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Private Mint

Private Mint.  A nongovernment mint. A private manufacturer with blanking, coining and die-making equipment to custom produce coins, tokens and small medals for anyone. Private mints have been established in countries of high industrial activity: Great Britain, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. The term "mint" in the term implies the manufacture of coins, requiring the use of coining presses. But these same coining presses can also strike tokens – and medals like coins (see coin-medal). To keep their presses busy, private mints frequently strike noncoin items. However, coining presses cannot strike pieces larger than, say, two inches; thus private mints generally do not have the capacity for large medal manufacturing. This is the specialize activity of medal makers (see medal manufacturing).

Private mints have never replaced national mints (governments closely guard this exclusive right to strike their own coins). However private mints have rendered services, like supplying roll strip or blanks, to national mints in times of need. Only in the 20th century have private mints taken on a marketing activity to sell direct to the public the coins, medals and tokens they produce.

History of private mints.  The first such private mint was Matthew Boulton's Soho Mint in Birmingham, established in 1788. In the 1760s Boulton developed an engine business based upon the inventions of James Watt. Once this business was running smoothly Boulton sought other ventures involving machinery that could run off his steam powered engines. He made experiments with die stamping, establishing, in 1782, a shop for diestamping and a button factory. He struck some prototype coins as early as 1786.

There was a shortage of copper coinage in England at the time and Boulton developed a plan for striking coins to relieve the shortage. To implement this plan he established the Soho Mint. He hired Jean-Pierre Droz (1746-1823), a Swiss engraver working at the Paris Mint, built a building and filled it with machinery run by his engines. He didn't get the contract to strike coins for the sovereignty, but he did strike coins for countries (Bahamas) and tokens for the merchants of England. In 1805 this early effort failed but some of the equipment was obtained by the son of his old partner, James Watt, who had established a mint under this name. And some was obtained by Ralph Heaton, who, in 1819 established the Heaton Mint. The later flourished and has been called The Birmingham Mint, or simply, The Mint, ever since.

While the Birmingham Mint dominated private custom coining for a century, some German firms were very active. Berlin's Oertel not only struck coins, but medals of all sizes, and tokens as well.  Here are some notable private mints and their marks:

Name, LocationMintmarkActive Period
Ackroyd & Best Ltd., Morley, EnglandA 1920
Argor S.A. Lavorazione, SwitzerlandARGOR 1961-date
Birmingham Mint, BirminghamH 1819-date
Boulton's Soho Mint, BirminghamK, SOHO 1788-1806
Central American Mint Ltd.,San SalvadorCAM 1892-94
Franklin Mint, Media, PennsylvaniaFM 1965-89
J.R. Gaunt, BirminghamG1920
Heaton Mint, Birmingham.H, HEAT0N1819-date
Hirsch Messing und Kupfewerke, Berlin.A1901
Huguenin Freres, Le Locole, SwitzHUGUENIN 1868-date
King's Norton, BirminghamKN1919-72
Krupp, Berlin1894
Lauer, NuremburgV1888-1918
John Milton, LondonM1788-92
Oertel (Berliner Medaillen-Munze Otto Oertel), BerlinOERTEL 1892-1910
Oeschger-Merdoch, Barcelonia OM1865-90
Pobjoy Mint, Ltd, Sutton, England
Poissy, France(Thunderbold) 1924-25
Sproong, Sweden
Stora Kopparbergs-Bergslag, Sweden 1719-91
Sunshine Mint, Hayden Lake, Idaho
James Watt & Co., BirminghamW1786-1905
Wolschot, AntwerpR1814
Wyon Private Mint, LondonWW1843


excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


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