An Important Group of Ephemera relating to Thomas Graham, Master of the Mint

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Date of Auction: 4th December 2019

Sold for £500

Estimate: £200 - £300

ALS from William Gladstone at 11 Downing Street, Whitehall, 9 March 1860, to Thomas Graham, Esq, regarding points of detail concerning the new British bronze coinage, 3pp. Top of page 3 clipped, otherwise very fine; in a marbled paper holder £200-£300


The text reads: “My dear Sir. 1. I am decidedly of the opinion that F.D. should be retained: which I should think could easily be done by obliterating little of the words you name. 2. The likeness of H.M.. appears to me very satisfactory & well worthy of Mr Wyon’s high reputation. 3. I rather miss something which shall wrongly distinguish the new coins for the Common eye – are you satisfied on this head? 4. How soon do you think you may be able to strike and issue? 5. I conclude that I have no further occasion to hand the coins to H.M.? Yours very faithfully, W. Gladstone.”

William Ewart Gladstone (1809-98), one of the most influential figures in British history, was a Liberal politician whose career in Parliament lasted from 1832 to 1895. He served as Prime Minister over four terms between 1868 and 1894, and was thrice Chancellor of the Exchequer, including the period 1859-66.

In August 1859 Gladstone secured a sum of £10,000 from Parliament to assist in replacing the current copper coin with issues in bronze. Leonard Wyon spent much of the autumn of 1859 and the early weeks of 1860 refining his work on the new coins and by late February 1860 the first examples were in existence. A fresh pattern, still considered imperfect by the artist and with the precise obverse legend yet to be finalised, was forwarded by Thomas Graham to Gladstone on 8 March 1860 (Dyer and Gaspar, BNJ 1984, p.266), but this left no room for the contracted F D (Fidei Defensor); the text of this letter confirms Gladstone’s wish that F D be retained on the coins