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British counterstamps on Maria Theresia Talers


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The Talers




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At the end of the 18th century, a severe shortage of silver coins existed in Britain, and the Bank of England was running out of their gold reserves. At the same time, the Bank of England had approximately 6 Million ounces of minted silver in its vaults, most of it in Spanish Dollars. To solve the coin shortage problem, it was decided to translate the holdings of Spanish Dollars into 'circulating medium', by applying a counterstamp to the coins. On March 3, 1797, the Treasury of England issued a warrant to the Royal Mint to 'prepare the necessary means of Stamping the Mark of the Kings' Head used at Goldsmiths' Hall for distinguishing the Plate of this Kingdom on such Silver Dollars as shall be sent to your Office from the Bank of England'.

British counterstamp types

Four shillings and Ninepence (1797)

The countermark is a small oval bust of George III aligned with the Spanish Monarch's bust on Dollars, mostly Spanish-American. Manville writes "A few dollar-size coins from Mainland Spain, France, Italy, and the United States may have been included among the Spanish-American coins sent from the Bank for marking at the Mint, but such unusual host coins should be viewed with care, as many counterfeit punches are known. The oval marks on German and Austrian coins that have been examined are false."

Half Dollars (1799)

The countermarks on 1797 half dollars are the same as used on the dollar pieces. Most of these coins originated from the Spanish mainland. Manville: "... as with the dollars, counterfeit punches are known, and the more exotic the coin the more likely that it was concoted for collectors".

Five Shillings (1804)

The countermark is an octagonal bust of George III, centrally stamped on dollars and aligned with the Spanish monarch's bust, mostly on coins minted in Mexico City, Lima, Peru, and Potosi. Manville: "A few genuine octagonal-countermarked dollars from other Spanish-American mints such as Guatemala, and dollar-size coins from Mainland Spain, France and the United States are known. These were evidently  included among the coins sent by the Bank for marking at the mint, but similar coins are known with false punches, and octagonal marks on exotic host coins should be carefully compared with the bust on a Maundy penny of 1792, 1795, or 1800."

Maria Theresa Thaler with British counterstamp

The counterstamped Maria Theresa Thaler shown in the Hafner catalog as Hafner 131 is an interesting specimen. The host coin was presumably struck from 1817 to 1833 in Venice (Hafner 37a). According to Hafner, the countermark was applied around 1817. However, the Bank of England used the oval countermark only in 1797. The picture in the Hafner catalog is not detailed enough to determine if the counterstamp is a genuine type. Manville writes:
"There also exist other coins that were stamped with genuine-type punches but were not issued by the Bank. These include dollar-size and less-than-dollar-size silver coins, and other irregular pieces such as Georgian coppers. Opinions vary as to the legitimacy of certain of the dollar-size pieces with genuine-type marks. The same oval duty-mark punches employed at the Mint in stamping dollars were available at Goldsmiths' Hall in London and at all the English and Scottish assay offices for many years - in one city they were in use as late as 1830. The provincial offices were probably the source of many of the genuine-type oval marks on unusual foreign and British silver and copper coins and tokens."

Manville remarks that all marks on Austrian coins that have been examined were determined to be false (see above). It remains to be verified if the mark on the Hafner specimen is genuine or a forgery.

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