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Why did the (Royal) mint almost cease production during the war of the Spanish succesion?


NewStyleKing

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Not medieval or the like, but reading Westfalls biography of Isaac Newton, after the great re-coining, the war of the Spanish Succession caused the mint to almost stop producing coins  and eventually quarter Guineas of gold was produced  to try and replace the missing silver.

Is it because our sources of silver was from the Spanish empire?  The book does not say!  With what  did we buy silver with  during "normal" times?  Gold  came from the "gold coast" and Guinea!  But silver?

 

I am ignorant!

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It was surely a problem that four-fifths of the world’s silver came from Spanish America. The capture of Spanish silver at Vigo Bay was certainly used as a huge PR stunt. When there was a similar shortage under George III, people actually used Spanish 8 reales in Britain and the Bank of England stockpiled Spanish coins to overstrike with British denominations when the Royal Mint couldn't.

There were lots of problems caused by the shortage of silver beyond not having enough to strike coins. Since their intrinsic value was higher than face value, coins were melted down to sell abroad as bullion, leaving you with even less silver. Counterfeiting was also much higher (melt one coin and make two). And although in theory, with higher priced silver you could still strike as many coins as before using less silver, if you're making coins of a fixed face value they would have to be a lot smaller to the point of being impractical. The Royal Mint 'solved' the problem by not producing coins.

These problems were not limited to the War of the Spanish Succession. They seem to have come up regularly since coins were first used for low-level transactions i.e. at least since the Saxons cut their pennies into quarters, right up until the link between the intrinsic and face value of a coin was broken after the introduction of the Gold Standard in 1821.

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Yes the coppers were the same problem (not forgetting that pennies were still silver and not made in quantity anyway). They wanted coins to be worth their weight in metal, to make sure they were accepted. In George III’s time this meant impractically huge twopences. But variations in metal prices meant they were melted down and counterfeited, so they stopped.

Edited by John Conduitt
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The Hapsburg versus Bourbon succession to the Spanish throne following the death of Charles II of Spain did create a disruption in the supply of silver to England.  The capture of the Spanish fleet at Vigo was certainly a coup for the British.

That said, the mint's crown output during Anne's reign ran from  1703 to 1713.  According to Davenport no crowns were produced in 1704, 1709, 1710, 1711 and 1712.  Crown production for George I began in 1716, two years following Anne's death in 1714.  That would suggest a shortage of silver over the course of Anne's reign.

Here's my "Vigo" crown, with typical hay marking on the flan.

Anne, crown, "Vigo", 1703.  Purchased from Heritage in 1992.

Davenport 1338

30.00 grams

1098861042_D-CameraAnnecrownVigo1703Heritage1992Dav.133830.00g3-24-22.jpg.b15b3bb7d4d57fec03587c0cd112b839.jpg

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Inasmuch as Great Britain was chronically short of silver during that time - consider Sweden.  Sweden had mineral wealth, lots of timber etc - but the only metal they had was copper.  So they ended up having to mint plate money, the 1/2 daler and daler coinage mainly for the domestic market and the larger 2 and 4 daler for the export market where when demand for copper was high - was traded overseas for silver when possible.  In addition during that tumultuous time Sweden controlled a good part of both sides of the Baltic, Finland and even Holstein in N. Germany and was in a long drawn out with Tsar Petr I(1682-1725) of Russia.

 

1daler.jpg.b3f3ddab32bf241285b0ca99232e97aa.jpg

 

A 1 daler plate money issued during the reign of Charles XII in 1716.  While these were being struck, the lasting expenses of the long Northern War(1700-1721) with Russia were depleting funds so beginning in 1716 thru 1718 token coinage for dalers were issued that were about 2.5 centimetres in diameter.

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4 minutes ago, UkrainiiVityaz said:

Inasmuch as Great Britain was chronically short of silver during that time - consider Sweden.  Sweden had mineral wealth, lots of timber etc - but the only metal they had was copper.  So they ended up having to mint plate money, the 1/2 daler and daler coinage mainly for the domestic market and the larger 2 and 4 daler for the export market where when demand for copper was high - was traded overseas for silver when possible.  In addition during that tumultuous time Sweden controlled a good part of both sides of the Baltic, Finland and even Holstein in N. Germany and was in a long drawn out with Tsar Petr I(1682-1725) of Russia.

 

1daler.jpg.b3f3ddab32bf241285b0ca99232e97aa.jpg

 

A 1 daler plate money issued during the reign of Charles XII in 1716.  While these were being struck, the lasting expenses of the long Northern War(1700-1721) with Russia were depleting funds so beginning in 1716 thru 1718 token coinage for dalers were issued that were about 2.5 centimetres in diameter.

Linking the examples together - the Royal Mint in London got their copper planchets from Sweden. This led to supply issues. The high cost of production meant the manufacturers brought in cheap workers from overseas, some of whom couldn’t spell the legends. In William III’s reign, they even cast coins. The poor quality encouraged counterfeits and parliament restricted supply of lower denomination coins – resulting in a shortage.

They even tried to switch from copper to tin. Tin came from England, so using it would reduce the cost of production and help reduce counterfeits (the coins included a copper plug and the date on the edge for that purpose). But it wasn’t long before the corrosive properties of tin (and the reaction of tin with the copper plug) put an end to that idea.

William III and Mary II Farthing, 1690
image.png.b1d93f46ead2295612c43d467454de63.pngLondon. Tin with copper plug’ 22mm, 6.0g. GVLIELMVS ET MARIA. BRITAN NIA (S 3451).

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@John Conduitt From what I understand another part of the impetus to minting tin coins was to create demand for tin to help out an already almost unprofitable mining operation in Cornwall.  Tin mining had been going on for several centuries but the nature of the element limited its' overall usage.

BTW your example is awesome, these are incredibly difficult to find without advanced "tin pest" or corrosion. Even English bronze farthings and halfpennies from this era are rather scarce, when you do find them they are also usually miserable as they were used for a very long time into the 1770s or so.  Small coinage was a chronic problem in Britain until ca. 1840 when supply finally caught up with demand and steam powered machinery took over making coinage production much quicker.

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You can get silver most places. England hasn't really ever been self-sufficient in precious metals for coinage, so it was imported, although you could get quite far simply by melting down old coins, especially if you debased them a little each time. Before 1492 the English economy didn't grow a huge amount. The supply of New World silver arrived as global trade grew, and so the world economy came to rely on it. If it hadn't, they probably would've had to think of something else to trade.

You get silver by selling what you have. England always had a lot of wool, for example. As long as you had a trade surplus, you got a lot of silver. Britain has had problems with that a few times - after the industrial revolution, the British got rich and imported so much the country was drained of silver. At the time, the amount of precious metal in your country was seen as crucial to the health of the economy. The solution was to get China hooked on opium, and the silver flowed back.

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scotlandwilliamandmarybawbee.jpg.b1cafb529896c5e891dc4632ed28014e.jpg

 

King William and Queen Mary were a particularly odd pairing of a royal couple.  William was from Orange in the Netherlands while Mary was the daughter of King James II of Scotland and Ireland.  Neither were particularly attracted to one another, and this union was purely political in nature.  Small denomination coinage in Britain was overlooked by the crown in all of the constituent parts of the kingdom.  While England had it's issues with small coinage, Scotland was even worse.  Bodles(2 pence) and bawbees(6 pence) were the smallest denomination coinage issued in the kingdom of Scotland.  This bawbee in common with the circulation pattern of the time circulated deep into the 18th century even though larger Scottish coinage in silver and gold was recalled and melted in favour of United Kingdom sterling beginning in 1707.  The bawbee circulated as a halfpenny while the bodle circulated as a farthing, even though it was actually 1/3 of a halfpenny.

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6 hours ago, NewStyleKing said:

Great stuff folks!  Really interesting.  

OK what was the source of silver BEFORE Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492?

British lead from Derbyshire was cupelled to produce silver by the Romans  ........

and what do you buy silver with  for your currency? ........

You might find this short article interesting.  It discusses gold and silver during medieval times, including sources in central Europe.

https://www.miningweekly.com/article/gold-and-silver-in-medieval-europe-2012-08-17

Improvements in mining technology and techniques led to a boom in silver production in Bohemia near the end of the 15th century and into the 16th century. making this region, along with the Harz Mountains of Germany later, primary sources for silver before the massive influx of silver from Mexico and South America.

Here's one of my Bohemian thalers.  Originating in Joachimsthal, these large coins became known as thalers, evolving to dollars in our time.

Bohemia, Joachimsthal, Counts of Schlick, thaler, 1520-25.

D 8141

28.6 grams

1540745817_D-CameraBohemiaSchlicktaler1520-25ChVFD8141Karl28.6g2-21-21.jpg.2c0dd81445ef143d3b7e07e86195cafc.jpg

 

Edited by robinjojo
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