One of a series of Medalets, issued around 1796 by Peter Kempson
featuring buildings and sites of interest in Birmingham
Wouldn't it be great to think that here, in all its glory, is Matthew Boulton's tribute
to his Soho Mint? Yes, it would be great, but as with so many things, all is not
what it seems. True, the image is of Soho Manufactory, but the Mint was never part
of the Manufactory, being built off to the left hand side on a site formerly occupied
by Boulton's menagerie.
And the token, or more accurately medalet, is by Peter Kempson, one of Boulton's
competitors, who in the mid-1790s issued various series of pieces featuring the major
buildings of a number of cities - Birmingham being just one of these! Still, we shouldn't
worry. Kempson's piece is, perish the thought, every bit as good as Boulton's contemporary
efforts and the representation of the Manufactory is a fine piece of engraving!
● From the late 1780s almost until the end of his life, Matthew Boulton was involved
in the development of his minting technologies. Work went on apace, often more in
hope than in expectation. An outline of the progression of this work, and timelines
of what the Mint produced, will appear in Mint Timeline. The Token Timeline is already
● Part of Boulton's campaign centred on the improvements which his mint would make
in the production of money. In 1789 Boulton wrote to Sir Joseph Banks with a list
of eleven advantages which the use of his machinery would bring. See these at Soho's
USPs - its Unique Selling Propositions!
● With the demolition of virtually all of the Soho complex by the mid-1860s we are
dependent, now, on reconstructions to give us an idea of what the site looked like.
George Demidowicz has undertaken much archaeology on-site - including the famous
Time Team visit! - to determine exactly what went where. The outcome of this is a
stunning three-dimensional impression of the Park and the buildings.
● Matthew Boulton’s early hopes for innovation in minting technique rested with Jean-Pierre
Droz who, in addition to being a superlative engraver, also proposed a collar mechanism
which would produce Boulton’s ideal - fully round coins. Sue Tungate offers us a
rare chance to see Droz’s Collar in the metal.
● One of the unfortunate things about the history of the Soho Mint is the lack of
any real visual account of what the machinery looked like. One of the fortunate things
about the Soho Sale of 1850 was that most of the equipment went to Ralph Heaton,
who rebuilt the Mint in his own premises, and we know what that looked like! So click
here to see Soho v2
● An account of some of the trials and tribulations which Boulton faced before he
achieved his aim of becoming Official Coiner can be found in ‘The Early Years.’
● But Boulton's part in the industrialisation of money needs to be considered as
part of a larger picture. Industrialisation is a tour d'horizon by Dr Richard Doty
given to the Numismatic Association of Australia's 2007 Congress.
● Like all good things, Soho Mint came to its inevitable end. It didn’t go out in
a blaze of glory, more like a sea of apathy overwhelmed it. Read how the final dissolution
was reported by The Gentleman’s Magazine in June 1850 as we contemplate ‘The End.’