A hoard of seven post-medieval silver coins that was discovered by a metal detectorist in 2016 has been acquired by Derby Museums (DENO-BBE206). The contents of the hoard include three Spanish-American 8 reales coins known as ‘dollars’ minted in 1801 and 1802, and four very worn British shillings from the late 17th to 18th century.
The hoard is an important local find because the dollars have been counter-stamped with Cromford Derbyshire 4 9. Cromford in Derbyshire is the site of Richard Arkwright’s water-powered cotton mill, part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.
At the beginning of the 19th century there was a shortage of silver coinage because too few new coins were entering circulation. Royal Mint rules at the time meant that the mint could not buy silver bullion above a certain price and the Napoleonic Wars had caused the price of silver to increase above that level. However, British ships had captured many Spanish ships laden with goods from South America, including many silver ‘dollars’. Business owners used these coins to pay their workers, counter-stamping them with their bullion value. All three of the coins are stamped with 4 9, indicating that they were worth 4 shillings and 9 pence.
The dollars show Charles IV of Spain on the obverse and the Spanish Coat of Arms on the reverse. Two of these dollars were minted in Mexico City, while the other was minted in Lima, Peru.
One of the other coins is also quite interesting. The original design had completely worn away by the time it was deposited (it had probably been in circulation for 100 years), but the coin was then stamped with three sets of initials on one side (JA, JJ and WW) and BURNSIDE on the other. The coin also has a double bend in it that indicates it may have been used as a love token or a lucky coin.
The coin hoard is an important addition to Derby Museums’ collection. The Derby Silk Mill is the site of Britain’s first fully mechanised factory and forms one of the three Derby Museums sites as well as the southern most part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. The collection contains several other artefacts that relate to Arkwright’s Mill as well as paintings of the mill by artists including Joseph Wright of Derby.
These coins are currently on display at Derby Museum and Art Gallery as part of the exhibition Derbyshire Unearthed: Coins and Coin Hoards until Sunday 22nd April. The Cromford Dollars will then form part of the new World Cultures gallery at the museum from May 2018.