• When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network.

And just like that, I have a new collecting interest!
1 1

8 posts in this topic

I have been a coin collector for most of my relatively short life (I am 28), and although my interests have changed over the years, I have remained mainly interested in coins. At times I have been intrigued by other related material (e.g., tokens and medals), but never enough to pursue them. I figured this would remain the case for the rest of my collecting years. Let it suffice to say that I was entirely incorrect!

My fascination with Matthew Boulton’s Soho Mint has led me down a path I never thought I would pursue, collecting medals. In talking with several other “Soho fanatics”, I quickly realized that I was selling my exploration of the Soho Mint short by only focusing on the coins. I set a few parameters for myself and let the hunt begin. I successfully added a few examples to my collection, and this post is in part to show them off. More importantly, I wanted to get some feedback on the blurb below, which I intend to add as a new section of my expanding custom set. The set provides the historical background to the Soho Mint but does so focusing on the coins. I made no mention of the medals, and this new blurb is an attempt to correct that omission. I have a lot to learn, and I know there are several experienced medal collectors, so if I have left something out, please let me know.

The “other” products of the Soho Mint

There is little doubt that Matthew Boulton’s crowning achievement for his Soho Mint was striking English regal copper coinage. After all, it was this ambition that gave rise to the mint and sealed its legacy. As crucial as this feat may be, it only addresses a portion of the Soho Mint’s history. Throughout the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Soho Mints, a wide range of pieces were struck. These included coins, tokens, and medals. Within coin collecting circles, at least the ones that I have typically encountered in the past, the last two categories I just mentioned seem to be largely ignored in favor of the first. Although the tokens and medals are often discarded as “other” products, they nonetheless provide historical detail about the Soho Mint and, at the very least, complements the history surrounding the coinage. The following sections are designed to provide the basic historical background of the tokens and medals produced at the Soho Mint and provide insight into what role they played at Soho.



Although I wish I could provide a comprehensive overview of the medals produced at the Soho Mint, the fact of the matter is that I just started collecting them. I have a ton to learn, but what I can share with you is how they broadly fit within the context of the Soho Mint products. In other words, in this section, I aim to explore how Matthew Boulton and his successors, approached the business of striking medals. To do so, I have opted to focus on the principal engraver of the Medals produced at Soho, Conrad Heinrich Küchler. Although the medals themselves are rather impressive, I have decided to forgo any discussion of them here in favor of providing more detailed information in the listing for each piece. The majority of the information I will present in this section can be traced back to work done by Pollard (1970). In his article, Pollard reproduced a fair amount of the correspondence between Boulton and Küchler, and it is this material that has proven so invaluable to the topic at hand. Küchler’s role in Soho history began in the early part of 1793, and during his 17-year career under the employment of Boulton, he produced a total of 33 medals.


In a letter dated March 13th, 1793, Boulton sets the terms of Küchler’s employment, which provides us our first glimpse into how Boulton approached the medal business. In this letter, Boulton gives Küchler the option of being paid per die produced or an even portion of the profit gained from the sale of each medal Küchler engraved. Küchler agreed to the former, and he remained in London for two more years, engraving several dies for Boulton. How Küchler is compensated suggests, at least to me, that Boulton may have been less enthusiastic about producing medals than gaining coin contracts. Although his offer to Küchler is generous, it pales in comparison to the concessions Boulton made to bring Droz on board. It nearly seems as if Boulton secured the help of Küchler for no other reason than to have a second skilled engraver should anything happen to Ponthon. Most of this is speculation on my behalf, but there is more to the story. In the same letter, Boulton makes it clear that he has neither the time nor inclination to oversee “the minutiae of such a minute business as making medals”. To this effect, Boulton makes it evident that he views producing medals as a “lesser” task in comparison to striking coins.


It seems so uncharacteristic of the overly ambitious Matthew Boulton to essentially look down on the opportunity to produce yet another exceptional Soho product. So what is the deal here? To answer this question, we must first consider what was going at the Soho Mint at the time. As a recap, Boulton had endured great expense to build his mint, pay his employees (think of all the money he spent appeasing Droz), and secure material for an English coinage contract that he was convinced was right around the corner. Boulton was feeling the financial weight of operating a mint that was yet to produce a coinage contract that allowed him to recoup the money he invested. This could, in part, explain the terms Boulton offered to Küchler. Both options would ensure that Küchler had to produce something to get paid, which is a painful lesson he learned from Droz. The second option would have further reduced Boulton’s financial burden by offsetting some of the initial production costs to both men. Either way, the options presented to Küchler were likely due to the financial hardships Boulton was experiencing at the time. The excerpts from the archived correspondence between Küchler and Boulton provided by Pollard (1970) supports this notion. In the summer of 1795, Küchler moves to Birmingham and continues to work for Boulton while still petitioning for the money owed to him. This seems to escalate in a letter by Küchler dated January 21st, 1796, which details the work he has done and the amount he has been paid. On this date, Küchler had completed over £250 worth of work but had barely received over £130 in compensation. The debt was eventually addressed, but it appears this was a reoccurring pattern that eventually changed how Küchler was compensated for his work.


Shortly after, the terms of Küchler’s employment were slightly altered in a way that seems to benefit both parties mutually. According to Pollard (1970), the new terms still afforded Küchler payment for each die he engraved, but it also provided him with a portion of the profits from the sale of specific medals. These terms, of course, came with some caveats. First, it distinguished between medals that were commissioned to be struck by but not sold by the Soho Mint (i.e., private accounts) and medals that were struck and subsequently sold by the Soho Mint (i.e., joint accounts). Under the new terms, Küchler would be compensated for the dies he produced for both classifications, but for the latter category, he would also be granted a portion of the profits. Second, the portion of profits was not guaranteed until the total expense of production was paid for. In fact, under the new terms, Küchler could end up owing Boulton money if the sales for the joint accounts were lackluster. The excerpt provided by Pollard (1970) provides a contemporary example of how this would work. This is an important fact to note because it underscores Boulton’s desire to protect himself, the Soho Mint, and Küchler.


Although Boulton was a generous man, he was also in the business to make money (no pun intended), so it makes sense that he would want to protect himself as much as possible. The new terms allowed him to do so but also allowed him to remain generous with Küchler should their work be successful. The new terms set forth suggest that perhaps the business of striking and selling medals was not as lucrative as Boulton would have liked. There is evidence to suggest that this may be the case, as a large number of medals were in surplus at the Soho Mint up until its final demise in 1850. There over 300 medals in the 1850 sale alone and at least another couple hundred sold in 1912 from the Matthew Piers Watt Boulton collection. This, of course, also does not include the numerous pieces that were part of the James Watt Jr. Collection or the Boulton family holdings (independent of the M. P. W. Boulton collection). All of this suggests, generally speaking, that there was no shortage of supply when it came to several of the medals produced. This is even more obvious when considering that some of these medals come up for sale very frequently. For example, the 1793 Execution of Louis XVI “final farewell” medal has had over a dozen auction appearances this year alone. This is notable because it was the first medal that Küchler produced for the Soho Mint (Pollard, 1970). The fact that Küchler renegotiated his terms of employment to a salaried position after a brief leave of absence in 1802 further suggests that the business of producing medals was not the most lucrative. This may seem like a familiar argument for those of you who read my previous post about the Soho Mint’s original packaging (i.e., the silver-lined brass shells). The information provided above is a more in-depth look at one of the main arguments of that post and provides additional support for my theory about their origin.


In summary, there is little doubt that the medals produced at the Soho Mint are an essential part of its history and, to some extent, account for its success. For instance, the medal celebrating the King’s recovery engraved by Droz undoubtedly left a lasting impression on the committee of coin. At the very least, this strong impression kept other competitors at bay, which allowed Boulton to secure a contract to strike regal copper. Oddly enough, there were times were the production of medal dies was the only project in progress at the mint, and without it, Boulton would have been paying his workers to do nothing essentially. Beyond these factors, I imagine the craftsmanship so boldly displayed on these pieces served to bolster further Matthew Boulton’s reputation of providing nothing short of the best. No matter how you choose to look at it, the fact that the medals played an integral part in the history of the Soho Mint is undeniable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I find medals and tokens very cool but just really cannot build the interest to collect those, same as I love patterns but not in a way that I want to collect them.  Be sure to post yours up so we can all enjoy them vicariously.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Coinbuf I will do my best to update the thread with new additions. I have a few other related pieces to post, but I haven’t photographed them yet. Time is always such a commodity. 

Thanks, @Just Bob and @James_OldeTowne! I appreciate the feedback. It’s nice to know others enjoyed reading my posts. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
1 1