A Modern Concoction, a Numismatic Forgery or a Contemporary Private Issue: An Examination of a Cut and Countermarked Coin – Ken Eckardt

Initial examination of a cut and countermarked segment from an 8 Reale raises a number of questions as to the nature of this coin.  The piece appears to be on the fringe of a recognised series within the broader series of British Tradesman Countermarked Dollars.  A number of possibilities exist and each of these need to be reviewed so as to test the probabilities with the aim of leading to a conclusion that answers the questions raised with a reasonable degree of certainty.Reviewing the physical aspects of the coin and considering past as well as more recent circumstances a process of elimination was used that leads to a logical resolution that potentially identifies the nature of the coin and the reason for its existence.

3 thoughts on “A Modern Concoction, a Numismatic Forgery or a Contemporary Private Issue: An Examination of a Cut and Countermarked Coin – Ken Eckardt

  1. I found this article well reasoned and very interesting. The only other potential possibility to explain the existence of this coin, that I can imagine, is that it was a trial piece from Rothsay Mills. If one compares figures 1a and 4a there is a basic similarity with the numbering regarding size and alignment. The piercing of the coin may have been to allow its display in the workshop.

  2. As Ken points out, the countermark’s valuation negates any ties to the Caribbean since Spanish ½ cut dollar segments trading there would have carried a considerably higher rating than 2/ 6d. Tracking it to Scotland seems a more likely scenario.

    Truly, my fascination is with the cut edge. Someone put a fair amount of thought and effort into its manufacture. As with previous crenated West Indies emissions, the intention behind a toothed border would be to dissuade illicit clipping. Developing this particular ‘security’ edge seems to indicate an expectation by its creator that the cut piece would see extended service and therefore require extended protection; a concept somewhat at odds with the piece’s singularity. Regardless, a refreshing local originality in producing a security edge is definitely on display here.

    I’ll stick my neck out with several observations, based solely on limited assessments derived from the images provided. There is no curve to the toothed edge. This indicates that the cutting blade sliced vertically (perpendicular) rather than cutting from a pivot or at an angle. The clean execution suggests the use of a cutter operating under pressure, as compared to the action of a hammer and chisel; either by way of steady pressure from a vise or the high-impact chop of a guillotine-style device. My guess would be the former, since minimal fabrication would be involved. A degree of confirmation for the simpler approach concept comes from the crudeness of the countermark and its obvious implications to other aspects of the token’s manufacture.

    Although the protruding teeth are cut sharply, the inner cut edge of the segment appears rounded. This may be a peculiarity of the image provided. One would normally expect all facets of the cut to be crisp until wear softens the high points. I’m having difficulty imagining a single cutting action capable of creating an edge of this sort. The explanation for this anomaly should prove interesting.

  3. Response by Ken Eckardt…

    I am grateful to Eric Hodge and David Wolfer for their comments. They both raise some interesting points.

    Eric asks if this specimen could be a Rothsay Mills ‘trial’ piece. Certainly this is a point for consideration. However, I believe three features point against this thought: Firstly the crenated cut edge. If this was a trial one might think this innovative feature would be incorporated on the main issue of Rothsay Mills cut segments. Secondly the dies producing the value 2/6 are quite different in style. The Rothsay 2/6, while hand engraved in the die, has been done by an individual with some considerable skill. The die on the so called ‘private issue’ is quite crude by comparison. Lastly the subject coin does not display the ‘legend ring ‘Payable at Rothsay Mills’. So while a ‘trial piece’ is an interesting thought my belief is the subject coin copied the Rothsay Mills issue ‘in concept’ rather than the other way around.

    David’s fascination with the cut edge is most appropriate. The unusual cut edge is indeed an important feature and most certainly this was accomplished with a specially prepared cutting tool incorporating the ‘toothed’ element noted on this specimen. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I seem to recall being told by a tool maker that a cutting tool of this type is somewhat easier to cut through material than a cutting tool with a plain cut edge, especially if the cut is preformed essentially with hand tools. Rothsay Mills on the other hand would have employed skilled tool makers and they would have had a machine shop with the appropriate tools for repair and maintenance of the mills production equipment. Accordingly they would have had heavy presses etc. that could mechanically cut a dollar and produce a straight clean edge. In a previous discussion with David while exploring the apparent weight loss of cut segments, as identified in Eric’s blog on the cut segments from Rothsay Mills, cutting an 8 Reale coin with hand tools is rather more difficult than it first might appear even if the coin was first annealed. My view is the coin was cut using hand tools as opposed to a press or guillotine and the resulting cut edge of this coin would have been very rough indeed. Accordingly it was hand filed to smooth the edge and this explains the radius on the edge both top and bottom. This radius is visible on Fig. 3; the central part of the cut edge is highlighted while the radius both top and bottom show up darker on the image. David mentions the ‘security’ this crenated cut edge provides. A strong point and in this respect I wonder if some Rothsay Mills cut segments were subjected to filing or shaving in order to scavenge some silver. If this was the case perhaps the private issuer took this into consideration and produced a security edge to give the local population confidence in his product.

    Once again I will mention the disadvantage of trying to form a substantial view on the basis of only one specimen and to my knowledge no contemporary accounts of the Rothsay Mills cut segments.

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