July 1, 2023

The Birmingham Letters for a Proposed 1796 Copper Tokens

     In a letter dated May 20, 1796, Charles William of Jersey made an enquiry to Thomas Willams, the copper king of Anglesey, about the production of a token coinage for the island of Jersey. In this letter he writes:
... I take the opportunity of sending you five different coins, which all pay current in this Island. What is extraordinary the government half penny will not pay here for more than two liards or a farthing and they will take any of the provincial half pennies for acceptance of their value, a French Sol ...
... The least is called un liard de France. The next in size two liards or a farthing. The large one as un Sol or a half penny in value. I send you two of two liards pieces, one of which is a new copper piece sent here by the friendly people of Birmingham. On each coin I would wish to have the arms of Jersey, (which I send enclosed) struck on one side, and on the other, I should like to have Mont Orgueil Castle - an ancient castle in this Island, and very picturesque - a sketch of which I'll do myself the honor of sending as soon as possible.

     On the smallest coin - the three leopards of one side - and - Liard de Jersey , put on the other in the manner - Liard de France - is put on the one. I now have the honor to send you will be sufficient.

     On the next livre I would also have put under the leopards deux Liards de Jersey - and on the largest in the same manner - un Sol de Jersey - under the castle - Mont Orgueil its' name.

     For a motto - if there is room round the leopards

Mon Dieu, mon Roi, ma Patrie (in English: My God, my King, my Homeland)

Or Une Foi, un Roi, une Loi

(in English: One faith, one King, one Law)

But before the matter is taken in hand, I should be glad to know what expense will attend such coinage.

missing image
Boulton's Computations for the Proposed Coinage.

     The letter was forward to Matthew Boulton, the owner of the Soho mint. Boulton wrote that he had no objection to strike them. He also detailed the cost and profit for minting these pieces.

As we now know, these proposed tokens were not struck.

It is interesting to note that Charles William was most probably a relation of Henry de Jersey who with Charles Bishop had the famous Guernsey Bishop de Jersey Five Shilling token minted.

This information about the Birmingham letters is made possible by Phil Warrington, a fellow numismatist and my friend of many years. Phil went to the trouble going to the Birmingham libaray and making digital copies of these letters. These images can be viewed at:

These documents are held at Birmingham Archives & Heritage, Birmingham Central Library (GB 143 BA&H). All references to MS documents come from there.
1.  MS 3782/12/73/122 Letter. Thomas Williams (Anglesey) to Matthew Boulton (Soho).
2.  MS 3782/12/73/123 Copy letter. Thomas Williams (Anglesey) to Matthew Boulton (Soho).

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