In our latest token auction catalogue there are over 50 trials, tokens and medals relating to minting practice. Most are related to the Birmingham Mint but there are a few from the Royal Mint and from machinery manufacturers such as Taylor and Challen and Cincinatti Milacron HME presses.
James Sweeny in his 1981 Numismatic History of the Birmingham Mint traced the history of the company from the time of Ralph Heaton’s purchase of the equipment of Matthew Boulton’s defunct Soho Mint. But he didn’t cover all tokens and medals produced by the company, nor of course, anything produced after his book was published. Sadly the mint is no more on its original site (now for redevelopment as a gated housing community) and the company went into liquidation in 2003. It was bought by JFT Law Ltd and moved to Kidderminster ending more than 200 years of association with Birmingham. From my cursory internet search, it appears to be a dormant company now.
We think many of the tokens in our auction are purely advertising the Mint Birmingham over the years, including the Kings Norton Metal Company, IMI Kynoch Mint and IMI Birmingham,
but some seem have been intended for testing the die, the metal, the blank or indeed the intended slot machine (Casino Leone tokens lots 432-433). There are a few early 20th century ones like the 1899 design featuring the old Birmingham City coat of arms (lots 412-417) as used on the medal for the visit of the Shah of Persia to the Mint.
It’s clear from the bi-metallic pieces that some experimentation was happening, whether the Royal Mint adopted these for the £2 coin and other coins, or whether the research went in the other direction we simply do not know (lots 440-445). They are not dated so it’s difficult to put the pieces in a firm chronology.
These minting tokens are not restricted to advertising but are car park tokens (lot 423), commemoratives (lot 421, 448) and premium giveaways for an exhibition such as the Taylor & Challen kangaroo token for the British Exhibition in Australia 1964.
Lots more research needed here and as far as we know nothing much is being done so a new area for keen collectors to investigate and not an expensive one.
For further reading:
Doty, Richard, (1998) The Soho Mint & the Industrialization of Money, BNS special publication no.2 Published by Smithsonian Institution, British Numismatic Society and Spink London, ISBN 1 902040 03 1