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East India Company & the Soho Mint

Started by Deeman, November 27, 2021, 11:34:20 AM

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Matthew Boulton's first copper coinage was the one, two and three keping coins minted for Bencoolen, the EIC's possession on the southern coast of Sumatra.

These coins were initially minted in 1786 and 1787 at his Soho Manufactory that was built for the manufacture of personal accessories like shoe buckles, medals, buttons and snuffboxes. It was an early factory which pioneered mass production on the assembly line principle. It became steam powered in 1782 due to the partnership between Boulton and Watt. There was a repeat order in 1798 struck by Boulton's steam machinery.

1787 one keping.

1786 two keping.

1786 three keping


Boulton struggled to complete the Bencoolen order. With aspirations to expand copper coin production, a mint was erected at the manufactory in 1788-89. By the end of 1790, Boulton's Soho Mint had four presses on line, plus a fifth upon which to make experiments, together with other machinery to produce coinage.

Boulton's mint secured further orders from the EIC for the Bombay Presidency dated 1791 and 1794. Coins produced were half-pice, 1 pice, 1½ pice and double pice (also called half-anna) coins. The EIC bale mark was on the obverse and a pair of balanced scales the reverse. All having the same design with value relative to size and weight. A total of 17,241,001 coins were struck.

1791 pice series.


The Bombay Presidency added half-pice, 1 pice and double pice coins in 1804, this time bearing the Arms of the EIC on the obverse and a pair of balanced scales with the date 1219 in Persian numerals below on the reverse. Again, all having the same design, the values varying in size and weight.

1804 pice series.


The EIC required coinage for the Madras Presidency.

Two coins were minted: a 1/48 rupee and a 1/96 rupee. Both coins were dated 1794 and were made in large numbers: more than 4 million 1/48 rupees and more than 9 million 1/96 rupees. These two coins were also produced dated 1797.

1794 one forty-eighth rupee.

1794 one ninety-sixth rupee


The next coinage produced was for Ceylon, which had come into the EIC's hands from the Dutch as a result of the first Napoleonic Wars.

The EIC decided to mint coinage that retained the monetary system of the old, and so they began to think about a coinage based on the stuiver and rijksdaalder of the previous colonisers. Three different coins were produced beginning in 1802: a stuiver (48 to a rijksdaalder), half-stuiver (96 to a rijksdaalder) and a quarter-stuiver (1/192 to a rijksdaalder). These coins feature an elephant and the date below on the obverse, while the reverse includes the denomination in the middle of each coin.

1802 stuiver.

1802 half-stuiver.

1802 quarter-stuiver.


Soho was soon minting additional coins for the Madras Presidency, this time consisting of 20-cash, 10-cash, 5-cash and even a one-cash coin from 1803-08. The one-cash is notable because it took 720 of them to equal one pound, and Boulton had to come up with a new method of producing such a minuscule coin.

1803 20 cash.

1808 10 cash.

1803 5 cash.

1803 1 cash.


After Matthew Boulton and James Watt died, the Soho Mint was managed by their sons.

The EIC requested them to strike a copper coinage for St. Helena, where Napoleon had been exiled, to the total value of £1,000. For this sum the EIC received 702,704 halfpenny pieces bearing the EIC's coat of arms on the obverse.

Before copper coinage arrived in St. Helena, Napoleon had died (5 May 1821). Soon after, most of the troops, high military officers, civil servants and their families had left the island. Consequently, the demand for the halfpenny pieces never reached the level originally conceived.


Splendid illustrations, fun thread, Deeman. It paints a picture of businessmen starting out in a new field and a multinational conglomerate finding each other over a high quality product. It ain't always so self-evident.

The unseen (in this thread) party was the Tower Mint. It had stayed behind technically, its staff resisted change and formed a clique defending its own interest, not realising the mint had a public function and was of social importance in that its role included facilitating fast and secure small payments. In that sense, the Tower Mint staff was running ahead of Karl Marx and 19th century political and labour conflicts, running from strikes to anarchism.

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


Hi Deeman,

Wonderful thread.  It captures the history of machine-struck EIC coins.

There is a very interesting paper from Dr. Mahesh A Kalra, that you may want to read - The Birth of the 'new' Bombay Mint c. 1790-1830 – Matthew Boulton's pioneering contribution to modernization of Indian coinage'

Below is an interesting excerpt from the above publication:

In 1809-10 the Company authorities in London began to confer with Mathew Boulton's and James Watt's sons and respective successors, Mathew Robinson Boulton and James Watt Jr. for the possibilities of building two mints, one in Calcutta and the other in Bombay. However, the negotiations came to a halt for the next decade till the Company deputed Joseph Thompson at the end of 1820 to request for an estimate for two mints, one each in Calcutta and Bombay.
The case of Bombay was taken up after the forceful arguing of its case by Capt. William Hawkins, a visionary Bombay Corps Engineer who came to head the Bombay Mint in 1820.

'Urgent as the demands are for complete and powerful machinery in the Calcutta Mint, the Records before your Hon'ble Court will fully bear me out in declaring the demands of the Bombay Mint to be infinitely greater  –  In proof of this assertion I need only mention the fact of the Hammer, Chisell, & Punch, being to this day the only Coining tools in use.
With such Barbarous implements, which are in every man's hand, it is impossible to produce a coin which may not be easily imitated – The Public are consequently exposed to every species of fraud, & to the vexation delay & expence, of submitting every Rupee, in the commonest money transaction, to the examination of a Shroff or money changer.'

This brought the Company authorities to ask for two estimates; one for a mint with double the output of the other with the larger one for Calcutta and the smaller one for Bombay. In his response to the two mints, Mathew Robinson Boulton offered to sell the old Soho Mint for £12,000 instead of supplying a new mint which would have cost the Company £ 18,515. The negotiations between the EIC and Boulton dragged for over two years till 1823. In this period, Capt. Hawkins visited the Soho Mint and was convinced of its appropriateness for the purpose of ridding the old Bombay Mint of its present ills.
Hawkins also busied himself with the process of selection of trained mint personnel in the form of six English mechanists for various functions at the proposed new mint. The Soho Mint finally was packed and shipped to Bombay reaching it on board, the Florentina on 12 February 1825 arriving without arrangements for storage of the machinery to prevent it from rusting in Bombay's sultry atmosphere. The next four years saw Hawkins battle the elements of Nature along with the delays by the Bombay Mint Committee as well as the Commissary of the Bombay Army which was responsible for indenting various equipments.
However, he received the quiet support from Boulton who smoothed his way by negotiating with the EIC London officers to accommodate Hawkins in the Bombay Mint Committee. Additionally, Boulton also dispatched a myriad set of implements from Soho to help smoothen the mint's functioning.
Thus, battling various other obstacles like bad water from the moat near the Fort to recalcitrant mint personnel, Hawkins was finally able to transplant the Soho Mint in Bombay and make it work producing a trial copper pattern medallion with the image of a marching Lion with a Palm on the obverse and the reverse with 'BOMBAY 1828' inscribed on eight-pointed circular border. The British Museum has a fine sample of this type illustrated in the catalogue. This pattern believed to have been produced at the beginning of 1829 to showcase the new mint's achievement and also the completion of the 'new' Bombay Mint.
The 'new' Bombay Mint was also moved into new premises outside the old fort into spacious chambers created especially for the purpose.
The new mint building was built and housed at its current location in the centre of the South Bombay business district of modern day Mumbai. Unfortunately, none of the original workers including Capt. Hawkins survived to see the day; Hawkins reportedly died of the overwork after installing the new Mint's skeletal working infrastructure in place while travelling to the Cape of Good Hope for recuperation on 19February 1831 and buried on sea. The EIC had promoted him to the rank of a Major for his efforts but the increased responsibilities hastened his demise.

The first issue of the new Bombay Mint was a Copper Quarter Anna issued with the design copied from the Soho issue of 1804 with the change of dates to English 1830 and Hijri 1246 on the coin as the new mint commenced production on 22 November 1830 using the refitted Soho machinery. The new issues had dies engraved at the 'new' Bombay Mint.

By 1832 Half Anna coins were also issued. The year also saw the introduction of machine struck silver rupees and gold mohurs and their denominations issued from the new Bombay Mint as seen in proclamation in Bombay dated 17 October 1832. The gold coins issued hereafter were GoldMohur of fifteen rupees, 2/3 Mohur of ten rupees and 1/3 Mohurs or Panchias.

I did not find much about the 'New' Calcutta Mint, except what is on Wikipedia.  It would be good to know it's history and what were the first few coins struck at Calcutta's 'New' refurbished mint.


Kalra's paper can be downloaded (free) here

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


Thank You for the link Peter.  I have a copy of the publication but forgot which site I got it from.