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Boulton & Watt & the Soho Mint

Home / History / Soho Mint

The firm of Matthew Boulton and James Watt was formed in 1775, and became a major force in the industrial revolution. Watt's improvement of the steam engine made many things possible. One of Matthew Boulton's pet projects was that of a better coinage, and he was sure that with steam power he could produce the best coins that had thus far been made. He succeeded, and the firm of Boulton and Watt went on to make not only coin, tokens, and medals, but the steam engines that drove England to the forefront of the industrial revolution. It would seem only natural that the partners and their sons, who were also involved in the business, would take home some of their wares.

In November of 2002, the auction house of Morton & Eden conducted a sale of coins, tokens and medals that formed the collection of James Watt, Jr.

Following his death, his collection was removed to Doldowlod, the family home in Wales. Elizabeth Wilkinson, one of his executors, noted in May of 1849 "the coins and medals are in the carved oak box in Mr. Watt's dressing closet" -- and there they remained, mostly untouched, until 2002. At that time they were put on the market to settle the estate of the late Lord Gibson-Watt.

Remarkably, at around the same time the Watt heirs were putting his medals and tokens on the market, the Boulton heirs made the decision to do so as well.  When Matthew Robinson Boulton passed away in 1843, it remained for his son, Matthew Piers Watt Boulton, to run the business.

In 1850, he sold the Soho properties, and locked the door. The Boulton family holdings remained essentially undisturbed, as did Watt's. The Boutlton heirs did, however, give a number of tokens and medals to museums over the years.

The Boulton group was purchased by London medals dealer Tim Millett, who arranged the sale of some Boulton material to me, and aided me in obtaining some of the Watt material. To Tim I owe a great debt of thanks.

None of the holdings of the principles of the Soho mint had been available to the general public until now, and I was quite fortunate to be able to obtain a wonderful grouping of medals, tokens, and coins that belonged to each family. The five pages that follow contain death medals, as well as other important Soho medals, coins, pattern pieces, and tokens. I hope you enjoy them.

Addendum, October, 2004. The above occurred in 2002, and in 2003 a few more medals and pattern coins were offered, then in 2004 another nice group were offered as well. I was fortunate to be able to buy many of the offered items. These will be found on the site as well.

CLICK below to see the photos!

For further reading, see the bibliography.

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