“It is difficult to conceive of the conditions under which those final pieces must
have been struck: a lonely press running in one corner of the Mint while workmen
were busily dismantling machinery in another..” These few words, written by Dr Richard
Doty in his work ‘The Soho Mint and the Industrialisation of Money’ paint a picture
of a last flickering spark among the ashes of what had been a furnace of global significance.
Yet even this last spark retained something of that global feel, for the Soho was
producing good, full weight, penny tokens for the Melbourne Grocers Annand, Smith
& Co – pieces which in every respect reflected the spirit of the good old days.
The End of Soho
There is no doubt that those good old days had come to an end with the death of Matthew
Boulton in August 1809; days when every effort had been made to improve the mechanisms
and techniques of the Mint, and when the coining of money was both the business and
the interest of the proprietor. Boulton’s son, Matthew Robinson Boulton was fond
enough of money, but showed interest in the making of it only in fits and starts.
And Matthew Piers Watt Boulton, who inherited the Boulton enterprises on the death
of his father Matthew Robinson in 1842, had no interest at all in the continuation
of the Mint. Dr Doty described how he “gradually came to the conclusion that he would
prefer a life of leisure to a life of coining, and a devoted body of retainers attempted
to drum up business to persuade him otherwise. The outcome was inevitable and it
would not be long in coming.” Indeed, the end came in April 1850 when the Mint was
sold, lock, stock and barrel, by Messrs Fuller and Horsey, auctioneers of Billiter
Street, London. Curiously, the Mint was described as being sold by “the executors
of the late M R Boulton” even though this was eight years after his death.
But it is a little unfair to castigate the last of the Boultons as being entirely
lackadaisical: he translated Greek classics, investigated solar heating, and in 1864
wrote and published a work ‘On Aerial Locomotion.’ He was granted a patent in 1868
for the aileron – that piece of moving mechanism which controls the lateral movement
of all fixed wing aircraft to this day. Perhaps we should just accept that his interests
were different to those of his grandfather.
Annand And Smith
The first half of the nineteenth century was a period of growth and expansion in
the Australian colonies, partly driven by the transportation there of thousands of
convicts from Great Britain, a practice which ceased in 1853, and partly by the presence
of free settlers who saw greater opportunities there than in their homeland. Two
of these voluntary migrants were George Annand and Robert Smith.
George Annand was born in Grange, Banffshire, in Scotland about 1798 or 1799, and
is known to have left Aberdeen and to have arrived in Melbourne some time before
1843. Annand was successful in his new home. By 1847 he had become a City Councillor
for the North Bourke area, and in 1853 was elected to the Victoria state Legislative
Council. He was the recipient of much adverse comment for his suggestion, in the
Council, that Victoria should become an independent state ‘under the Government of
a member of the English Royal Family.’
At his death on 9th January 1856 at the age of 57, he had been Treasurer of the Independent
Chapel on Collins Street for ‘upward of thirteen years.’ The Independent Chapel was
originally constructed in 1841 and, under the Rev William Wakefield, was Melbourne’s
first permanent Church.
At their half-yearly meeting in February 1856, the Directors of the Bank of Victoria
were concerned to appoint a replacement ‘in the place of the late Mr Annand.’
Robert Smith was an Englishman, who was also known to have been in Melbourne by 1844,
as it was in August of that year that both men, each described as ‘Merchant’ were
signatories to an open letter supporting the Rev Peter Gunn, of Heidelberg, now a
suburb of Melbourne, against imputations of ‘inactivity and querulousness’ made by
a fellow cleric. Smith went on to marry, in Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land, on 26th
May 1848, Isabella Robertson, of Roxburghshire. Later, he emigrated to New Zealand
and died there in 1885.
A Triple Significance
The Annand Smith tokens have an importance of their own, as the very last products
of the Soho Mint, but there are two further reasons why they are significant.
Firstly, they were the very first of a considerable number of tokens issued to relieve
the currency shortage in Australia. The Annual Meeting of the Melbourne Numismatic
Society on 5th March 1928 was told more:
The President, Mr E S Anthony, read a paper on ‘Numismatics relating to Melbourne.’
In opening his remarks, the President noted that the first real reference to Numismatics
proper in Melbourne was the issue by Messrs Annand Smith & Co of tokens in 1849.
“Of traders’ tokens in general, there were thirty three issuers in the city proper
and six in the suburbs. It is worthy of note that many of them were designed and
made in Melbourne by the die sinkers and medallists W J Taylor, Thos Stokes, and
later Stokes and Martin. I should mention that the honour, or rather distinction,
of issuing the first tradesmen’s token in Australia belongs to Messrs Annand Smith
& Co in 1849, as recorded in the ‘Argus’ of 20th October of that year. It is interesting
to note that the opposition paper ‘The Melbourne Daily News’ of the 30th of the same
month accused the Firm of ‘imitating current coin of the realm.’ The firm reported
that they had ‘applications from all quarters of Melbourne and Geelong and other
distant places’ for these tokens owing to the shortage of small change. Their place
of business was at the corner of Queen and Collins Streets, on the site now occupied
by the English, Scottish & Australian Bank.”
And, secondly, the demand for Annand Smith’s penny tokens exceeded the 45,503 shipped
from Soho. With the closure of that Mint, it was necessary for an alternative supplier
to be sought. This turned out to be Ralph Heaton & Sons, who had bought the equipment
of the Soho Mint, almost in its entirety, at the sale in April 1850. It is very likely,
therefore, that Annand Smith’s repeat order was not only Heaton’s first order, but
that the tokens were struck on the same machinery which had been used earlier at
Hover your cursor over the images to see more detail
By 1847, not long before his marriage, Smith had opened a grocery store in Little
Bourke Street, in the heart of Melbourne’s Chinese community, where Annand soon joined
him, establishing a partnership which would last until June 1849. The business, which
became known as Annand, Smith & Co., moved firstly to Little Collins Street, and
then to number 73 Collins Street, at the corner of Queen Street - not the same location
as today’s No.73! Collins Street is now the heart of Melbourne’s business district,
and has always been regarded as one of Australia’s premier locations.
The two men had other, outside, interests in common, too. In November 1847, George
Annand and Robert Smith had jointly become trustees of the Burial Ground for the
The business of grocer and merchant in Australia’s early days would have necessitated
both local and international trading, with virtually all of the manufactured goods
sold having to be imported from Great Britain and Europe. But as with Great Britain
itself in earlier years, local trade was hampered by the lack of a circulating coinage.
There was no indigenous Australian coin, and what was in use was a mixture of scarce
and worn-out British and other foreign pieces. At some point, probably in 1848 or,
possibly, early 1849, Annand & Smith decided that there was benefit to be gained
from issuing their own token pennies.
Collins Street, Melbourne, in 1853.
Registration of Trustees for the Burial Ground
Through their business, they must have established a connection with Thomas Elwell,
a hardware merchant, of Compton Hall, a couple of miles from the centre of Wolverhampton
in the English Midlands, as it was Elwell who sent an enquiry to Soho for the production
of copper penny tokens. No doubt the enquiry was received with surprise, and maybe
even a little consternation, as it is probable that the decision to close the Mint
had already been made. A simple lettered die, with the inscription ANNAND SMITH &
CO FAMILY GROCERS MELBOURNE was prepared for the obverse, and a BRITANNIA penny die
similar, but certainly not identical, to those used for the coinage of 1806/7, was
pressed into service for the reverse. 15,400 examples were struck, and were shipped
from Soho on 23rd May 1849.
That they were soon on their way to Australia is shown by the publication of a piece
in The Argus newspaper of Melbourne on 20th October 1849:
To obviate the extreme inconvenience occasioned by the scarcity of coppers, particularly
by the grocers who have, not unfrequently, to pay a premium of from sixpence to a
shilling in the pound for their Saturday night’s supply, Mr Councillor Annand has
had coined, at Birmingham, a large supply of penny pieces, having on the one side
the figure of Britannia, and, on the obverse, the inscription, “Annand, Smith, &
Co., Family Grocers, Melbourne.” This expedient will have the effect, not only of
increasing the copper coinage in circulation in the Province, but will also act as
a most active standing advertisement for the house.
Not everyone, it seems, viewed the tokens quite so positively; on 30th October 1849,
the Melbourne Daily News published a story about the ‘cheap method of advertising
adopted by a certain grocery firm’ and told of a possible legal action against Annand.
Given that the politics of Melbourne at the time were subject to extremely enthusiastic
partisanship it could be, of course, that the problem was Councillor Annand himself,
rather than his tokens!
Be that as it may, a second shipment of tokens left Soho on 12th October 1849 and
a final batch was sent on 15th January 1850. The total number produced amounted to
45,503 pieces and they were the very last products of the Soho Mint. Given that the
sea voyage to Australia took approximately three to four months, the second and third
batches of tokens must have been produced before any account could have been received
at Soho as to the reception accorded the first batch!
Although the tokens (and the business!) carried the names of Annand and Smith, it
seems that by the date of their production the partnership was over. The New South
Wales Government Gazette for April 1850 (the separate colony of Victoria was not
established until 1851) carried a notice, dated 4th June 1849 to the effect that
Robert Smith had retired from the firm of Annand Smith, Grocers and Merchants, and
that the business would continue under George Annand. A similar notice, of the same
date, confirmed that George Annand had retired from Thomas Fulton & Co, Engineers,
Founders and Millers, but that this business would continue with the remaining partners
Thomas Fulton and Robert Smith.
From The Argus
20th October 1849
From The NSW Gazette
From The Argus
27th June 1848
It is possible to distinguish the products of the two mints. The original coinage
of pennies in 1806 and 1807 had borne the SOHO mintmark, in relief, on the rock upon
which Britannia’s shield is resting. The die used by Soho for the Annand Smith tokens
did not show this; there was no mintmark, and the initial ‘K’ of Conrad Heinrich
Küchler, has been erased from the rocks between Britannia’s shield and her spear.
This reverse has been identified as R96 by Peck in his work ‘English Copper, Tin
and Bronze Coins in the British Museum’ as being the same reverse as used for the
restrike proof pennies, dated 1806, but struck much later.
By the time Heaton’s started their production, they would have been in possession
of at least some of the dies purchased at the Soho sale in 1850, and their version
of the Annand Smith penny has the reverse of a circulation-strike penny of 1806.
Küchler’s initial can be seen clearly, and the Heaton mintmark, H&S, was added to
take pride of place on the rock.
There are differences, too, in the olive branch held by Britannia; Soho pieces (left)
show 13 leaves and olives, while the Heaton’s die (right) shows only 11.
Unfortunately, Heaton’s records for their Australian token business have not survived,
so we have no indication of the quantities struck.
Annand Smith Token
Annand Smith Token
A Final Note
As a final note, the President of the Melbourne Numismatic Society mentioned in his
presentation that many of the locally produced tokens had been made by W J Taylor,
medallist and die sinker. This is the same W J Taylor whose principal project in
Australia was the Kangaroo Office in Melbourne from which he issued the extremely
rare and desirable gold patterns.
However, in 1850, before moving to Australia, Taylor had purchased a considerable
number of the dies and punches from the Soho sale then later, back in London after
his return from Australia, he produced a large variety of restrikes, and fabrications,
from the 1860s onward, which have puzzled and infuriated generations of numismatists,
and at least some of which he presented to no less a luminary than Matthew Piers
It would seem very possible, therefore, that the die used by Soho for the Annand
Smith tokens was then reused by Taylor to produce the R96 restrike pennies!