British Museum collections, £12.99
Weight: 13.480 g
CM SS Banks 187-24
Coins and Medals
Copper halfpenny token issued by the Carmarthen Iron Works
Carmarthen, south Wales, AD 1790s
Token of the Industrial Revolution in Wales
Copper tokens were made in increasing amounts in eighteenth-century Britain as new minting technology standardized the production process. This token, showing the Carmarthen Iron Works, was probably made on the steam-driven coin presses developed by Matthew Boulton and James Watt in the late eighteenth century.
The unofficial token pennies and halfpennies issued by local industrialists, merchants and bankers were needed as small change, for the Royal Mint's traditional reluctance to commit itself fully to the provision of coinage in other than precious metals remained in force. These copper tokens were used to pay wages to workers. The local shops in which these tokens were spent were often owned by the same industrialists who had issued the tokens.
The images on this token show iron workers at work in the foundry. On one side a smith seems to be hammering hot iron, possibly to harden it or remove impurities. On the other side foundry workers are guiding molten iron into channels of sand to produce cast pig-iron bars. The text on the edge states PAYABLE AT LONDON, BRISTOL AND CARMARTHEN. This token could evidently be used beyond the Welsh borders.
J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)