Few substantial items of obsolete minting equipment have survived, though the Royal Mint Museum is fortunate to possess about half-a-dozen coining and blanking presses from 100 or so years ago. Three old reducing machines also survive, one of them being of particular interest in that it was purchased in the 1820s for use by the engraver William Wyon and is currently on display at the British Museum. Other large items include trolleys, balances and scales, while among the smaller items are hand-held gauges for measuring the thickness of metal strip.
Browse highlights of the minting equipment collection below.
While the Royal Mint Museum has a very good collection of coins to reflect its work over the centuries, the machinery and equipment used to make coins has not survived to the same extent. A few medieval dies have been preserved and sets of weights from the reigns of Elizabeth I and Queen Anne have also come down to us but the gauge illustrated here, dated 1805, is nevertheless one of the oldest surviving pieces of equipment connected with the production of coins at the Royal Mint.
It was used to measure the thickness of gold and silver strip and, as is often the case with equipment that is simple in function and design, gauges of a very similar type continued to be used until well into the second half of the last century.
Automatic coin counting machines of the type illustrated were introduced into the Royal Mint during the 1890s and although large and clumsy in appearance, they proved extremely useful as labour-saving devices. The current generation of such machines in the Royal Mint are fed from overhead containers and, aside from having to be replenished from time to time with fresh coin, are entirely unmanned.
In the Royal Mint’s move from Tower Hill to South Wales, architectural drawings and plans of all descriptions were rolled up, set to one side and eventually found their way into the Museum. The operating drawing for the counting machine, familiar from an old photograph showing it hanging on a wall by the machine itself, was one such drawing but was in serious need of cleaning and restoration. Thanks to the help of a conservator who works for the National Museum of Wales it has been transformed and now hangs in the Museum.
For 100 years from the end of the 19th century reducing machines of the type exhibited here in the Royal Mint Museum were a key element in the process of making dies. Acting like a three-dimensional pantograph, the machine traced the details of an electrotype copy of an artist’s plaster model and by means of a horizontal bar transferred the movements of the tracer to a cutter at the other end of the machine to generate a steel punch at the reduced size required. It has now been superseded by modern computer technology.
One of the most familiar images of the Royal Mint’s reducing machines in action dates from 1933 and offers a rare view of the Reducing Room with its high glass roof and rows of electrotypes on the walls. Surviving as an original glass negative, the image lends itself to massive enlargement and it was the use of a very large reproduction in an exhibition in London that enabled two visitors to identify the craftsman in the photograph as the long-serving Alfred Patrick Tims.
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The automatic balance clearly highlights and represents The Royal Mint’s concern for accuracy and precision.
The objects in the Museum each represent a stage in the process of transforming a concept into a coin.
In the Museum we have several reducing machines which were once integral to the process of minting.