The Money Makers

Registered: 21st January 1964
Duration: 25 minutes
Feet: 2250 feet
Board of Trade Certificate number: ​BR/E29154
Produced for: United Artists
Production Company: ​Harold Baim Productions Limited

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The Royal Mint, responsible for coinage design and banknote printing comes under scrutiny here in a quite fascinating film which explores in depth the history and traditions of this long established and important British institution. 

Title and Credits:

Story Told by: ​Valentine Dyall
Director of Eastmancolor Photography: Eric Owen
Special Sequences by: Harry Orchard
Directed by: Frank Gilpin
Produced by: Harold Baim


London. City of tradition and history.    

London. Capital city of England.    

London. When antiquity is ever-present. A city where tradition is so strong that its passing is a cause for regret.     

So, it may be with the film you are about to see. For soon the phrase ‘pounds shillings and pence’ may after twelve hundred years have gone beyond recall.     


It would be almost impossible to go through the whole of a day without the use of coins, both large and small and for over five hundred years they were produced in a fortress within the Tower of London.     

Standing upon a site once occupied in thirteen fifty by a Cistercian abbey, the Royal Mint of today produces the coins of the realm.     

The master of the mint is always the Chancellor of Exchequer of the day, but the practical executive head of the organisation is the Deputy Master and Controller, a senior civil servant.     

About seven seventy AD, the first silver pennies were struck. Payment of halfpennies and farthings was made using the cross on the reverse as a guide. Produced in the reign of Henry the Eighth, the half-crown was at that time made of gold. In fifteen fifty one, the first silver half-crowns were struck and have continued almost without a break since those times.     

At St James’s Palace, after the accession of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh and his advisory committee, met to consider the various new designs which had been submitted. A plaster cast in relief is prepared by the selected artist and submitted to the Queen by the Master of the Mint, at that time Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Right Honourable R A Butler. After due consideration, Her Majesty approves the new design.     

The artist, having made final adjustments, from this plaster the new half-crowns will be minted.     

The plaster is coated with plumbago, sprayed with silver nitrate and immersed in an electroplating bath. A hard coat of nickel is deposited on the cast, followed by a coating of copper. Result? A metal copy of the original.     

We should really be in a fix without coinage. And when it comes to doing the shopping, everything carries prices where these precious pieces of silver and copper play a very important part.     

And who dare give a bus conductor a pound note for a sixpenny fare?     

Tips for porters at railway stations.    

And tips for those who expect that little more.     

Coins for cigarette machines. 

Coins for nylon stockings, if you can work out exactly how much they cost.     

Newspapers need three pennies.     

Coins to tell you how much weight you’ve gained.     

Postage stamps for coins.     

Every picture tells a story. And who hasn’t had this happen? If only he’d had the loose change.     

After the plaster has been stripped from the electrotype copy, the rough metal edge trimmed and the surface polished, it is mounted on the reducing machine. As it revolves, the details are followed by a tracer, mounted at the free end of a bar. At a suitable point, depending on the size of die required, the revolving cutter cuts into a block of steel the main features of the original. A reduction punch, with the design in relief, and exactly the same size as the coin to be produced.     

It’s wheels within wheels, sinking the matrix.    

The reduction punch is struck onto a forging, which produces a first stage matrix, from which the coins will eventually be made.     

To make sure all the details of the prototype have been meticulously reproduced, the engraver re-touches where necessary.     

Raw materials, copper, tin, zinc and nickel are received by the Mint in bulk. Tests are made by the assay department as to the purity of the metals.    

Ingots are cut into a size suitable for handling.     

Copper and nickel are weighed out into correct proportions. Seventy five per cent copper and twenty five per cent nickel together produce an alloy called cupro-nickel, from which half-crowns, two shilling pieces, shillings and sixpences are made.     

The copper and nickel, together with scrap material from the coinage processes, are charged into a high frequency electric furnace and heated to a temperature of some fourteen hundred degrees centigrade.     

The furnace is tilted and the molten metal pours into cast iron moulds.     

Day and night the furnaces work. Melting takes about one hour and ten minutes. The hot metal bars are removed from their moulds, placed on trolleys and marked with identifying letters. They are then cooled rapidly under water sprays.     

The rough ends of the bars are cut and edges cleaned by brushes.      

Samples of alloys go to the Assay Department and are tested to ensure composition is within the limits laid down under the Coinage Acts. An x-ray fluorescence spectrometer gives a rapid analysis.     

A beam of x-rays is directed at the sample, delicate instruments make their measurements.     

From the electronic rack, the answer is typed out automatically.     

Test tube chemistry methods would take two hours. This fantastic machine does the job in two minutes.     

After the assay branch is satisfied everything is in order, bars are rolled to the thickness of a coin. Powerful breakdown rolling mills are used and the bars are passed through about nine times. They become thinner and thinner.     

Checking for thickness is an essential part of the operation.     

The original bar was two feet one inch long by one inch thick. Look at it now.     

At various stages, the strip is cut for ease of handling.     

The metal hardens in the rollers and has to be made soft again in an annealing furnace.     

And now watch the fascinating processes of half-crowns being minted. The first step is the making of the blanks which eventually will go into the coining presses.     

The blanks are almost ready for striking. Both sides of the coin, what we know as the head and the tail, are struck simultaneously. With a pressure of something in the region of a hundred and twenty tons, the top die squeezes down onto the blank, which becomes a half-crown in truly mint condition.    

This coining press can produce a hundred and thirty half-crowns every minute. At eight to the pound, multiplied by the hours of work, the total amount is quite a handy sum of money.     

Security and control of the coins is kept by weighing periodically on large balances where weights are recorded to one hundredth of a troy ounce. 

Samples are also taken at this stage for further tests of composition. Finished half-crowns and all other denominations of coinage are inspected and the eagle-eye of the operators with extraordinary dexterity and skill reject those with the slightest flaw.     

Mechanical counting machines designed and built in the Royal Mint count out the required number. Eight hundred in the case of half-crowns. Each bag containing one hundred pounds worth.     

Away they go to the vaults to await the results of the final assay tests before being released to the banks.     

Coins for abroad are boxed and sealed with metal strapping.     

The Bank of England, in common with others, obtains its coins from the Royal Mint. Regular meetings are held between representatives of the banks and mint officials to discuss the future requirements of each banking house for United Kingdom coinage. From these meetings, the mint is able to plan its production.    

And here’s a story with a moral. She could never have shown her gratitude without the change of a pound note.     

Our Royal Mint are the money makers for other countries too. Burma, Ireland, Jamaica, Vietnam, Iceland, Jordan and many others. Official medals, government seals, engraved plates and dies for revenue and fiscal stamps are part of the day’s work at the building on Tower Hill.     

The Deputy Master and Controller is also ex officio engraver of Her Majesty’s seals and at the Mint are impressions of some of the great seals of England.

Seven ninety AD, Offa king of the Mercians. Seven ninety six, Coenwulf, also King of the Mercians, nine sixty, Eadgar, king of the English. The great seal of Edward the Confessor, ten forty one to ten sixty six. Memories of Magna Carta, King John, eleven ninety nine to twelve sixteen. Richard the Third, Henry the Eighth, Elizabeth the First, the great seal of Queen Victoria, George the fifth, George the sixth, and the seal of our own Queen Elizabeth the Second.    

Way down underground in vaults, gold bars are stored. You are looking at nine hundred. Each one weighs twenty eight pounds and is worth five thousand pounds. In fact, four and a half million pounds is staring you right in the face.     

Gold bars go to the Mint for the manufacture of sovereigns. It was in eighteen seventeen that they first appeared as we know, or rather knew them. The sovereign still remains a twenty shilling piece, but the gold content of each is now worth almost three pounds.     

Since the war, over twelve million sovereigns have been minted, mainly to satisfy international demand. In this country, we see them very rarely, for in nineteen seventeen, after the introduction of the pound and ten shilling notes, the minting of sovereigns for domestic use was discontinued.     

Another tale of a taxi. To prove that the bigger the note, the bigger the trouble unless you have the correct amount for the fare.     

A five pound note is legal tender, but if the driver has nothing except coins, it becomes a case of ‘all change’.     

Moral: keep a balance of notes and small change, they will see you through nicely, provided of course you have the money in the first place.     

A pound splits into two ten shilling notes. It breaks into eight half-crowns, into ten two shilling pieces and twenty shillings. Or forty sixpences, eighty threepenny bits, two hundred and forty pennies, four hundred and eighty halfpennies.     

All the work of England’s money makers at the Royal Mint.   

[End Credit]

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