These items have been sent in by E.H. Austin of Wall Heath, Kingswinford. He writes: “Recent articles in your paper on old coins and tokens prompted me to look out two that have been in a drawer for many years. The first is a silver coloured token, the size of an old shilling, produced by the Birmingham Mint to advertise not only their coinage, but non-ferrous metals in sheets, strip and wire form, as clearly stated on the obverse. The second is a bronze medallion, the size of an old farthing, with the king’s head on one side and the full text of the Lord’s Prayer on the other.
“At first glance I thought that someone had defaced an old farthing and engraved the text on the back and brazed a loop on the edge to produce a pendant. But closer examination shows that all text is embossed and not engraved. Further, the king’s head, George V, is embossed on the face, as on a coin, but the text around the periphery reads ‘The Lords Prayer’ instead of the usual king’s titles on a coin of the realm. Also, the coin and loop are integral, this means that dies and press tools must have been made to produce it.
“The purpose of the first token is obvious and a number would have been made very cheaply and the relatively expensive tooling costs would be borne by the mint as an advertising expense.
“The medallion, however, is open to speculation. Who made it, and for whom? It was obviously made by someone with access to engraving and die sinking tools and it would have taken a considerable time to make the tools, which limits the possibility of it being a ‘foreigner’, although the blanking tool is poor quality, or worn, as there are still burrs around the loop and top edge.
“Was it commissioned by a religious organisation to raise funds or was some entrepreneur selling them as jewellery? Or was it a skilled craftsman with an indulgent employer making it for his own purpose?”
Many thanks to Mr Austin for supplying the tokens.
The Lord’s Prayer token is rather a common find as they were produced by various companies in different parts of the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Initially, they seemed to have been produced for advertising, showcasing the die engraver’s art, with the prayer on one side and many different scenes or portraits on the other. Mr Austin’s type, with the portrait of George V, based upon Bertram Mackennal’s design for the Royal Mint, was produced in many variations by a number of companies as lucky charms for the soldiers of the First World War.
The text of the Lord’s Prayer used on the medallion is not that of the Book of Common Prayer but is the variant taken from Matthew, 6:9- 13, in the King James Bible, with the lines “and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” instead of “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us”, “debts” and “trespasses” being synonyms for “sins”.
The Birmingham Mint, originally known as Ralph Heaton and Sons, was founded in 1850 by die sinker Ralph Heaton II when he bought at auction equipment from the defunct Soho Mint, which had been founded by Matthew Boulton in 1788. The first coins it produced were trade tokens for Australia and in 1851 it produced coins for Chile and copper blanks for the Royal Mint. In 1853 it won its first contract to mint coins for this country, 500 tons of copper struck 1853-55.
The Heaton family minted coins for countries all over the world and diversified into other spheres, as listed on the token. In March 1889 Ralph Heaton III converted the family business to a new public limited company under the name The Mint, Birmingham.
Mr Austin’s advertising token probably dates from the early 1900s and there were three versions of it minted, one in nickel, one in coppernickel alloy, and one in aluminium-magnesium alloy.
The design features the coat of arms of Birmingham as was used between 1889 and 1936.