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Money in the Blathwayt family trade bills, 1764-1786

In the Blathwayt family's trade bills money is stated in pounds, shillings and pence. There were 240 pence in the pound and twelve pence in the shilling, and twenty shillings to the pound. This system was used in the United Kingdom until 1971.

Large sums of money could be paid in banknotes (from the Bank of England and numerous local private banks) or gold coins. The principal English gold coin was the guinea (1), which was worth 21 shillings (equivalent to £1.05 now). There were also large numbers of Portuguese coins in circulation, such as the moidore (worth 27 shillings) (2), which were imported through London's booming foreign trade. There were so many Portuguese gold coins in use that people needed coin-weights to check their weight and therefore their bullion value (3).

1. George III (1760-1820), gold guinea, 1776. [CM.UK.5-R]
2. Portugal, John V (1706-50), gold 4,000 reis (moidore), 1708. [CM.EU.9-R]
3. Brass coin weight for Portuguese gold moidore. [CM.6-1918]

Apart from the gold guinea the most important English coins were the silver shilling (4) and the copper halfpenny (5). There were enormous numbers of forgeries of copper halfpennies in circulation. The example here (6) has the name of William Shakespeare (GULIELMUS SHAKESPEAR) instead of the name of King George III (GEORGIUS REX III), which might allow the forgers to escape punishment by arguing that they were not really imitating the King's coins.

4. George II (1727-60), silver shilling, 1758. [CM.QC.409-R]
5. George III (1760-1820), copper halfpenny, 1774 [CM.5.1754-1933]
6. Contemporary imitation of George III copper halfpenny, 1774, obv. 'GULIELMUS SHAKESPEAR'. [CM.TR.2035-R]

In the 1780s and 1790s many businesses in London and elsewhere issued their own token copper money, to provide change in shops and advertise products. Hatfield's 'Boot & Shoe Manufactory' in Snow Hill, London, issued a halfpenny token showing its trade sign of a 'Golden Leg' (7). The halfpenny token of Moore's 'Lace Manufactory' in Great Portland Street depicts a woman sitting under a tree making lace (8), and the token of the candle-maker Francis Shackleton shows a frame for making candles by dipping wicks into tallow or wax (9). Lackington's, a prominent London firm of booksellers, issued a halfpenny token claiming that they were the 'Cheapest Booksellers in the World' (10).

8. Moore's halfpenny, 1795, 'LACE MANUFACTORY', 'No. 116 GREAT PORTLAND STREET', 'MUSLINS IRISH CLOTH &c' on scroll, DH 389a. [CM.BI.1864-R]
9. [Francis] Shackleton's halfpenny, 1794, 'FINE MOULD AND STORE CANDLES', DH 477. [CM.5.2594-1933]
10. Lackington's halfpenny, 1794, 'CHEAPEST BOOKSELLERS IN THE WORLD', DH 353. [CM.QC.3737-R]

There is more information about eighteenth century tokens on another online exhibition on the Fitzwilliam's website.