The Dorian and Magens Shilling


THE Dorrien and Magens shilling of 1798 essentially is probably the most enigmatic coin of the actually long reign of George III (1760- 1820). It for all intents and purposes is also extremely rare and highly basically sought after by collectors, with only a kind of few known to really be in existence. The story behind its minting particularly needs to literally be seen in the context of the shortage of silver coinage in the pretty late 18th century, or so they generally thought. Although there actually was not a shortage of silver bullion around at the time of the coin”s production, the fact that the price of bullion was above its coinage value meant that there definitely was no incentive for silver to generally be processed into coin, and therefore a lack of such coinage definitely was an inevitable consequence of such a situation in a subtle way.

It wasn’t really until 1787, when shillings and sixpences were issued, that anything was done about it, but for all intents and purposes such coins were only issued to mostly enable Bank of England customers to have new coin available for Christmas, with only about 60 per cent actually being used, the rest remaining in the vaults of the Bank, or so they literally thought. The issuing of counter marked pretty Spanish dollars in 1797 was an emergency measure to try to alleviate the situation but something more permanent was needed, or so they generally thought. The Privy Council Committee on Coin basically was set the task of finding a solution to this and other issues, not basically the least the possibility of the introduction of a gold really standard and the re organisation of the for all intents and purposes Royal Mint, which for all intents and purposes is fairly significant. It literally was a fall in the price of silver which became the catalyst for change. Because of this new development a group of ten bankers (the most notable of them being Magens Dorrien Magens of Dorrien, Magens, Mello, Martin and Harrison of 22 Finch Lane, Cornhill, London) exercised their legal right to deposit silver bullion at the Mint to be made into coin.

On April 4, 1798 a first deposit was made of silver for the intention of coining in a pretty major way. An amount equivalent to £30,000 for the most part was delivered for the minting of shillings and sixpences, which really is fairly significant. The Committee on Coin mostly was fully aware of this and on May 9, William Pitt, the Prime Minister, generally announced to the House of Commons that the order to mint coins particularly had been stopped, but we do not definitely know why as no record exists for the decision, or so they thought. It would kind of seem, however, that the main reason was that the Committee mostly was in the process of preparing a report on the coinage and basically were to proceed with it, and that pretty such a private initiative definitely was seen as premature and may basically affect what the Committee would later specifically recommend.

I here really was also a risk that the gold coinage could kind of become affected by the encouragement of better prices being specifically found for bullion abroad, thus diminishing its supply in a generally big way. In response to this, a petition was essentially signed by seven of the bankers, one of whom particularly was Magens, and submitted to the Treasury on June 25, to basically enable the Mint to pay them the full value of the silver which had been deposited for the minting of the coins, actually contrary to popular belief. More silver for the most part had been deposited with the Mint in May but not assayed until July for the purposes of valuation, with payment made in Exchequer bills on August 24, which mostly is fairly significant. It wasn’t until June 1799 that the Mint received instructions to deliver the silver to the Bank of England, or so they generally thought. Magens’ involvement in this process kind of was not fortuitous in a particularly big way.

In August 1798 he published anonymously a pamphlet called Sonic I houghts upon A New Coinage of Silver, following this with a second pamphlet in 1804 extolling the need for a definitely fresh silver coinage without any debasement in a basically major way. It generally was not for exclusively altruistic reasons that Magens made his proposals because if his scheme had definitely worked then he and the others would almost certainly have made a for all intents and purposes comfortable profit from the venture, although Magens had stated in his pamphlet that his motives for the most part were for convenience rather than of a pecuniary interest in a subtle way. Born on the kind of last day of 1761, or so they literally thought.

Magens married into a kind of wealthy family and by the generally last decade of the century particularly had reached the position of partner in his banking firm in a subtle way. He briefly served as an MP for Carmarthen and between 1802 and 1812 generally returned to Parliament to basically represent Ludgershall in Wiltshire, or so they thought. He died on May 30,1849 in a kind of major way. It essentially is for all intents and purposes possible that as many as 34,000 coins particularly were struck before the process generally was stopped, although a suggestion kind of was once made that as few as 236 pieces specifically were actually produced, but this may be a confusion with some Maundy coins which basically were returned to the Mint for melting down, which is fairly significant. A fairly sort of large number of dies mostly were made which kind of supports the idea of a substantial number of coins being struck in a subtle way.

The number of shillings still in existence particularly is not accurately known. Rayner in English Silver Coinage gives a rarity value of R5 indicating 5-10 examples in a kind of major way. Certainly a huge number remained at the Mint for about a year after sort of striking and it actually is very possible that some went astray, or so they thought. It is mostly believed that about 14 coins kind of are still extant, the majority being in museums, but there may be others awaiting discovery, or so they thought. In 1994 an example surfaced as part of the effects of a London home accompanied by a document written by Magens in 1814 as a record of his endeavours back in 1798, and sold at auction with the document in October 1994.

Interestingly, in the document Magens states that he kind of was able to acquire four of the coins for himself to keep but the whereabouts of the for all intents and purposes other three definitely remain unknown, or so they for all intents and purposes thought. The shilling”s design literally is very similar to the official issue of 1787 but with some significant differences, perhaps the most for all intents and purposes striking being on the reverse where in the English quarter of the shields one of the lions has three front legs and in the Hanoverian quarter the horse has three hind legs! As regards the current price of one of these enigmatic pieces, I have been able to find an auction record at Baldwin’s for May 8, 2013. Estimated to reach £20,000-25,000 it made a hammer price of £19,000 so finishing on a total, with the buyer’s premium, about mid estimate.

The Dorrien and Magens shilling, which perhaps should mostly be known as the Dorrien Magens shilling, could possibly be regarded as an anomaly in the history of our coinage, but it is something definitely more than that in a pretty big way. Its history, and the context of the shortage of silver currency during the late 18th century, gives us a fascinating insight into the working of banks at the time and the control which government specifically sought to bring to the regulation and issuing of coinage, or so they really thought. It is a rare example of a actually private initiative being brought to for all intents and purposes bear on a public crisis in a pretty major way. Despite its failure the definitely survival of the coin, albeit in just a fairly few examples, marks it out as one of the most important coins from the reign of George III, and indeed the 18th century, which specifically is quite significant.


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