Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Back in the day

We have all heard stories about when you used to be able to buy gold coins for a few pounds and if you sent some money to a coin dealer you would get some collectable items sent to you. It would be nice to travel back in time and buy the coins, tokens or medals that were cheap because no-one collected them then. There must be series now that are overlooked.  I wonder what they are- as people collect most areas? What will people collect in the future? And more importantly will there be collectors to buy them?
The internet has transformed buying and selling coins as any major auction can be followed anywhere in the world. It has also made identifying and valuing coins much easier. The days of finding a box of interesting, unidentified valuable coins that are going for a song are likely to be over. There seem to be less coins coming on to the market from field or detectoring finds. Quite correctly a lot of those go straight to museums.  I know a dealer whose patience must be sorely tested every time someone brings a carrier bag of proof sets and Churchill crowns.
I suspect there will always be a steady demand for coins, medals and tokens. Numismatics satisfies our interests in history, economics, politics and a host of other areas.    Coin prices seem to continue to be strong because the best quality material will always be in demand.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Oxford Mint

The Oxford mint 1642-1646

            Dating is by the old style, viz. January follows December in the same year
New Year began on, Lady Day, March 25th

            10th January 1641 Charles fled from London, realising his numerous political blunders had jeopardised, not only his life, but that of his family, and went to York, his second capital, arriving there on 19 March 1641. Knowing War to be inevitable he set about to raise an army, as did the Parliamentarians. He believed he could recruit Irishmen fleeing from Catholic persecution in Ireland, he moved to Shrewsbury arriving on 20 Sept 1642. On the way he raised the Royal Standard at Nottingham on 22 Aug 1642, and declared War at Wellington on 19 Sept 1642. Luckily, in July 1637 he had granted Thomas Bushell a licence to open a branch mint at Aberystwyth, so he had a well established provincial mint run by a very loyal servant. 28th September Bushell was ordered to transfer his mint to Shrewsbury.  In the event it lasted only about 12 weeks before moving on. Charles decided to move closer to London, and on Sunday 29th October 1642 he arrived at Oxford and set up his court in Christchurch College

            15th December 1642 Bushell was summoned to bring his mint to Oxford.
He arrived on 3rd January 1642 and set up in New Inn Hall, the site now of St Peter’s College, which had been occupied by Puritan students who had fled leaving the premises empty on the arrival of the King. Not only did he bring many wagons of silver ore with him but he also arranged for regular weekly deliveries from his mines of about £100

            6th January Charles issued a circular to the various Colleges requesting them to “lend him their plate for coining at the rate of 5/- the ounce white, and 5/6 for gilt plate, to be repaid as soon as God shall enable us”  Promising to pay 8% interest. 
Being allowed to retain their communion silver-ware, 12 Colleges complied, with amounts ranging from 41 lb (Balliol) with 296 lb (Magdalen). Unfortunately, in order to save its plate, St John’s College sent the equivalent value in money. The ploy failed when the King kept the money and still demanded the plate.     
            Bushell’s high grade silver was mixed with donated plate to uphold the standard. No Trial of the Pyx was ever recorded for provincial coins but, in spite of this, few if any were sub standard. Sir William Parkhurst and Thomas Bushell were made joint Wardens of the mint. Other employees were: Richard Nicholls, who had worked at Shrewsbury, and later moved to Bristol with Bushell, Robert Hunt who had originally been seconded to Aberystwyth from the Tower mint, and Thomas Rawlins, renowned for producing the famous ‘Oxford crown’ or five shillings, who was an ex pupil of Nicholas Briot. For expediency, Bushell used his current Shrewsbury dies, until they wore out, or could be replaced. In the meantime a mixture of old and new dies were used; therefore many coins attributed to Shrewsbury may actually have been struck at Oxford. The person responsible for looking after the dies may have issued them randomly each shift, because there does not seem to be any logical sequence.  It is also likely that whilst a dated die may not have been used before that year, it is almost certain that it would have been used during the following year until useless 
            Bushell devised a new plume as a provenance mark for the Oxford mint
The ‘Oxford plume’ has a band (correctly termed a Label), with forked ends, which overlays the three quills below the coronet.  Not to be confused with the earlier Shrewsbury plume, without bands, or the later Bristol plume on which the bands weave behind the middle quill

            From the number of varieties and surviving specimens of Provincial coins, in general, one can be forgiven for thinking large numbers were struck. In fact the output was only a small percentage of the total currency issued during the war, and often these coins did not circulate far from their mints. Their fascination to contemporary collectors is the main reason why so many have survived, together with the discovery of many hoards

            The Oxford Mint operated from January 1642 until Sir Thomas Glenham surrendered the city to Parliamentary forces, led by Fairfax, on 24th June 1646

The Oxford Crown 1644
By Thomas Rawlins

Obv.                CAROLVS • D : G : MAG : BRIT : FRAN : ET • HIBER • REX
                        “Charles by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland
Punctuation     Lozenge stops
Mint mark       Cross fleury
                        Elegant portrait of the king on horse back, riding to the left.
                        In his right hand is a long sword tilting backward
 Below the horse is a view of the city of Oxford, from the south, and the word OXON close to the horse’s belly
                        Signed with a letter R (Rawlins) below the raised fore hoof

Declaration style reverse

Legend            EXVRGAT     DEVS     DISSIPENTVR     INIMICI    
                        “Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered”
Punctuation     A sprig of flowers between each word
                        Declaration in two lines with two floral scrolls above and below
                                                         RELIG • PROT • LEG
                                                  ANG • LIBER • PARL
“To uphold the Protestant Religion, the Laws of England and the Liberty of Parliament”
                        Three Oxford plumes and a letter V (value five shillings) above
                        Date below in script figures with OXON below that

Only eleven specimens are known, two or which are in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford


Oxford Medals

Hawkins lists two early medals associated with the University. There is a medal commemorating Nicholas and Dorothy Wadham which is dated 1618. Wadham died in 1609 and left his fortune to endow a college at Oxford. The medal is said to have been struck after his wife’s death. A medal was struck to commemorate Thomas Bodley which is dated 1612 and was produced by a French medallist called Jean Warin. Bodley died in 1612 and founded the famous library in Oxford.

A silver medal was issued dated 1648 which appears in a number of sizes, both round and oval. This is known as the Oxford Memorial Medal. It was issued by the members of the University who had been ejected following the Parliamentary Visitation of 1648. The medal was cast with a loop to which ribbons were attached and scholars wore them in their hats. “Many good wits were ejected, which for want of improvement in an Academic way, were soon. After lost and drowned…But least their sufferings should stand unrecorded to posterity, hundreds of Silver and Brass medals were made…” All these early medals are rare.

There are also a number of University sporting, athletic and other medals, mainly issued in the Nineteenth Century.

In 1912 a medal was issued to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the city of Oxford or more accurately the first appearance of Oxford in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 912. The medal was designed by Cecil Thomas and sold by Payne’s, the jewellers which business still exists. The medal was available in copper, white metal and silver. The design features Queen Aethelfleda and the Mayor of Oxford with the sun in splendour behind a view of the city on one side and on the reverse the old walled city. The obverse inscription is SIC M SIC M  M DEI GRATIA which means By the Grace of God as for 1000 years so for 2000 years.

Thomas had a long career as a designer and sculptor. The medal is misattributed in several texts as designed by Paget. The design is exceptionally striking and effective.