The History and Journey of UK Coins

22/05/2013 11:07  |  General

Coins last a long time especially if they are made of gold. This means we still have the first ever pieces from Lydia, now Turkey, minted around 650 BC. From there they were spread by the Greeks and Romans around the known world. Coins circulated in Celtic Britain but the Roman occupation from 43 AD to about 410 AD, brought in a wave of their own coinage. After the Romans left, Britons went back to bartering. It was not until the 7th century that the dominant Anglo Saxons started striking their own currency.

At this time, all UK coins were made in roughly the same way. You started with a round blank of gold, silver, copper, bronze or a mix of these metals. You put this on a die and put another die on top. Then you hit the top die with a hammer which is where the term 'hammered' comes from.

Hammering continued until the 16th century when a new method was tried in France. It was known as 'milling', using a screw press rather than hammering, and produced a far superior quality. This new, improved technique had completely replaced hammering after the 1660 Restoration. The next advancement came in 1796 when Matthew Boulton used his steam engine to power a new coin press - just in time for The Royal Mint to meet the huge demands of the great re-coinage of 1816.

Gold and silver coins still circulated in Britain until 1917 when, due to the austerity of the First World War, gold was withdrawn. The last UK coins struck in silver were replaced with cupro-nickel in1947. Then in 1971 came the end of centuries of tradition as the introduction of the new decimal based coinage resulted in the demise of the old pounds, shillings and pence system.

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