Masson Mills Wins Silver

Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Newsletter June 2006

Sir Richard Arkwright’s Masson Mills have added an extremely rare Arkwright Spanish “Countermarked Token” coin to the unique collection of authentic artefacts in Masson Mills Working Textile Museum.

Rare silver coin addd to Arkwright museum collection

The photograph shows the Spanish Dollar, originally dated 1802, countermarked with the words “Cromford Derbyshire 4/9”. The token value of four shillings and ninepence, (about 24p), would have been about a week’s wage at the time. Coins like this will doubtless have been issued to the workforce at both Masson Mills and Cromford Mill.

In the early 19th Century the expansion of the factory system had caused an increase in demand for small change with which to pay wages and there was insufficient silver coinage being produced. Silver was scarce and its fluctuating value was making matters worse. Merchants and mill owners therefore started to import foreign coins like this one and impressed their own promissory stamp onto them, because people were often averse to accepting foreign coins. At that time silver had its own standard value, much as gold has now, so the actual value was reflected in the countermark.

The coin is one of only two known surviving examples of an Arkwright “Countermarked Token” coin, the other one is in Derby Museum. A spokesperson for Masson Mills said, “We are delighted that this very rare coin has been returned home – it will add a fascinating historical and sociological dimension to the story of the legacy which Arkwright has left for us to enjoy at Masson Mills.”