The Royal Mint Museum is a museum about how coins are made as well as how coins look. While medieval dies are represented, from the reign of Charles II there was a more systematic approach to retaining tools which finds early expression in a series of portrait punches. Their characteristic shape reveals at a glance how they were made and across a range of denominations the engraver was able to retain a remarkable degree of consistency in the likeness captured.

Charles II.jpg

What is particularly interesting about the portrait punch illustrated here is the area of damage to the front of the bust and that the tool was nevertheless still identified in contemporary inventories as serviceable. One explanation is that, with an engraver spending perhaps as much as a month making such a punch, it may have been more practical to complete the portrait by hand on the die by repairing those missing elements of the neck and drapery than to have to start all over again with a new punch.



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