The History of Hammered Coins

Hammered coinage describes coins produced since the invention of coins in the sixth century BC until the invention of machine made or milled coinage the 15th-17th centuries.

The first hammered coins were produced from electrum (a silver and gold alloy) by the kingdom of Lydia (western Asia Minor) and then on throughout the Greek world.

Hammered coins were created by placing a blank piece of metal (blank or flan) between two dies (engraved metal originally bronze but later iron or steel), and then striking the upper die with a hammer to produce the required image on both sides. The blank was sometimes heated (annealed) until soft. The bottom (or anvil die) was usually counter sunk into firm surface (pile) such as a table or log.  

Hammered coins gradually became obsolete during the 17th century as machine screw presses replaced hand production. In England the first milled or machine made coins were produced (by a Frenchman) during the reign of Elizabeth I but the process was too slow and machine presses were not again in widespread use until the reign of Charles II.

The hammermen or moneyers were very skilled at their job and formed an important guild in the Middle Ages. In the early medieval period each major town would have its own moneyer (the marks of which can been seen on early Norman pennies). However gradually the number of mints were reduced until the reign of Mary where all minting was from the Tower of London. Temporary mints were set up again during the English Civil War and coins were even produced in besieged towns (siege money).

 

              A Silver  Tetradrachm of Alexander the Great

              Penny of William I (Moneyer Aelfwine of Taunton)

                                A Milled Sixpence of Elizabeth I

                             (Images Courtesy of Lloyd Bennett)