The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 47, November 11, 2012, Article 31


Web site visitor Meg Vivers of Australia sent the following discussion of Thomas Kinder and the Hong Kong mint. Thanks! -Editor

I notice the following from your web page concerning test coins manufactured by Watt & Co. for the Hong Kong Mint at

'This is a machine trial piece by J Watt and Co struck to test a coining press they manufactured for the Hong Kong mint which was later used to strike the Hong Kong silver dollars. Specimens exist with both a plain and an engrailled edge.'

During my research for a book I am writing, I came across the following information from: P Kevin MacKeown, 'The Hong Kong Mint, 1864-1868: Source of an Early Engineering Experiment', in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Hong Kong Branch, vol 47, 2007, pp. 41-79. (By the way, Thomas Kinder was Master of the Hong Kong Mint for its short duration.)

'Thomas Kinder visited the Paris Mint to familiarize himself with its construction and operation, and inspected the factory of Fried Krupps at Essen, near Cologne, makers of rolling presses. As a result, four presses ordered from J. Watt & Co., Birmingham, were considered not powerful enough to strike a coin as large as the Dollar, and Kinder was given permission to order a large levered press from Messrs Cail & Co. of Paris - equipment similar to that used in the Paris Mint.'

Incidentally, the Hong Kong Mint did not commence operations until around 1866, and closed shortly afterwards.

In any case, it would appear that the statement that Watt's press 'was later used to strike the Hong Kong silver dollars' may be incorrect.

By the way, while everyone waited for the HK Mint to be built, and machinery ordered, MacKeown says:

'Impatient to begin, Sir Hercules Robinson persuaded the Colonial Office that some British Hong Kong dollars should be minted in London and shipped out, to familiarize the Chinese with the coin. He considered this would prepare the way for the Dollar's universal adoption when the new Mint was in operation.'

I don't know where this all left Watt & Co!

I asked Dr Vivers for some more information on her book. Here it is! -Editor

My book is entitled An Irish Engineer: the Extraordinary Achievements of Thomas J Waters and Family in Early Meiji Japan and Beyond, and is being published by CopyRight Publishers, Brisbane (2012). It is in the process of being published, and I hope to have copies to sell in about March. I would be able to supply copies to anyone who is interested.

One of T J Waters' main achievements (and there were many while he was in Japan) was designing and building the Osaka Mint for the new Meiji Government. For this, he utilised much of the old HK Mint infrastructure and machinery. Thomas Kinder was then employed as Master of the Osaka Mint.

My book contains a chapter about the building of the Osaka Mint. However, I have not explored details about the coins at either Mint, apart from what I have already told you about my findings re the dollar.

Your readers might be interested to know that T J Waters and his brothers Ernest and Bertie went on to become mining engineers in Colorado in the 1880s and 90s. Ernest was the most well-known.

I would be most grateful for any comments that come in as a result, as there is still time to make small changes in the book. Below are some paragraphs from my Osaka Mint chapter in case you are interested.

Although there was some variation in design and use of space, the interiors of the mints at Hong Kong and Osaka were similar. There appears to have been a common plan based on the size of machinery, thus allowing for a standard cast iron infrastructure. According to a report published in Engineering, the building was constructed of 'hard blue sandstone, and was 225 feet long by 74 feet wide internally'. It was divided by 'brick and glass partitions into nine compartments, each 25 feet wide by 74 feet long'. Meanwhile, 'motive power' consisted of 'a pair of horizontal high-pressure engines each of 20 horse power'. These engines drove the rolls, and also a line of shafting, which ran the whole length of the building.

While the interior mimicked that of the Hong Kong Mint, the outer façade was quite different. In Hong Kong a verandah had extended the whole length of the frontage, supported by cast iron columns with arches and balustrades of light ironwork. In Osaka, in place of the verandah Tom Waters designed a Tuscan-style portico at the centre. This provided a grand entrance, and was reminiscent of façades that he was familiar with in Dublin.

Beyond the portico the entrance opened internally into a corridor, which ran the 225 ft length of the building and was lit by round-headed windows. On the central cross-axis were the engine room, the boiler room and, beyond the building, the largest chimney. Three wings extended from the rear of the building - the assay office at one end, the die shop at the other, and the boiler room in the middle. Two further chimneys were set symmetrically, and were free-standing. In between these chimneys, were smaller rooms - toilets, safes, and perhaps more boiler rooms.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: AN 1864 WATT AND COMPANY HONG KONG TRIAL PIECE (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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