Since the last update from the Inventory Project we have been working to reorganise and catalogue more of the museum collection. The formidable job of recording the plaster models, rubber moulds and electrotypes is now complete.
In total the museum has 4,993 of these objects for medals, 977 for seal designs, and 13,293 for UK and overseas coin designs. This means that since the project began we have re-ordered and catalogued a grand total of 19,263 plaster models, rubber moulds and electrotypes representing a span of almost 165 years of the Royal Mint’s history.
One of the earliest items we have found in this part of the collection is the plaster model for the obverse of Great Exhibition medals of 1851. This plaster, featuring the conjoined busts of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, is particularly significant as it is the last example of the work of William Wyon, chief engraver at the Royal Mint from 1828 until his death on 29 October 1851, a mere 18 days after the exhibition ended. The Queen herself admired the portraits and lamented Wyon’s death.
On the other end of the scale we also have plaster models for coins that have not yet been made and may never be selected for production.
Due to a transfer of objects in recent weeks from the engravers at the Royal Mint we were pleased to receive another 10,000 piece punches into the collection, along with their large storage cabinet. These tools will be treated and coated in the same way as the existing collection of piece punches. The intention is then to group the tools by font, country or numeral and store them all in the storage cabinet, creating a location list as we do so.
The museum is home to approximately 1800 proof and uncirculated coin sets from around the world. Proof coins are specially produced to a high standard of finish. Uncirculated coins are coins that have never been in circulation and may be more carefully produced and handled than ordinary mass produced coins. We recently spent two weeks in the museum creating a list of these sets and their locations. We particularly enjoyed this part of the project as it allowed us to see the completed designs of many of the tools we had been cataloguing in the museum stores. It also allowed us to appreciate the artistic and creative ways the proof sets have been presented and packaged.
One of our favourite sets was issued for the United Kingdom by the Royal Mint in 1983. It is particularly noteworthy as it contains the first one pound coin. It also includes the fifty, twenty, ten, five, two pence and penny coins from that year in uncirculated condition. The image on the front cover of the set depicts the Yeoman Warders of the Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, a famous landmark inextricably linked with the history of the Royal Mint. An inner page also features text and images which demonstrate the coin making process at the time of issue. This seems to us an effective and interesting way of linking the coins with their production process.
The next phase of the project is to catalogue the extensive collection of overseas coins, which are arranged geographically in the museum. We began our work in France and are currently cataloguing Nepal. We have now reached nearly 12,000 coins and our work continues.
In addition to cataloguing the collection we have also been able to reorganise two additional storage areas containing machinery, weights, assay tools and other large objects in the collection. In order to receive a reducing machine from the Royal Mint’s tool room, it was necessary to move a portion of the collection in this location. Whilst doing this we managed to group objects together by type, maximise space and finally create a map of the contents to facilitate access. As a result of this exercise we made enough space to be able to relocate into these storage areas, some of the framed artwork that had accumulated in the museum. This also allowed us to rehang and reorganise some of the framed prints, photographs and artwork in the museum space.
The remaining untreated metal tools in the large storage area are those that were not covered by the original remit of the project as they do not relate to the coins and medals. We have now begun to sort through the racks containing these tools and are in the process of identifying, cleaning and coating them.
We have found a range of interesting objects including postage and cheque tools, engravers tools, rubber stamps and counterfeit dies. It is hoped that these objects will be catalogued in brief at a later date in the project. These items would then be added to the grand total of 70,853 that we have catalogued to date.