The E-Sylum:  Volume 8, Number 38, September 4, 2005, Article 17


Last week I asked, "Can anyone fill us in on how the
Birmingham Mint came to be owned by IMI?"

Kavan Ratnatunga writes: "When I wrote up a page on my
Birmingham Mint Trial specimens, Trial specimens
I had saved link to Full Story

I must find out if that collection recently gifted has the
Ceylon 1965 10 cent trial from the Birmingham Mint which
I discovered is not in the Royal Mint collection.

I would like to find out more about the sale of duplicates in
the late 1960's since my specimen may have originated in
such a sale and listed in some Auction catalog or sale list."

[The page Kavan referenced has an image of a letter from
IMI management from the time of the closure of the mint
in 1991. It touches on the mint's history - here is an excerpt:

"The IMI mint dates back to the early years of the twentieth
century. Then the King's Norton Metal Co Ltd established
itself an almost rural suburb of Birmingham as a specialist
manufacturer of coinage strip and coin blanks. This was soon
followed by a minting department and the Company was
privileged to supply the British Royal Mint with strip and
blanks and was entrusted with striking coinage for various
territories overseas.

In 1911 and 1912, the King's Norton Metal Co supplied
bronze blanks for pennies, halfpennies and farthings.
Subsequently UK coins were minted at King's Norton and
this led to the recognition of the mint mark KN which has,
very unobtrusively, appeared on the reverse of many millions
of coins for a large number of different companies."

King's Norton eventually became part of Imperial Metal
Industries, or IMI. The letter goes on to state:

"Following IMI's purchase of The Birmingham Mint Ltd,
the decision was taken to merge it with the IMI mint ...
Thus we come to the 9th August 1991 as the last day of
IMI Mint's operation as a commercially independent Mint....
However, time marches on and about half the Mint's
employees will move on to The Birmingham Mint."

So... the IMI mintmark was KN and these operations
ceased in 1991. But what about The Birmingham Mint?
Is (or was) this entity the survivor of the Heaton Mint
of the H mintmark?

I found the following article online about the
early history of the Heaton Mint:

"The story of the Heaton Mint begins in 1850, when Ralph
Heaton II purchased Matthew Boulton's Soho Mint equipment.

Boulton was a industrialist who set up the Soho Manufactory
in Birmingham, England, later teaming up with James Watt to
produce the most advanced version of the steam engine, one
that would literally herald the advent of the industrial revolution.

The Soho Mint, which was established around 1788, had
recently gone out of business. So when an ad appeared in the
Birmingham Gazette on April 1, 1850, it created "great
excitement at the Heaton firm," writes James O. Sweeny in
his book A Numismatic History of the Birmingham Mint.

By the end of April 1850, Heaton had purchased the four
Soho Mint steam-powered screw presses that were auctioned
off by Fuller and Horsey Auctioneers. "Though they were
made in the period 1790-1810," Sweeny writes, "they were
still reasonably modern in 1850; similar machines were the
mainstay of the Royal Mint until 1880."

"By the late 1880s, things were going well for the company,
which had just completed an order from the Chinese government
to provide a complete mint (with 90 presses) in Canton. By the
time Ralph Heaton III was ready to retire, Sweeny notes he
"decided to convert the family business into a publicly held
limited liability corporation." So in 1889 the new company
became known as The Mint, Birmingham, Limited."

Full Story

Roger deWardt Lane pointed out another page on the
WBCC web site that confirms the connection:

"Ralph Heaton bought what remained of the Soho mint in
1850. The mint of Ralph Heaton and Sons (which later became
“The Mint, Birmingham Ltd.” in around 1860) was noted for
making some of the Bronze Victorian pennies of Great Britain.
The "H" mintmark appeared on a number of these issues but
not all of them. The use of the "H" mintmark did not cease with
the change of name of the mint. In fact the "H" mintmark can be
seen on many twentieth century coins, usually of countries with
strong links to Britain (e.g. British West Africa, East Africa and
Hong Kong).... After some time, in 1974, the name of this mint
was again changed, this time to “The Birmingham Mint Ltd”."

Full Story

Roger also discovered this timeline of the IMI mint history: Full Story

So, the recently-closed IMI mint was indeed final incarnation
of the original Soho and Heaton Mints. -Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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