Published in Spink’s Numismatic Circular, October 1976, and re-published here with
the kind permission of Messrs Spink & Son and David Vice, with whom the copyright
In 'The Coins of the British Commonwealth of Nations' Part III, West Indies, 1965,
a brief account was given concerning the introduction of the special Bermudian copper
coinage struck in England in 1793. A total quantity of 72,000 is recorded as having
been struck at the Soho Mint, and an appendix to the account contains an extract
from the local Act of April 1794 which gave the coin legal tender status as the equivalent
of one penny, local currency.
Research among the Boulton Papers preserved at the Birmingham Assay Office produced
some further information relative to the original order, and this note is based on
this. There are four letters and a Journal entry, variously dated between November
1792 and June 1793.
The first is a letter addressed to M Boulton on 8th November 1792, stating the requirement
for the coins and furnishing a description of the proposed design. It is signed by
John Brickwood, the Agent for the Government of Bermuda:
I want for the use of one of the British Islands some copper coin, & have obtained
the sanction of Government to give it Currency in the Circulation. The Device is
to be - On one side the Head of his present Majesty and Date of the Year - on the
reverse - a Ship and the name of the Island, and the intrinsic Value to be Twelve
Pieces for Seven Pence Sterling - please to inform me what will be the cost of a
Ton Weight of such Coin, of the best Copper, and whether - a greater or a less quantity
than a Ton will make any difference in the price, and when they can be deliver'd.
For your satisfaction in point of surety I refer you to Messr Duncumb Davies & Ingram.
& waiting your answer I am
Sir Your Mos Humbl Servt
The interesting point in the letter is "have obtained the sanction of Government
to give it Currency in the Circulation." This would refer to the Government of Bermuda,
but it will be noted in the postscript to Boulton's reply, below, written the following
day, that he expresses his unwillingness to execute a coinage bearing the effigy
of His Majesty without official approval and that he was evidently under the impression
that the proposed coinage had the sanction of the British Government. Boulton's reply
details coinage costs at Soho in 1792 which include metal, dies, coinage, packing,
casks and carriage to the place of delivery in London:
Mr Jno Brickwood, Sir,
I have just recvd your favr of the 8th Int in respect to Copper Coin.
You say the intrinsick Value must be = to 12 pieces for 7d. Pray do you mean to include
in that value the Copper & the workmanship, for that will be the intrinsick Value
to you, or do you mean the copper only.
The price of a lb of the Coin you mention will be 16 pence but the price of the Copper
only will be 11 1/4d for that metal is rose 25 pr cent within one year past.
To this price must be added 20s per Ton for Casks & if one Ton only is Coind, 8 Guineas
for dies or if 3 Ton is Coined 4 Guineas or if 5 Ton is Coined nothing
Also the carriage if by Land to London £4 pr Ton
or if by Hull £2 pr Ton.
Perhaps upon the whole they will (including all ye above) cost you 16 1/4d pr lb
& that will be the lowest for coin better executed than has ever been done in any
Hence say if 7d buy 12 pieces, therefore 16 1/2d will buy 28 1/3 pieces in 1 pound
You may depend upon them being made of the finest copper & not of such base metal
as is used in this neighbourhood for such purposes.
If these terms are agreeable to you I should be glad to receive your orders in a
few days that I may put the Dies in hand before I set out to London where I propose
to be on the 17th Int at No 6 Green Lettuce Lane, Cannon Street.
I remain Sr
your most Obedt humble Servt
If you have obtained permission to make the Coin in question with ye head of the
King its well: otherwise I should be unwilling to take that liberty.
There must have been further letters, including the firm order for the coinage to
be undertaken, but these have not been traced. A note by Ruding in his 'Annals of
the Coinage of Great Britain,' 1840, records that in February 1793 'two hundred pounds
of copper coin were recommended for Bermuda' and he cites as his authority the Register
of the Committee of the Privy Council for Trade. From this it can be concluded that
Boulton's postscript resulted in Brickwood making an application on behalf of the
Government of Bermuda, for the Governor's Despatches to England in 1792 contained
the necessary request. Whichever of the two courses, the result was the issue of
an Order in Council on 1st February 1793 that accorded Royal approval for the proposed
measures of the Colonial Government.’
The Weight of the Coins
Boulton completed the coinage, and it left Soho by land carriage for London on 8th
May 1793 via Sheratt's wagon. Details of the number of pieces struck are calculated
from the Journal entry, and at the rate of 34 to the pound avoirdupois. The selection
of this coinage rate requires explanation
Boulton's letter of 9th November 1792 refers to a coinage of 28 1/3 pieces to the
lb. wt. equating to 247 grains troy each, but this was a comparative illustration
between the customer's requirement and actual basic cost.
Hocking, in his work 'Catalogue of the Coins, Tokens, Medals, Dies and Seals in the
Museum of the Royal Mint' published in 1906, states "the coins were struck by Matthew
Boulton of Birmingham, the dies being engraved by Droz. The weight of the specimen
in the mint collection is 214 1/2 grains, or about 32 1/2 pieces to the lb." However,
the specimen in the Royal Mint cabinet is a proof striking, and Boulton's Journal
entry notes the despatch by coach, on 9th May 1793, of 100 proof specimens and records
their weight as 3lbs, or 210 troy grains each, which is 33 1/3 pieces to the lb.
In Boulton's covering letter of 3rd June 1793 returning to John Brickwood a draft
Proclamation [see below] Boulton gives the weight of 12 pieces as 5oz 4 grains. This
was troy weight and each coin was officially supposed to be 200 1/3 grains, or coined
at a rate of 35 to the lb.
Finally, Boulton's Mint Book records the rate as 34 to the lb, or 205.88 grains.
This book was used for various notes and estimates for proposed coinages. Under a
note for Prices & Blanks in 1812 it mentions: 1793 Brickwood 5d/lb. 34 pieces/lb.
The coinage rate of 34 pieces to the pound avoirdupois is confirmed by EF-FDC currency
specimens available for examination. The average of five pieces was 205.9 grains.
Thus, the number coined was about 83,589, and not the 72,000 previously reported.
All previous recordings of the coin state that the dies were engraved by the Swiss
engraver Jean Pierre Droz, the claim being made on the grounds that the obverse showing
the effigy of King George III bears the name of that artist on the truncation of
the shoulder: DROZ. F
However, an informative article by Brian Gould, in Seaby's Coin & Medal Bulletin,
August/September 1972, shows that while Droz was the artist for the obverse design,
he could not have executed the reverse showing the ship. The dies for the finished
coin were the work of two engravers.
Boulton had parted with the services of Droz in the spring of 1791, and another engraver,
Rambert Dumarest, a Frenchman, left Soho on 21st July 1791. Boulton was without an
engraver from that date until another Frenchman, Noel-Alexandre Ponthon, arrived
there in the August. Ponthon remained as staff engraver at Soho until September 1795
when his place was taken by the Flemish artist Conrad Heinrich Kűchler. Kűchler commenced
engraving dies for Boulton in 1793 as an outworker but his connection with the Soho
Mint in 1793 was too late for him to have executed the Bermuda ship die. A Journal
entry for 8th May 1793 shows a charge of 3 Guineas for 'dyes for the ship' which
indicates that only one matrix die needed to be engraved to execute the coinage,
the obverse being prepared from a punch by Droz for Boulton's English pattern halfpence
of 1788-1790. So, with Ponthon filling the position of staff engraver at this period
it can be assumed with reasonable certainty that he was responsible for the reverse
of the Bermuda penny.
Following the completion and delivery of the coinage, John Brickwood wrote to Boulton,
on 29th May 1793, with the request that Boulton would complete one blank space in
an enclosed draft of the intended Proclamation for giving currency to the coin in
Bermuda. This blank must have specified the weight of the coin and Boulton, as the
Mint Master, would be a proper person to insert the details. The draft was completed
and returned to Brickwood on 3rd June, and Boulton took the opportunity to stress
the accuracy of his product by drawing attention to the 1/2% variation or remedy
allowance achieved in coinage at the Soho Mint as opposed to that permitted at the
Royal Mint at Tower Hill:
Herewith I return to you the Proclamation you favoured me with, which I have fill'd
up according to your request. The weight of 12 pieces being 5oz 4grains with a variation
of about 1/2 pr cent or 1/200 part but the variation or remedy allow'd to the Master
& Worker at the Tower for Copper Coins is = 1/40 part of ye weight...
Details of the shipment of the coins to Bermuda have not been traced, but Chalmers,
in his 1893 work 'A History of Currency in the British Colonies' quoting from an
official report, records that on the voyage out a part was captured and carried to
France; and about the sum of $600 was received in the Colony, which appeared to be
adequate to the demand for it.'
Since this report valued that part of the consignment to reach the island as about
$600 local currency and the Bermuda dollar was rated at 6s 8d Sterling, the total
number of pieces available for release into circulation must have been about 48,000,
providing the valuation was calculated on the local rate for the coin.
As related in the report of the loss, this remaining portion was deemed sufficient
and the coins were given a general circulation under the authority of an Act:
Whereas His Majesty has been graciously pleased by his Order in Council of 1st February
1793 to authorize Matthew Boulton, Esquire, of Birmingham, in England, to strike
for the use of the Inhabitants of these Islands a quantity of copper coin, not exceeding
the value of £200 Sterling; and whereas it is deemed essential to the welfare of
the community, that such part of the said coin as is already received be put into
immediate circulation, be it enacted &c that the Treasurer be authorised to pay in
any Copper Coin that is or may be in the Treasury in consequence of the said Order
in Council, to any person having a demand on the Public, 2 1/2% on the amount of
such demand at the rate of 12 coppers for 1s. currency, and that the person having
such demand be obliged to receive such Copper Coin in payment, at such rate, in the
same manner as gold and silver monies are by law or custom made payable in these
Islands, until the whole quantity of Copper Coin shall have been emitted from the
Treasury, either by payment, exchange or otherwise.
And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, that in any other payments,
after the passing of this Act, no person be obliged to received more than eleven
Coppers in any payment whatever, and that on all occasions a tender of a less number
of Coppers than twelve be deemed as payment at the rate aforesaid, in the same manner
as gold and silver monies are by law or custom made payable within these Islands.
The Act passed the Assembly on 24th April 1794, the Council on 25th, and was signed
by the Governor on 26th April 1794.