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Dundee or not is uncertain, but in October, another act of Privy Council, ordered the Mint, with all its appliances, to be removed to Perth, as the plague was then raging in Dundee as well as in Edinburgh. Similar instructions were laid down altering the legend from Edinburgh to Perth. There is a probability that some money was struck at Perth, as a proclamation exists in the records of the Privy Council, ordering the officers of the Mint forthwith to proceed here, and to continue the issue of the alloyed money, as owing to the former prevalence of the plague, "the officiaris of his hienes cunzie hes bene constrainit to ly ydill... to the grite hinder of his maiesties proffite.”
1586. On the 10th of May, 1586, certain commissioners, appointed by the King, proceeded to the Mint, and there opened the boxes, containing the assays of all the coinages issued while John Acheson and Thomas Acheson were Masters of the Mint. These commissioners appeared personally before the Privy Council on the 10th of December, and reported the result of their trials. This report is interesting as giving the dates of the various coinages. From it we learn that the half-merk and fortypenny pieces were struck from April, 1577, to August, 1580; the thistle two-merk and merk piece from 16th of December, 1579, to 24th of August, 1580; the gold ducat, from 2nd of August to 29th of November, 1580; the lion noble, crown and half, from the 2nd of November, 1584, to 18th of April, 1586; the xxx/, xx/, and x/, pieces from 6th of April, 1582, to 18th of May, 1586; the 16/ and 8/ pieces from 25th of June, 1582, to 4th of November of the same year; and the 8d. and 4d. pieces from 13th of January, 1583, to 10th of May, 1586.
From Thomas Acheson's "Compt of the Cunzie Hous,' still extant, we learn that between the 1st of May, 1583, and 21st of April, 1586, 303 stones 7lbs. of silver were issued in XL/, xxx/, xx/, and x/ pieces, with a profit to the King, on each stone of £22. 2s. 6d. From 13th of January, 1583 to the same date, 1,925 stones 1lb. of silver were issued in eight penny and fourpenny groats, with a profit of £17. 2s. 9d. on the stone. In lion nobles upwards of 96lbs. of gold were coined, the profit on each stone being £220. From this record also it appears that Thomas Foullis made the dies for the gold coins, and also for the billon pieces.
1587. In July of the following year, the Scottish Parliament appointed certain commissioners to confer regarding the state of the current money, and to advise concerning a new coinage of gold of 22 carat fine and a new coinage of silver of eleven denier fine." They were to come to a decision before the first of January, and whatever their determination might be, it was to have the full force of law. Other commissioners were appointed to see how much bullion should be paid by merchants exporting gold out of the realm. The Privy Council, in October, ordered Thomas Acheson, master coiner, and his assistants to coin all the bullion on hand, and to buy in as much more as would make up the whole amount to seven score stone weight. This year's coinage included 61lbs. 5 ozs. of gold issued in lion nobles and lion crowns.
1588. On the 29th of March, Thomas Foullis, sinker, complained to the Lords of the Privy Council, that James Acheson, son of John Acheson, in the Canongate "sinkis and makis Irnes instruments and matriceis. . . albeit the
Reg. Ho. Edin.
"Scots Acts," vol. iii. p. 487, c. 9.
complenare hes obtenit his maiesteis gift of that office during all the dayis of his lyftyme," and prayed that he might be restrained from so doing. An expedition was sent to the Northern Islands and Highlands under the Earl of Bothwell, and the officers of the Mint were directed by the Privy Council to strike 80 stone weight of 8d. and 4d. pieces, and the profits arising from this were to be given to provide necessaries for the "companeys of men of weir leyved and appointit to accompany him."
On account of the scarcity of small money, a new billon coinage was authorised by an act of Privy Council in August. This new coinage was issued in twopenny and penny pieces, of 12 grain fine, and forty of the penny pieces were to be in the ounce. The type of both coins (now usually called hard heads) is minutely described. The lion on the reverse of the twopenny, is directed to be in a shield.
This act raised the value of the lion nobles from £3 15s. to £4.
The Privy Council, in September, ordered a new coinage, to consist of a piece of gold of the same weight (a quarter of an ounce) and fineness (23 carat 7 grains) as the English rose noble. This coin was to pass current for £7 6s. 8d. Thomas Foullis was the engraver of the dies for this coinage. A half, similar in type and fineness, was also authorised; but this coin, if it exists at all, must be very rare.
In November, it was reported to the Privy Council that the twopenny pieces authorised in August, were often passed by designing persons on the unsuspecting as eightpenny pieces from the similarity of type on the obverse of the one and the reverse of the other; and it was accordingly ordered by the Council, that for the
future, the shield on the reverse of the twopenny pieces, be omitted, and that two dots be placed behind the lion.
1589. The king was in debt to Sir Robert Melville, the Treasurer Depute, and with the consent of his Council, assigned the profits of the Mint to him till the debt was paid. The act authorising this is recorded in the Books of the Privy Council in March 1589.
1590. In June of the following year, a parliament convened at Edinburgh, and certain proposals about reducing the standard of the silver coins to the same as that of England," were considered. Nothing seems to have been determined, but the matter was remitted to commissioners to report to the following Parliament. According to Balfour, a proclamation was made on September 6th of a new coinage of silver."
1591. A trial of the pix having been made in March, a dispute arose as to how the assay pieces should be disposed of. The General of the Mint claimed them by virtue of the privilege of his office, and the Master Almoner claimed them by order of the King for distribution amongst the poor. The dispute was referred to the Privy Council, who decided against the claim of the Master of the Mint. The report of the commissioners appointed to make the trials of the money, was laid before the Council on the 1st of May, and everything being found correct, the officials of the Mint were fully exonerated from any further action as to their former coinages.
In August, Parliament met at Edinburgh and passed an acts"anent the cunzie." This provided that all the 45 State Papers (Scot.) 7 Eliz., vol. xlv. No. 65. 46 State Papers (Scot.) Eliz., vol. xlvi. No. 18. 47 "Annals," vol. i. p. 889.
Scots Acts," vol. iii. p. 526.
gold except the thistle nobles should be reduced to the standard of 22 carat fine, and that the ounce should be set out at £27. The gold was to be struck in coins each current for £4, and 54 pieces to be in the merk weight. These were called hat pieces, from the type. A half is mentioned in the act, but it is doubtful if any such was ever struck.
Similarly, all the silver was to be reduced to 10 denier fine, and set forth at forty-four shillings the ounce. The merk weight was to contain 54% of the largest pieces, or double that number of the halves. These coins are called now balance merks, a mistake which first originated with Snelling and has been copied without enquiry by every succeeding writer. They are, in point of fact, half merks, being current for 6/8 and the half for 3/4. They were minted in 1591, 1592 and a few in 1593.
Three years were allowed to reduce the whole coinage of the country to the above standard.
The prices of bullion per ounce were fixed as follows:
Gold of 22 carats fine was to be £24 15s., and other
standards in proportion.
Foreign gold coins were allowed to be current at rates specified in the act. Scottish gold coins were raised in value; the old forty-four shilling piece to eighty shillings; the three-pound piece with the Queen's face to six pounds; the four-pound piece with the King's face to four pounds ten shillings, and the lion noble to four pounds. On the 8th day of March, the Privy Council finding that the alloyed money under seven deniers fine, which had been