A symbol of royal power for nearly 1,000 years, the Tower of London remains one of Britain’s most iconic attractions.

But did you know that for over 500 years The Tower of London housed The Royal Mint?

It’s safe to say that during The Royal Mint’s time in The Tower, making coins was hot, noisy and dangerous affair. So much so that tampering with coins was considered treason, and the threat of gruesome punishment alone was enough to deter most, if not all, forgers and thieves.

For me, there’s no coin stories as fascinating as the ones that originate from The Royal Mint’s time a at The Tower. Here’s a selection of my very favourite ones…

Health and Safety was not a concern

In stark comparison to the society we live in today, the health and safety of Mint workers was not a top priority during the Mint’s time in The Tower.

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The Royal Mint was housed in The Tower of London for over 500 years, from 1279 to 1810. Image courtesy of Regency History.

Mechanisation in the 1600’s was welcome relief for Mint workers, as up until this point, all coins were made by hand. As a result, it wasn’t unusual for workers to be injured, and the loss of fingers and eyes was not uncommon.

When it came to striking the coins, split second timing and staying alert could mean the difference between making a coin and losing a finger! That’s because in order to strike a coin, one worker would place a handmade piece of metal between two engraved stamps – called dies – and a second worker would then strike it with a hammer. This procedure would stamp the coin design on to the metal, but if both parties were not on the ball sometimes a finger would be removed in the process.

Even then, it actually wasn’t until screw-operated presses were introduced in the 1700’s that life for Mint workers became relatively safe.

Dirty, deadly money

Working in the Mint was dirty and dangerous work. Huge furnaces were used to melt down precious metal, and the air was full of deadly chemicals and poisonous gases. This made the coin making process a real hazard.

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The Silver Melting House at The Royal Mint. Image courtesy of Old UK Photos.

In the 1560’s a group of unfortunate German workers learned this the hard way. Several of them were suspected to have been poisoned by clouds of noxious gas, and they fell incredibly ill. Seasoned workers at the Mint advised them of the cure – to drink milk from a human skull! Despite the so called ‘cure’, several men died.

The mysterious case of Sleeping Beauty

Several decades prior to this, in the 1540’s, William Foxley was another victim of the Mint’s lax health and safety. Though how exactly, still no one to this day knows for sure! Foxley was a potter at the Mint, and one day he fell asleep over his pots and no one could wake him up.

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Engraving of The Mint Engraving by John Bluck after artwork by Thomas Rowlandson & Auguste Charles Puginm from the publication ‘The Microcosm of London’. Image courtesy of The Tower of London.

It’s unclear what exactly caused Foxley’s coma, and allegedly King Henry VIII himself swung by The Tower to check out the mysterious sleeping beauty. For the majority of the British population, the only way they knew what their monarch looked like was thanks to the obverse of the coin. So Foxley will have been disappointed to have slept through his audience with the King.

This case perplexed physicians for 14 days, after which Foxley woke up and was the picture of perfect health. Remarkably he lived for another 40 years.

Tampering with coins was considered treason

Treason was not taken lightly. In fact any tampering with coins, such as shaving silver from the edge of a coin to steal it, was classed as treason and the severe punishments that awaited thieves and forgers was nearly enough in most instances to put them off.

During medieval times, the sentence for a first-time convicted counterfeiter was to remove their right hand. Any second offences were punishable by castration. It’s unknown exactly what followed this particularly gruesome punishment for a third or even a fourth offence.

But if you think this is severe, in later years and right up until the 1700’s male forgers suffered a traitor’s death – that is to be hung, drawn and quartered. Meanwhile, female forgers were either burned at the stake or transported on one of the infamous convict ships to their designated place of exile.


If you’re interested…

The Royal Mint has just released a BRAND NEW UK £5 coin to celebrate its longstanding and fascinating history with The Tower of London.

UK 2020 The Royal Mint Silver Proof 5 Pound Coin Product Images Coin Obverse Reverse - Tales from The Tower’s maximum security Mint – where making coins was a dangerous business

The coin is available in a range of specifications, including Brilliant Uncirculated and extremely limited edition Silver Proof and Silver Proof Piedfort. Given the historical significance of this commemorative, it is expected to be highly sought-after by serious collectors now and in years to come. That said, we do not expect to be able to offer it for long.

Click here for more information and to view the range >>

Earlier this week, three brand new £2 coins were released to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

So in my latest video I tell you everything you need to know about these hugely popular new coins, from their INCREDIBLY SMALL 495 worldwide edition limit, to the inspiration behind the designs. It really is a video you can’t afford to miss.


If you’re interested

DN Jersey £2 BoB BU gold and Silver sets homepage banners 4 1024x386 - Everything you need to know about the NEW £2 collection that only 495 collectors can own

At the end of the month Britain will be leaving the European Union and HM Treasury have already announced a special commemorative 50p will enter circulation to mark the significant moment.

And if you want to be kept up to date with information about this new UK Brexit 50p, click here to register your interest.

But this won’t be the first time Britain’s relationship with the EU has been commemorated on coins. Whatever your feelings on our upcoming departure from the EU, our relationship with the continent has certainly produced some of the most iconic and important 50p releases ever from The Royal Mint!

Here are the coins that tell the story of Britain in the EU…

1973 European Economic Community 50p – the FIRST commemorative 50p!

Lge UK Joins the EC - Britain in Europe - a story of debates, delays and COLLECTABLE 50ps!

After over a decade of debate and discussion, in 1973 Britain was finally successful in its attempts to join the European Economic Community, known as the EEC. And to mark this important moment, The Royal Mint issued a brand new 50p to celebrate the UK’s accession. It features nine hands clasping each other in a circle, symbolising the nine member states of the community.

This coin now stands as a hugely significant issue in British history, but it also stands as an extremely important numismatic release. That’s because it was the FIRST EVER commemorative 50p! This was the coin that started what has become the world’s most popular coin collecting craze and paved the way for the Olympic, Beatrix Potter and Kew Gardens 50ps we’re now so familiar with.

1992/3 UK European Community Presidency – the RAREST ever 50p!

Lge UK Presidency 50p - Britain in Europe - a story of debates, delays and COLLECTABLE 50ps!

The 1992/3 50p celebrates the UK’s presidency of the European Council of Ministers, and the completion of the Single Market. The design by Mary Milner Dickens features a conference table seen from above, around which are the 12 chairs for the Council of Ministers with the UK at the head of the table.

This 50p was released at a difficult time in the UK’s relationship with Europe. A strong Eurosceptic voice began to be heard in Parliament, with Thatcher having recently stepped down as Prime Minister and the formation of the UK Independence Party. 

But most collectors will be aware of this 50p as being one of the most sought-after coins ever issued by The Royal Mint. There have been some extremely scarce 50ps issued since its introduction over 50p years ago, but with a mintage of just 109,000 (around half of the Kew Gardens 50p) the EC Presidency is the rarest UK 50p coin to enter circulation!

1998 UK entry to EEC 25th Anniversary 50p – the FIRST new-sized 50p!

1992 UK EEC Presidency 50p - Britain in Europe - a story of debates, delays and COLLECTABLE 50ps!

In 1998 a new 50p was issued to commemorate 25 years of the UK in the EEC. The previous decade had been occupied with much debate and discussion over Britain’s membership of the European Union, playing a part in the decline of the Conservative Party and the landslide election victory by Tony Blair’s Labour Party.

This 50p marked a key change in the 50p – it was the FIRST to be released in the smaller sized specification we know today. The old larger coins were removed from circulation and it’s this new sized 50p that has featured some of the UK’s most iconic coin designs.

2020 Brexit 50p – the MOST IMPORTANT coin release of the decade!

To mark the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, it has been announced that a brand new 50p will be released into circulation on 31st January along with special commemorative Gold, Silver Proof, and Brilliant Uncirculated editions available to order from that date.

The final design features the inscription ‘Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations’ and the historic date 31st January 2020 – the date the UK will officially leave the European Union.

The three previous 50ps issued to mark the UK’s relationship with the EU have all become iconic releases in their own right, and I have a feeling this brand new coin may just stand as the most collectable of them all!

If you want to be kept up to date with information about the new UK Brexit 50p, then register your interest below.

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DateStamp Brexit Britannia and 50p Images Everslabs and Coins - Britain in Europe - a story of debates, delays and COLLECTABLE 50ps!

If you’re interested…

Britain’s departure from the EU at the end of the month is sure to be one of the most important historic moments of our lifetime. And to mark the occasion you can own one of a limited number of Silver Britannias alongside the original 1973 EEC 50p, specially preserved in a one-day-only DateStamp™ issue to mark Britain leaving the European Union.

Click here to find out more >>