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Soho Mint - A World First!

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as set out in a letter from Matthew Boulton to Sir Joseph Banks, September 1789


Matthew Boulton spent much time and effort lobbying anyone and everyone who might have any influence on the decision to order a new copper coinage for Great Britain. One of his allies in the campaign was the polymath Sir Joseph Banks, whose renown as President of the Royal Society, adviser to King George III, and, of course, as the naturalist who had accompanied Captain James Cook on his voyages of exploration, meant that he had the ear of movers and shakers throughout the establishment.

Soho’s USPs - Unique Selling Propositions!

In September 1789, Boulton took care to set out for Sir Joseph the eleven principal points which he felt would help to sell the services of his mint. Here is Boulton's view of the powers of Soho!


  1. It will coin much faster, with greater ease, with fewer persons, for less expense, and more beautiful than any other machinery ever used for coining.

  2. The quantity of power or force requisite for each blow is exactly regulated and ascertained, and is always uniformly the same, for the same pieces, and thereby the dies are better preserved.

  3. One of my coining machines will work much faster by the attendance of one boy than others can do by any number of men.

  4. Can stop these machines in an instance by the power of a child and the same child can as instantaneously set them to work again.

  5. Can increase or diminish the force of the blow at pleasure, in any proportion.

  6. Can lay the pieces or blanks upon the die quite true and without care or practice as fast as wanted.

  7. Can work night and day without fatigue by two setts of boys.

  8. The machine keeps an account of the number of pieces struck which cannot be altered from the truth by any of the persons employed.

  9. The apparatus strikes an inscription upon the edge with the same blow that strikes the two faces.

 10. It strikes the ground of the pieces brighter than any other coining press can do.

 11. It strikes the pieces perfectly round, all of equal diameter, and exactly concentric with the edge, which cannot be done by any other machinery now in use.


Interestingly, though the eleven points describe the powers of Soho Mint as it was ultimately intended, they were, in September 1789, more of an aim or objective than a reality; it was at this time that Soho was striking the tokens for Roe and Company, which we know as the Cronebane halfpennies. These were struck by the steam mint, it is true, but they were not struck within a collar, they were not perfectly round, and the edge inscriptions were added to the blanks before the coins were struck. Only with the pattern Anglesey halfpence of October 1790 were the problems of roundness and concentricity actually solved, and it appears as though Boulton never attempted to strike the edge inscriptions at the same blow, always using pre-edged blanks; he could strike edges simultaneously by means of Droz's 'plateau' but this was a slow and fragile mechanism only really suited to the production of limited numbers of patterns or proofs.


The claim that the Soho presses could strike the ground of the pieces brighter than any other coining press was based on a slight twist which could be given to the die as it descended on to the blank.

More information about this, and photographic evidence of it, can be found in the account of the Anglesey 1790 halfpennies.


It is interesting to note that Boulton proposed 'night and day' operation, with only two ‘setts’ of boys, and that these boys were provided with uniform trousers and jackets, ‘washed weekly.’ Or, maybe, it was the boys who were washed weekly!

In 1949, the Mexico City Mint issued a silver Onza bullion coin.

The obverse design featured a Boulton Coin Press. A Soho steam mint had been ordered for Mexico City in 1826, similar to that already supplied to Guanojuarto,

but later cancelled, and the mint equipment ended up in Lisbon

Anglesey 1790