Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Monday, 6 December 2010

Leaving your mark.

Between 1797-1799 45 million copper pennies, two-penny pieces and halfpennies were minted under contract at the Soho mint in Birmingham which was owned and equipped by Matthew Boulton and James Watt. During 1797 and 1798 there were two types of coins minted all dated 1797 that were to become part of our social history. They were in two denominations of one penny and two penny, both were made in copper and they were unique as they contained their exact value in copper, the penny weighed one ounce and the two pence weighed two ounces. They were huge and cumbersome and were nicknamed "Cartwheels" because of the raised rim on the edge.
The obverse of the coins had the image of George III and the reverse had the image of Britannia seated and looking right. The penny was 36mm in diameter and 3mm thick and two pence was 41mm in diameter and 5mm thick. According to legend they were unpopular with the public because of their size and weight, bearing in mind that a Cinque Volunteer would had been on a shilling a day when on active service it is easy to see why if he was paid in copper. However, they had many other uses apart from currency , one being to weigh down a dead mans eyes because of their weight. They were even drilled out and plugged so the copper could be sold as scrap. Many were counter stamped, and it is these counter stamps that have left us with legacy of the past. During that period many people owned little and had very little to give each other, so it became a custom and a practise to either counter stamp or engrave initials or mark a coin as a love token or talisman. Cartwheel pennies were popular as they were pure copper making them easier to engrave or counter stamp, plus they were cheaper than silver or gold a were something solid and enduring.
As time moved on the memories of these people fade and it is a case of ashes to ashes, dust to dust for ordinary people as in those days there were no monuments to their existence. However, for some their memory does live on by their mark they have left on a coin or token and this is something I have taken a great interest in.

Above is a counter stamped cartwheel penny as a love token bearing two hearts each with the letter "S" in each one. The coin appears to have had 10 years circulation before it was counter stamped putting the stamping around 1808. Below is a selection of cartwheel pennies and two pennies which I have bought as a result of local house clearances etc, some are counter stamped and others are not. One has the initials JCMc engraved on it whether this is a individual love token, a talisman or a even company token I do not know.

On the coast I have only found these coins in two places, one site being inside Margate Harbour deep down in the mud when repair works to the sea wall fronting the Parade was taking place and the other site when the entrance to Jetty when it was being demolished to construct the sea defence behind the Droit House.

1 comment:

ascu75 aka Don said...

I never knew that. I have a couple of cartwheel copper coins at one stage in my life they were like busses dont see one for ages and then loads. Coins are fantastic glimpse into the past . Don