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Cromwell Halfcrown, 1658
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SunandAnchor - Milled Coins

           Milling coins was another ball game, entirely different to hammered coinage. Milled coins were not hammered but pressed between two dies into the metal. The lifetime of these dies was extended over that seen for hammered because the mill slowly impressed the die onto the metal. This gentle coming together in a consistent way led to much longer die life. Also this process was a single act so no double strikings and of course the orientation of the dies was part of the setup of the equipment. There was also a second process where the edge of the coin was pressed with a message. This was deemed necessary to deter owners from edge clipping or filing metal away from the edge before passing a coin on at it’s full value but now under weight. So a much higher quality of coinage but at a higher price and a lower rate of production.

            Pierre Blondeau was invited over from Paris to demonstrate what was possible. The engraver Thomas Symonds was commanded to produce dies to make, halfcrowns, shillings and sixpences, around 100 pieces in total which could then be evaluated along with costs. The mint under the direction of Ramage competed with their own milled coinage but were only able to make a few examples. In the end the mint was able to argue that the excessive costs of milling coinage were just too high to bear and that the hammer would continue.

            The Symonds dies were leading edge in that the engraving incorporated the highest level of image resolution to prove what the mill process could achieve. The Irish harp was given not 7 but 13 strings. The cross hatch was of a very fine variety, The inner beading was extra fine usually reserved for “fine work dies”. The outer beading was deep and strong to protect the centre of the coin from wear and tear. On the obverse for the first time leaf veins were incorporated into the design probably to monitor die wear. These were top quality dies produced to test both the engraver and the mill Process. Both Symonds and Blondeau rose to the occasion Suggesting that they were a match winning team. 

Blondeau HCR obv
Blondeau HCR rev

The “Blondeau” milled halfcrown of 1651 - 34 mm

Edge Inscription -

. IN . THE . THIRD . YEARE . OF . FREEDOM . BY . GODS , BLESSING . RESTORED . 1651

TRVTH  AND  PEACE  1651  PETRVS  BLONDAEVS  INVENTOR  FECIT

Blondeau Shilling Rev
Blondeau Shilling Obv
Blondeau Sixpence Rev
Blondeau Sixpence Obv

Blondeau Milled Shilling - 27 mm                                                                                                                        Blondeau Milled Sixpence - 22 mm

Ramage HCR
Ramage HCR

The “Ramage” milled halfcrown of 1651

Edge Inscription -

TRVTH *  AND *  PEACE * 1651 *

           The “Ramage” pieces are really very strange. One has the feeling that Thomas Symonds with his design was leading the way to the future in that his design embodied features that were to become the design for the future. Clearly the hammer process was incapable of reproducing his finely engraved design but a de-tuned version was adopted for the remaining years.  On the other hand Ramage had produced halfcrowns which were totally different in design and quite crude in image resolution with non-conventional legends. Very few samples were circulated which suggests that there were production problems inside the mint. So a clear winning team but no adoption of what was on offer.

           One curious point is that the silver crown was omitted from these trials. This coin required the highest pressure to press the dies. This would have tested Blondeau’s equipment to the limit and Symonds dies. Either the mint only needed to see halfcrowns their largest challenge for coins being clipped, or Blondeau’s press was limited to the size of die it could handle. Either way and opportunity was lost to see if the silver crown was viable using this mill process.  An opportunity which was to cost them dearly in 1658.

           A second trial was to be made in 1656 with a totally new design featuring the bust of Oliver Cromwell himself. Three denominations were chosen for the trial - the gold fifty shilling, the gold Broad of 20 shillings and the silver halfcrown which was probably the control for comparison to previous work. All went well but it was decided that the halfcrown dies needed to be more deeply engraved. Notice again another lost opportunity to run the larger silver crown.

Cromwell 56 HCR Cromwell 56 HCR
Cromwell Broad Cromwell Broad

The more deeply engraved dies were finally produced just before Oliver Cromwell died in September 1658. This time the silver crown was one of three pieces - crown, halfcrown and shilling. These were made in Blondeau’s premises in Drury Lane so his patented process might remain a secret. No records are known of just how many milled coins were made but today they are relatively common which suggests that the numbers were high. The crown presented a problem as the now infamous cracked die appeared early on in the production run. Why ? One has to think of two possibilities. Either the depth of the engraving was too high on the obverse requiring excessive pressure to be applied which cracked the die not once but eventually twice, or the press itself was being used outside its practical range which led to the dies not being parallel and cracking the weakest die. Die wear suggests the engraving depth on the obverse was too deep as the centre wear suggests the rim was not as high as the bust in the centre. 

Cromwell Crown early production
Cromwell Crown Cromwell Crown Late Production
Cromwell Crown

Cromwell Crown , early production, circulated,  with a Far East chop mark below bust, 40 mm                       Cromwell Crown, late production, uncirculated, with two obverse die cracks apparent, 40 mm

Cromwell 58 HCR
Cromwell 58 HCRa

Cromwell Halfcrown (enlarged), actual size is 34 mm,regarded by many as the finest quality milled piece of the 17th century

Cromwell Shilling
Cromwell Shilling

   Cromwell Shilling (enlarged), actual size is 27mm

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