A symbol of royal power for nearly 1,000 years, the Tower of London remains one of Britain’s most iconic attractions.

But did you know that for over 500 years The Tower of London housed The Royal Mint?

It’s safe to say that during The Royal Mint’s time in The Tower, making coins was hot, noisy and dangerous affair. So much so that tampering with coins was considered treason, and the threat of gruesome punishment alone was enough to deter most, if not all, forgers and thieves.

For me, there’s no coin stories as fascinating as the ones that originate from The Royal Mint’s time a at The Tower. Here’s a selection of my very favourite ones…

Health and Safety was not a concern

In stark comparison to the society we live in today, the health and safety of Mint workers was not a top priority during the Mint’s time in The Tower.

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The Royal Mint was housed in The Tower of London for over 500 years, from 1279 to 1810. Image courtesy of Regency History.

Mechanisation in the 1600’s was welcome relief for Mint workers, as up until this point, all coins were made by hand. As a result, it wasn’t unusual for workers to be injured, and the loss of fingers and eyes was not uncommon.

When it came to striking the coins, split second timing and staying alert could mean the difference between making a coin and losing a finger! That’s because in order to strike a coin, one worker would place a handmade piece of metal between two engraved stamps – called dies – and a second worker would then strike it with a hammer. This procedure would stamp the coin design on to the metal, but if both parties were not on the ball sometimes a finger would be removed in the process.

Even then, it actually wasn’t until screw-operated presses were introduced in the 1700’s that life for Mint workers became relatively safe.

Dirty, deadly money

Working in the Mint was dirty and dangerous work. Huge furnaces were used to melt down precious metal, and the air was full of deadly chemicals and poisonous gases. This made the coin making process a real hazard.

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The Silver Melting House at The Royal Mint. Image courtesy of Old UK Photos.

In the 1560’s a group of unfortunate German workers learned this the hard way. Several of them were suspected to have been poisoned by clouds of noxious gas, and they fell incredibly ill. Seasoned workers at the Mint advised them of the cure – to drink milk from a human skull! Despite the so called ‘cure’, several men died.

The mysterious case of Sleeping Beauty

Several decades prior to this, in the 1540’s, William Foxley was another victim of the Mint’s lax health and safety. Though how exactly, still no one to this day knows for sure! Foxley was a potter at the Mint, and one day he fell asleep over his pots and no one could wake him up.

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Engraving of The Mint Engraving by John Bluck after artwork by Thomas Rowlandson & Auguste Charles Puginm from the publication ‘The Microcosm of London’. Image courtesy of The Tower of London.

It’s unclear what exactly caused Foxley’s coma, and allegedly King Henry VIII himself swung by The Tower to check out the mysterious sleeping beauty. For the majority of the British population, the only way they knew what their monarch looked like was thanks to the obverse of the coin. So Foxley will have been disappointed to have slept through his audience with the King.

This case perplexed physicians for 14 days, after which Foxley woke up and was the picture of perfect health. Remarkably he lived for another 40 years.

Tampering with coins was considered treason

Treason was not taken lightly. In fact any tampering with coins, such as shaving silver from the edge of a coin to steal it, was classed as treason and the severe punishments that awaited thieves and forgers was nearly enough in most instances to put them off.

During medieval times, the sentence for a first-time convicted counterfeiter was to remove their right hand. Any second offences were punishable by castration. It’s unknown exactly what followed this particularly gruesome punishment for a third or even a fourth offence.

But if you think this is severe, in later years and right up until the 1700’s male forgers suffered a traitor’s death – that is to be hung, drawn and quartered. Meanwhile, female forgers were either burned at the stake or transported on one of the infamous convict ships to their designated place of exile.


If you’re interested…

The Royal Mint has just released a BRAND NEW UK £5 coin to celebrate its longstanding and fascinating history with The Tower of London.

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The coin is available in a range of specifications, including Brilliant Uncirculated and extremely limited edition Silver Proof and Silver Proof Piedfort. Given the historical significance of this commemorative, it is expected to be highly sought-after by serious collectors now and in years to come. That said, we do not expect to be able to offer it for long.

Click here for more information and to view the range >>

The world’s most expensive coin, the Flowing Hair Dollar, went up for auction yesterday. In 2010 it sold for just under $8 million, three years later it set a world record when it sold for over $10 million. It was bought by a collector to add to a unique collection of Early Silver Dollars – including the 1804 Draped Bust Dollar which made headlines when it sold for over $3 million in 2017.

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What makes a coin collectable?

It’s incredible to think that a 1 dollar coin could be worth millions today, but there’s several things that determine the numismatic value and collectability of a coin. So we’ve put together a collector’s guide to help you know what to look out for when adding coins to your collection.

Several things determine the numismatic value and collectability of a coin – usually it’s based on the type of coin, the year it was minted, the place it was minted and even its condition or finish. But the biggest factor is probably the mintage of a coin and its rarity.

Mintage and Rarity

It’s the old rule of supply and demand – the less that are made, the more difficult a coin is to source and the more collectable it becomes. There are thought to be less than 150 of the Flowing hair dollars in existence today which contributes to the value of them.

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Or take for example the US 2015 Silver Eagle. This had a mintage of just 79,640, making it three times rarer than the second rarest silver Eagle (this year’s COVID Eagle). As these were snapped up by collectors, they have become more and more scarce, and in higher demand than ever, with collectors willing to pay a premium just to add one to their collections.

Year of issue

This doesn’t always mean age of the coin, but the year can play an important factor in determining the value of a coin. Generally you can expect to pay a premium for historic issues but this isn’t always the case. In fact some Roman coins can be picked up for less than £50, but coins from much more recent times, such as Victorian Crowns can sell for hundreds of pounds! Victorian crowns struck in important years, such as the 1887 Jubilee Head crowns are more desirable because of their links to significant events.

Finish

The finish of a coin, or the strike, is also an important factor to consider. Proof finished coins are struck several times with specially prepared blanks, which gives the design a particularly sharp edge and shows every detail. Proof finishes are highly desired among collectors, as are coins issued in BU – or brilliant uncirculated finish. This means the coin hasn’t been in circulation so is free from all the scratches you’d find on coins in your change.

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Minting location

Sometimes the mintmark or location of the mint in which a coin was struck can affect the collectability of the coin. The mintmark on a coin tells us where a coin was struck, and from that collectors use historical records to work out just how rare each coin is. For example, the Morgan Dollar was struck in 5 different mints, but the Carson City issues are the most sought after – they were struck for only 13 of the 43 years in which the Morgan Dollar was minted.

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Many collectors specialise in some of these areas and build their collections around rare coins, themes and years of issue, or even mintmarks. But demand can and often will change over time and sometimes that means the value someone is willing to pay for a coin will increase over time – just as we’ve seen with the Flowing Hair Dollar.


If you’re interested…

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Own the RAREST EVER Silver Eagle: Three times rarer than this year’s “Covid Eagle” we have managed to source a tiny number of these coins straight from the US. Click here to secure yours with a deposit of JUST £19.50 now >>

Earlier this year, to mark the 90th anniversary since Peter Pan author, JM Barrie, gifted his rights in Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital, the LAST EVER Peter Pan Silver Proof 50ps were released.

And for every coin set sold a donation goes directly to GOSH Charity to help support the hospital and the seriously ill children from across the UK who are cared for there.

So, join me in today’s video where I unbox this magical Silver Proof 50p set and reveal what you can find inside of the deluxe presentation box.

Be warned though, this set is now OVER 80% SOLD and when you consider that alongside the fact that last years full edition limit SOLD OUT,  this is definitely a video you can’t afford to miss… 


If you’re interested…

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