A SMALL CHANGE CRISIS: Copper Coinage in early 18th Century England

There are two histories of British coinage. One reflects the need for high value issues of silver and gold for the preservation of wealth and foreign exchange. The other was the need among poorer citizens for small change for day-to-day transactions.

English monarchs were apparently little interested in providing for that segment of society. Small silver coins worked for a while. Silver farthings for common trade worked for a while. They were small. (They have not survived in great numbers.) But by the time of the Stuarts, silver had become expensive enough that it was not practical to mint a small enough silver coin to satisfy this small change need.

James I gave a patent for issuing farthing tokens to someone to whom he owed money, John Harington. This discharged his debt and Harington issued farthing tokens. After Harington, other private issuers took over the patent—Lennox, Richmond, Maltravers and a few other players in the process. The coins were small, not liked by many, too easily counterfeited and a marginal success at best.

Under Charles II the mint made an effort to provide a copper coinage. The results were generally poor. Peck notes that “the Mint was embarking on a project which it was really incapable of carrying out, for the process of coining copper in its entirety from the raw ingot was beyond their ability, and remained so for a century to come.”

The problem was solved in the short term by purchasing “ready-made blanks from Sweden.” There were no regular copper issues under James II. William and Mary had to deal with public dissatisfaction with the tin issues James II had provided. Outside contractors were given the task and the reigns of William and Mary and then William alone saw a copper coinage that was often far short of what was expected—cast flans, impurities in the copper, slipshod work.

Copper coinage in this era also faced problems well beyond manufacture. There was no ready system for distributing it widely. Nor was copper fully negotiable. It could not be used to pay taxes, excise duties or used in negotiating a bill of exchange. Some banks would not handle it. (Tye. Num Chron 2016. P. 339)

William III’s reign ended in 1702. The last copper piece during his reign was issued in 1700. His successor, Anne, had the need for small change to deal with. Little happened during her reign other than a pattern farthing in 1714.

A massive issue of farthing tokens in the early 18th century resulted. Tokens worked for a while but, as with all token issues, abuses in the form of light weight and limited acceptance ultimately doomed them.

Isaac Newton, appointed Director of the Mint in 1699, eventually dealt with the issue and the hub for the reverse of the Anne farthing saw use for the first issue in 1717 of a farthing that was called a “dump” issue because of a thick “dumpy” flan.

The subsequent coinage under George I was produced to a higher standard and established a quality level that continued through the reign of George II.

But the “no small change” saga continued through the reign of George III and it was only near the end of the 18th century that button manufacturers in Birmingham turned their attention to coins. And, thus, the modern era of minting was born. (Of course it still took a couple of decades. Finally, during the reign of George IV a regular copper issue was produced.)

Thursday, July 20, 2017


How Bidding Works


Davissons Ltd uses a soft close for its auctions, which means no lot closes until everyone is done bidding. Every time a bid is placed within the final 40 seconds of a lot closing, the timer is reset to 40 seconds. This continues until no bids are placed for 40 seconds, at which point the lot closes. There will never be more than one lot closing at once, as the next lot is not allowed to begin closing until the current lot closes.

To bid: enter your maximum bid into the text box, and click submit. Only round dollar amounts are accepted. You are then required to confirm your bid. Once confirmed, all bids are final. If you have placed a bid in error you must call during office hours and speak to one of us. If you are the current high bidder then it will display “Current High Bidder: YOU” If you are not the high bidder, or if you are not logged in, then the current high bidder will be identified by their 5 digit client ID. You may find your client ID under the Account tab.

Bids are reduced automatically, so feel free to bid your maximum and it will be reduced to one increment over the current high bid. If a user places a bid that is higher than necessary to be the current high bidder on the lot, the displayed bid will reflect one advance over the next lower bid. For example, if a user "A" places a bid of $120 on a lot which opens at $100, "A" will be winning that lot at $100. If another user "B" bids $110, the winning bidder will be "A" at $120, one advance over the supporting bid of $110. If user "B" in this example instead placed a bid at $120, then user "A" will still be winning at $120 because they placed that maximum bid value first.

Increments can be viewed here. The next bid will always be on the next increment, so if a user is winning a lot at $100, or $105, or $109, the next bid will still always be $110.

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