Next Club Meeting Monday 2nd October
· Latin American Mining Tokens By Gerry Buddle.
Monday 6th November.
Monday 4th December.
· Winter Bourse and Member's Evening
Meetings are held at the Abbey Baptist Church, Abbey Square, commencing at 7.00 p.m.
It may seem early but please note the Christmas dinner will be on the 9th December, details to follow.
Reading Coin Club welcomed Brian Arthur to give a talk on the Great Recoinage of William III. He gave a short history of the end of James II reign and the invitation by Parliament to William and Mary to accede to the English throne. He also gave a background to the recoinage, reporting on the terrible state of what little coinage there was at the time, often filed or clipped and generally very worn. It had been estimated that only half of the coinage that should have been in circulation actually was, the rest having been exported as bullion, turned into plate or used in trade by the East India Company.
Finally in 1695 William and Parliament were persuaded to pass “An Act to Remedy the Ill State of the Coin”. This act allowed clipped coins to be used at full face value for the payment of taxes and probably led to a lot of coins being given one last clip before being paid in. Around the country the weight of silver returned was roughly about half what it should have been in face value, the worst recorded case being in Oxford, where what should have been 400 ounces only weighed 116! It was also possible, for a time, to use some officially ‘pierced’ coins to be used at face value, if the legends were deemed suitably full and free from excessive clipping. However, not all piercings were official. All of this was costing the government a great deal of money, mostly in the payment of taxes, where the collected face value should have been £4.7 million whereas it was actually only £2.5 million in silver.
In the meantime, the Mint was busy producing the new milled coins as quickly as possible but not quickly enough and the race meant that standards sometimes dropped. Eventually five additional branch mints were set up around the Country. Coins from these mints are identified by a mintmark beneath the King’s bust. Crowns were only struck in London, other denominations were struck and distributed from the provincial mints. The dies for use at the provincial mints sometimes arrived in rusty condition and had to be repolished and perhaps slightly altered at each branch mint. None of the provincial mints produced coins dated 1698, presumably because they were still using the dies dated 1697.
Under Isaac Newton at the Tower mint, new records were being set for coin production with £100,000 per week a European record. In total between £6.3 million face value were produced between 1696 and 1697 rising to £6.8 million in 1698. It appears that unspent dies from various of the provincial mints could be moved around, where the mintmark would be altered by overstriking before use at the new mint. The larger pieces (crown and halfcrown) were produced with lettered edges to make counterfeiting much more difficult and clipping and filing much more detectable.
Brian gave a rigorous exposition of all the varieties in this series and explained that many of them came about because of mistakes made by the semi-literate workers, others were due to expediency when, for example, new dies were urgently needed after Mary died. He gave examples of many of the different types of harps (and number of strings) used as part of the reverse design of the coins and also the proliferation of different size shields that were used. Brian’s researches have led him to believe that the small shields on the reverses of William's halfcrowns came first, before the slightly larger 'intermediate', and later 'large' shields. He gave an insight into the internal politics at work in the provincial mints, sometimes leading to duels! Other mint employees were even sent to prison for theft. Certainly, some of the lack of quality can be blamed on the way that employees were paid by piece work.
Parliament realised the size of the loss the recoinage would incur and introduced the infamous ‘window tax’ to help pay for it in1696. This only raised £1.2 million a year, as people bricked up windows rather than pay the tax, examples of which can be found even to this day. Ironically, as a main reason for the great recoinage was to combat forgery, it actually led to new forgeries coming about. Even worse, the relative value of gold to silver was higher in England than on the Continent and so coin could be shipped out, melted down, sold for gold and then the gold brought back to Britain and used to buy more silver than the original face value back in Britain. Despite this, coins of William III survived and even formed part of the repayment of Second World War loans to America, which were funded in part by melting down our own silver coinage.
Our thanks go to Brian for a fascinating and well researched talk.
(Pictures Courtesy of Mick Martin)
Be reminded that subscriptions are now due. It would be most appreciated if members yet to renew their subscription would please do so at the next meeting. Please see our treasurer Peter Hall. Membership cards are now available for paid-up members.
· Baldwins Coin Auctions 10, Charles II St., - 20-22nd September
· COINEX, Grosvenor Square, London – 22-23rd September
· Birmingham Coin Fair - National Motorcycle museum – 8th October