Heatons and Monaco

Started by translateltd, August 09, 2008, 09:35:12 PM

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translateltd

Quote from: Figleaf on August 09, 2008, 01:35:32 PM
Sweeny's book is a must-have for British and Commonwealth coin collectors [...]

My favourite part (Appendix 1) is the one that deals with the family operations in the Marseille mint, which would mean the death of coinage in Monaco.

Peter

I'd love to know more about that story when you have time, Peter.


Figleaf

#1
Ever since Francisco "Malizia" Grimaldi seized the fortress of Monaco in 1297 dressed up as a monk, with a sword under his robes, the place became a hangout for the worst scum of te Mediterranean. Here, damaged warships from any nation, Arabic fishermen pursued by overzealous christians and vile slave traders from the Barbary coast would find refuge and repairs if they could afford them, right next to French and Italian smugglers. Here, degenerate French noblemen could conclude business with pirates and try out the latest venereal diseases. As long as there was money in their pockets, everyone was welcome to Monaco.

Monaco had a mint. True to character it struck close copies and lightweight imitations of just about every minor coin that was popular in the Mediterranean. The French product, made in Marseille under the strict centralized order of the French kings, could never compete. The Marseille mint was unprofitable, unworthy of investment and falling into disrepair.

In 1793, there was a sudden change. France took Monaco and silenced its mint. For a few years nothing happened. Then, a shortage of small coin started to develop in the western basin of the mediterranean. Before the French could react, Napoleon had fallen and Monaco was independent again, happily churning out lightweight coins until the French told them they could only produce coins on the French standard. France had learned its lesson. In 1852, they hired the company of "Ralph Heaton and sons" to upgrade the Marseille Mint. The deal had to be self-financing. The machines were calculated to be not more than £4 000, to be financed by the profits of the mint. The copper wold be furnished by the French government and was obtained from the demonetization of the coppers of the French revolution. This actually left the Marseille mint in private British hands for a period of time. Therefore, the whole deal was treated as a state secret.

It is interesting to quote Ralph Heaton III on what he found in the Mint: "  six brass coining presses out of order ... five rusty old milling machines, four decent cutting-out presses, etc". The Mint didn't even have its own power plant. Ralph bough two second-hand boilers and a second hand steamboat engine and had a new chimney constructed to get things going. He had modern equipment sent from Birmingham (the French government offered to forgive customs duties if they could have scale drawings of the machines. Heaton refused.). The total cost of upgrading came to £3 700.

The Heatons brought over Englishmen for key positions. One of them was Edward Wyon, who was going to make a name for himself in the business with operations in Asia. More obstacles presented themselves as the minting got started until the British and the French started to exchange secrets of the trade. In this way, Heaton learned how to make his coins darker and how to prevent the metal from splitting during the rolling process and the French learned how to harden dies with heat.

By 1856 the debt was paid and the British were told to leave. Having a good plant on their hands, the French proceeded to tell Monaco that their services were no longer needed. For a long time, France did not tolerate any coins from Monaco. However, it did provide Monaco with gold 20 and 100 franc coins, meticulously on the French standard and struck by the Paris mint. In and after the first world war, France suffered a severe crisis of small change, due to its own shortsighted policies concerning German war damages payments. In this climate, Monaco managed to issue a series of emergency coins. The first series, dated 1924 has an expiry date (31st December 1926), presumably to ease French worries. The second series, dated 1926 has no expiry date. Monaco had won some trust back. (Possibly, Monaco casino chips were used as money in this period)

In the second world war, Monaco was officially neutral, but in reality the Grimaldis were quite allied-minded, even though the population counted a significant number of fascist-leaning Italians. Once again, Monaco was able to issue some coins on the standard of the Vichy-French coins. In 1943, Mussolini occupied Monaco. After his fall, the German army took over, only to be driven out in turn in 1944. By that time, Prince Louis secretly helped intended Gestapo victims to decamp in time and his son was fighting on the side of the Allies in a Free French uniform. That did the trick. A new treaty provided that Monaco could issue coins again, provided they were struck on the French standard and in a French mint. This treaty still rules the issue of euro coins: Paris determines when and how many will be struck and sells them to collectors.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

translateltd

Quote from: Figleaf on August 11, 2008, 08:50:32 PM
By 1856 the debt was paid and the British were told to leave. Having a good plant on their hands, the French proceeded to tell Monaco that their services were no longer needed.

Peter

Thanks for this, Peter.  The quoted part above is what pricked my interest - which coins was Monaco supposedly making prior to 1856?  The copper coins of Monaco dated 1837-38 were of the style and size of the early French republican coins of the late 1790s/early 1800s, and there were no other dated issues till the gold coins of 1877-78 as far as I can see.  Or are you saying that Monaco struck coins of the French type that are somehow not recorded in the catalogues?

Martin
NZ

Figleaf

Can't find the exact info, but from memory, North African coins with low silver content. I must have a pic of a suspect Algerian coin somewhere. If I can find it, I'll post it here.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Figleaf

I never retrieved the information, but others answered for me here.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.