I remember finding the first coin in my collection; I was nine-years-old and we had just moved into a new house where I found a filthy 10 pence coin from the Isle of Man. This led to me asking anyone who went abroad for their left over change to add to my collection.
Over the year I have collected quite a few interesting pieces, nearly all of which pale in comparison to what we have at the Museum and I would like to share a few of my favourites from the display with you.
The first is this half penny token from 1794 Mocking France at the time of the French Revolution designed by a man called Thomas Spence. On closer inspection you can see there’s honour trodden underfoot, the throne is overturned, glory is cast aside, religion shattered and divided, fire burns at every corner and daggers representing blood surround the country. On the back of the coin you can see a little play on words with “May Great Britain ever remain the reverse”.
The amusing thing I find about this coin is that in 1534 Henry VIII made a radical move separating the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. The other being the English Civil War, which ended in 1651 with the overthrowing of the throne, execution of King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell being placed as Protector of the Commonwealth.
This one is a 4 Daler coin from Sweden, and while this doesn’t look that remarkable on a screen it is actually the size of a large dinner plate, which is where it gets its name ‘plate money’.
This coin came in around the 17th Century due to a silver shortage in Sweden, so they started to make the coins from copper. However, because copper is not as valuable you would need much more of it.
The largest of these coins was a 10 Daler, which weighed nearly 20kg and was over half a metre long; this would afford someone a cow which today can go for £1200.
This one I used to entertain children in the Money Gallery, as they often think the coin collection is a little boring and they just want to go straight to the T.Rex!
It is a Spanish silver 8 Reales or “A piece of 8”, as you hear them being called in pirate films.
The reason for popularity with pirates could be down to the fact that they were made from Mexican silver and shipped back to Spain, making them a target for pirates operating in the Caribbean. Another thing was that they were widely used and became world currency, making them very easy to spend once they had been stolen.
Next time you visit Manchester Museum please do take a closer look at some of the coins in the Money Gallery, as they all have wonderful stories behind them.