Robert Rock

Criminal skill: counterfeiting the coin in 18th century Britain and Ireland

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council

An investigation into the crime of forging the coin in the 18th century. Who was doing this, how were they doing it and why?

Start Date: January 2013
End Date: January 2016
Theme: Image and authority, Technologies, materials and innovation
Research discipline: Anthropology, Money and economic history
Locations: UK
Staff member: Barrie Cook
Department: Department of Coins and Medals
University and department: School of Humanities, University of Hertforshire
University supervisor: Anne Murphy, John Styles

Why did people take the risk to counterfeit the coin?

A shortage of coins for everyday transactions, and in some cases, greed.

What were the risks?

If caught in the act, they would be hanged, drawn and quartered!

Was it difficult?

It depends – if someone had a background in metal working they could produce some passable coins of their own.

About my research

My research looks into the social and economic issues of the period, using contemporary literature and publications, and examining the counterfeit coins in the Museum’s collection.

Aims of my research

I aim to discover the skills that people would need in order to produce good quality counterfeit coinage, and to present a clear image of what the process would have looked like.


I have presented at academic conferences in Britain, Ireland and Mainland Europe. I have also given a public talk in the Citi Money Gallery at the Museum.