July 1, 2023

The Birmingham Letters for the Silver 1813 Tokens

1813 Eighteen Pence Token
(click on image to enlarge)
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Before the Royal Mint struck the 1813 tokens, the States of Jersey requested that the Soho Mint make this coinage. It is interesting to note that the three different types of tokens were requested: Since the Privy Council warned that the making of these tokens by a private mint might by punishable by law, Matthew Boulton declined to make them. Eventually, the Royal Mint struck only the eighteen pence and three shillings tokens.
The following letter was from Fr. Godfray Greffier to Matthew Boulton requesting coinage of silver tokens. Note the three different tokens and the amounts requested.
17th December 1812


Your letter on the subject of a proposed coinage of silver tokens addressed to Sir John Dumaresq, has been laid before the Committee of the States, appointed to manage this business; and I am now directed by the Committee to send you the enclosed copy of a letter from Lord Chetwynd, stating that it does not appear objectionable to the Lords of His Majesty's Privy Council to allow the States of this Island to issue silver tokens.

As the Gentlemen composing the Committee are unacquainted with the particular mode of executing a coinage of this nature, under the authority of the Officers of the Royal Mint, they are uncertain whether they can avail themselves of your assistance. It is desired that you would undertake to transact the whole of the business if the restrictions in the Oder of Council does not prevent such an arrangement. The Committee having determined in the first instance, to issue tokens to the amount of £10,000 only, you will be desired to purchase an adequate supply of Bullion in Dollars, to be coined into pieces of three sizes, and in the following proportions viz: We are not prepared to particularize the perceive and relative weights of each of these denominations of coin, but we presume that it will sufficient to state that we wish the difference between the real and nominal value of our tokens to be such as to defray all the expenses attending the operation (including interest during the process, commission and insurance) and to yield a further reserve of three per cent to cover all other contingencies.

It is intended to adapt the general style of the 3 shilling bank token for the several sizes of our coinage, with these necessary alterations; the Arms of the Island, of which I have enclosed a sketch, to be substituted for the King's Head, on the front of the piece, and the legend to be altered to the "States of Jersey"; and on the reverse the inscription to be "Jersey token".

I am further directed to request that, if it such your conveniency to undertake this business, you will have the goodness to state to me, for the information of the Committee, what will be the amount of your charge, including every expense to the period when the coin will be forwarded in packages for embarkation, insured against every risk.

I am, Sir
Your Obedient and humble servant,

Fr. Godfray Greffier

When writing to Matthew Boulton, Fr. Godfray Greffier enclosed the following letter. The letter was from Lord Chetwynd to J. Beckett. Lord Chetwynd states the tokens should be minted at the Royal Mint.
Council Office
18th November 1812


The Lords of His Majesty's Most Honorable Privy Council, having had under consideration the copy of a letter from Lt. General Don transmitted in your letter of the 5th instance stating that in consequence of some mercantile persons in Guernsey having entered into a Resolution to receive the different Coins now in circulation at an increased value, a considerable quantity of specie has been already exported to that Island from Jersey and a great deal has been hoarded up, for the purpose of being conveyed thither, the first favorable opportunity.

Their Lordships having likewise taken into consideration the act passed by the States of Jersey (transmitted also in your said letter) for the issuing a local Coin, I have it in command to acquaint you for the information of Lord Sidmouth that the Lords of the Council conceive that an association to receive the coins of a country at a higher value than that put upon them by Law, is highly reprehensible and therefore think it may be advisable that the opinion of His Majesty's Law Officers should be taken whether such conduct is not punishable by Law.

It does not appear to their Lordships objectionable to allow the States of Guernsey or Jersey to issue silver tokens for the use of their respective States, on condition that such tokens shall be coined at the Royal Mint here, of silver provided by the said States and that the States who issue such tokens shall command by a Law to be passed for that purpose, to receive them back, whenever it may become necessary at a rate not less than that at which they shall have been respectively issued.

I am however to observe that the States ought to be aware of the hazard of counterfeits which must necessarily attend the issue of tokens much above their real value and that therefore it will be incumbent on them to watch over their circulation lest the introduction of counterfeits should destroy confidence in the tokens issued under their authority.

I am ...

Signed / Chetwynd

The following letter was from Matthew Boulton to Fr. Godfray Greffier replying to the request for coinage of silver tokens.
To Fr. Godefry Greffier Esq
7th January 1813

On the application of the States of Jersey for a coinage of Silver-Tokens. The copy of Lord Chetwynd's letter accompanying Mr. Greffier's, seems to hold it not as the opinion of the Privy Council for coin, that more should be struck & considered as legal coinery, excepting by the officers of the Tower Mint. This opinion of course prevents my embarking on the undertaking.

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 3782/13/11/89 Letter. Francis Godfray Greffier (Jersey) to Matthew Robinson Boulton (-).
2.  MS 3782/13/11/157 Copy letter. Matthew Robinson Boulton (Soho) to Francis Godfray Greffier (-).

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