George III: Economic crisis and the Mint moves out of the Tower
In February 1797 the Bank of England stopped making most payments in gold. People were forced to accept banknotes or high value silver coins. As an emergency measure, the Mint began to stamp, or 'countermark', George III’s portrait on foreign coins to make them legal English money.
Pieces of eight
Spanish eight reales coins known as ‘pieces of eight’ were an international currency. Other countries made coins of about the same weight: such as the American dollar, the French five francs or the English crown. During the crisis of 1797 it was quicker to stamp George III’s portrait onto foreign coins than melt them down to make new ones.
A gold standard
By 1798, the Mint made high value gold coins such as guineas, but hardly any silver or copper coins. People often used portable scales to check their coin was the correct weight and not a forgery.
The move to Tower Hill
The Tower of London was home to the Mint for nearly six centuries, but by the 1790s new technology and competition from private mints made a new, larger purpose-built factory necessary. However the Mint did not go far – in 1810 it moved to Tower Hill, north-east of the Tower. The keys to Mint Street were eventually handed back to the Tower in 1812.