a picture of the exterior of the Tower of London Mint Museum as it looks today.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible. I am also collecting at least one coin for each Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to ... ?
  • John ConduittJohn Conduitt Posts: 346 ✭✭✭

    @BillJones said:

    I know that the British were issuing their coins under the “commodity theory of money” which held that coins derived their value from their metal content. That idea is totally false.

    Everyone did at that time. That had been the theory since the beginning of coinage. Historically, England's economy benefitted hugely from the perception that it's coins were pure. With international trade, you could trust in the value of the metal, not the word of a distant government. It was under George III that Britain first broke this link but that was only possible because of the gold standard (which removed the relevance of the disparity between gold and silver prices) and their well-developed banking system, where people were already used to 'virtual' money.

    I am still not sure about the abilities of the Tower of London Mint. The place had grown in physical size to an area that covered about a fourth of the wall in the fortress, yet its output was very limited. Copper coins were needed, but it only issued them from 1770 to 1775. The demand was there because counterfeiters were filling the void. Then private minters picked up the slack (Condor tokens) until Soho stepped in starting in 1797 with the cartwheels. Much of the facility must have been sitting idle or run very inefficiently.

    It wasn't that the Royal Mint was incapable of striking copper coins. They were unable to strike copper coins worth face value, so they tried to issue copper coins worth less, but this caused inflation. You weren't going to exchange a silver shilling for 12 bronze pennies if the former was literally worth 12 pence and the latter was worth less. You asked for 13 copper pennies. This wasn't helped by an acute shortage of silver caused by the Napoleonic Wars.

    So rather than being unable to strike copper coins, the Mint became paralysed by the problem of inflation on one hand and rampant counterfeiting on the other. Private companies (led by Matthew Boulton) stepped in and struck millions of copper tokens instead (because they needed to pay workers), which caused the same problems anyway.

    When the Mint was able to issue copper coins worth their face value - using new technology from Boulton's mint - they were huge and unusable. At that point, the technology was as good as it could be but didn't solve anything. It wasn't until the gold standard, the great recoinage of 1816 and the banning of tokens in 1831 that the problem was finally resolved.

  • BillJonesBillJones Posts: 33,364 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thank you for your thoughtful response @John Conduitt I will have to think those points over for a while.

    Did England have a coin shortage during the time of Richard II and the Henry IV? (late 1300s to early 1400s) It was my understanding that the British coins of that era were trusted, but they were also exported and melted in large numbers to continental Europe because they contained too much gold and silver. That's why the coins issued during the reigns of those two kings are so hard to find in any condition, especially for Henry IV.

    Retired dealer and avid collector of U.S. type coins, 19th century presidential campaign medalets and selected medals. In recent years I have been working on a set of British coins - at least one coin from each king or queen who issued pieces that are collectible. I am also collecting at least one coin for each Roman emperor from Julius Caesar to ... ?
  • ExbritExbrit Posts: 1,232 ✭✭✭✭

    @BillJones said:

    And here is a Virginia half penny.

    Variety 25-M?

  • John ConduittJohn Conduitt Posts: 346 ✭✭✭

    @BillJones said:
    Thank you for your thoughtful response @John Conduitt I will have to think those points over for a while.

    Did England have a coin shortage during the time of Richard II and the Henry IV? (late 1300s to early 1400s) It was my understanding that the British coins of that era were trusted, but they were also exported and melted in large numbers to continental Europe because they contained too much gold and silver. That's why the coins issued during the reigns of those two kings are so hard to find in any condition, especially for Henry IV.

    That was also true in Henry III's time and there are lots of those around. Half of what is probably the largest hoard ever found, 145,000 coins, was made up of Henry III pennies, and that was found in Brussels. Edward I-III coins are also abundant. I think in Richard II's case, very few coins were struck in the first decade of his reign because silver was scarce and to start with there were quite a lot of Edward III coins still in circulation. His halfpennies, struck early on, are fairly plentiful. Similarly for Henry IV. He just didn't strike many, with the excuse that there wasn't any silver. This was pre-1492, after all.

    The problem of a lack of change persisted from the earliest times, although it was only noticeable once Britain became a largely monetary economy and stopped trading in livestock. Edward I struck farthings for exactly that reason, but people had been cutting up pennies since Offa's time. But even after 1492, the price of silver kept going up. Elizabeth I had to stop producing farthings because they were too small to use. Copper, on the other hand, was not valuable enough. James I and Charles I produced copper farthings but they were not popular due to their low intrinsic value, and they caused inflation. George III was certainly not the first to have these problems, but because of the reforms during his reign, he was the last.

  • ajaanajaan Posts: 17,029 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Fascinating thread.


    DPOTD-3
    'Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery'

    CU #3245 B.N.A. #428


    Don
  • ExbritExbrit Posts: 1,232 ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 3, 2023 4:49PM

    If you want to go down another road, look at the early coinage of the Isle of Man. The same coinage shortages were affecting the Island. The Lord of Man arranged for a couple of London chaps to come over and strike coins for him in the early 1700s. These were produced in the Isle of Man. The Manx people were not thrilled with using the English made Irish St. Patrick coinage as they were known to be underweight. The English were making money off of them. There were also many counterfeits floated on the island. Later in the 1700s, the then current Lord of Man sold the island’s property rights to the English Crown and the first Regal coinage appeared in 1786, but has the Isle of Man reverse. Extremely interesting history there as well.

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