SMP Logo
SM Publications
Silver Salon Forums - The premier site for discussing Silver.
SMP | Silver Salon Forums | SSF - Guidelines | SSF - FAQ | Silver Sales

In this Forum we discuss the silver of the United Kingdom, as well as British Colonial silver and Old Sheffield Plate.

Past British - Irish Sterling topics/threads worth a look.

How to Post Photos

Want to be a Moderator?
customtitle open  SMP Silver Salon Forums
tlineopen  British / Irish Sterling
tline3open  Silver and Money

Post New Topic  Post A Reply
profile | register | preferences | faq | search

ForumFriend SSFFriend: Email This Page to Someone! next newest topic | next oldest topic
Author Topic:   Silver and Money
Clive E Taylor

Posts: 450
Registered: Jul 2000

iconnumber posted 09-22-2005 04:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Clive E Taylor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Could I add a bit of socio-economic background to silver ? Recent discussions on coin silver in other forums indicate to me that few collectors have understand the close relationship between silver artifacts and the monetary system which existed virtually until the early twentieth century
.
Before c1900 coins were not seen as tokens with a set value, and bank notes were only worth, in gold and silver, what the issuing bank was good for. The modern concept of money having a notional value backed by common consent and Government would have been totally alien to the Victorian or earlier generations.

Coins in particular were only of value to the extent of the gold/silver content Indeed when purchasing anything in England negotiation started with agreeing a price for the item, then establishing what value to give to the customer’s coins. Sometimes facevalue , but often less if the coins were clipped or worn. It actually simplified international trade in London , since the more sophisticated establishments knew the gold/silver content of virtually all foreign coins, especially Spanish, and would take them readily.

Gold and silver were seen as the only easily transferable and storable wealth for the average person. Banks were, before 1800, only for the rich, and were quite rightly, generally mistrusted. Government and private investment stock – very similar only more distrusted !

A man with surplus money would put it into land in the long term, into silver and gold articles in the short to medium term , or in coins under his bed in the short term.
When a man bought silver articles he fully expected to realise its value eventually by scrapping . He bought it from a shop by weight, usually at so much per ounce for the metal , plus so much for the fashion(ing) .
Eastern gold shops still work on the same system.

What is not often realised is that this applies to down to even quite poor people. Most artisans and even labourers had a box for their personal possessions, which would typically include their savings in silver. A few spoons, a pair of shoe buckles, a toothpick etc. They would use them, but would sell or pawn when times got tough.

It was only the rise of more sophisticated ecomonic systems during the Industrial Revolution when better (and usually safer) methods of storing wealth became available to an increasing middle class that silver articles became less savings and more status symbols and luxury items. . The noticeably less weighty silver in the late 18th century , typified by the Bateman firm’s products , shows this . People wanted to pay for the article for itself, not as savings. The proportion of metal value to fashioning value became less important – overall price was the criteria . The cheaper the better !

The relatively large quantity of, for example, George I silver which survives today, despite all efforts of the contemporary silver trade to persuade its original owners to replace it with new fashions reflects this. The owners could afford new plate and bought it, but still regarded the old material, however deeply out of style, as savings. Rather than part exchange they kept it for a rainy day, or the choice piece of land they’d been eyeing for years !

Today it is very difficult for us to understand the full status of silver in the past, and we have a total different mindset towards it. We treat a silver item as a luxury consumer durable and nothing else.

A man in 1700 would not recognise this attitude.

Please excuse if I do not reply for a few weeks to anyone adding - I'm away untill mid-October

IP: Logged

tmockait

Posts: 963
Registered: Jul 2004

iconnumber posted 09-22-2005 10:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tmockait     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The conditions Clive described pervailed through the 17th century but began to change as result of two profound economic innovations: the chartering of the Bank of England in 1694 and the creation of joint stock companies shortly after. Both inovations made it unnecessary to store wealth as plate and flatware that could be converted to coin as needed. Hallmarking, needless to say, persisted long after its original purpose had been served.

I don't think it is true that the value of coinnage and notes was negotiable as late as 1900. Britain did have centrally regulated banking and credit, which the U.S. did not have until after the great depression. As a result, the impact of the crash did not hit Britain nearly as hard as it did the U.S. The pound sterling was one of the most stable and reliable currencies, worth about $40 at the turn of the twentieth century.

Tom

[This message has been edited by tmockait (edited 09-22-2005).]

IP: Logged

Silver Lyon

Posts: 363
Registered: Oct 2004

iconnumber posted 09-23-2005 03:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Silver Lyon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thomas Jefferson chose the purity of the Spanish coinage (916/1000) over the still more prevalent Sterl;ing when choosing the standard for the US $ - a social and political decision taking the new country even further away from the rejected motherland!
From this point, therefore it would have been even more necessary for silversmiths to confirm the standard to their customers...

IP: Logged

Silver Lyon

Posts: 363
Registered: Oct 2004

iconnumber posted 09-23-2005 03:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Silver Lyon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Another (early morning) thought!
The Bank of England did indeed make a difference - before then (1694) the only reliable 'banks' were our friends the goldsmiths. You would deposit your coin, silver, gold etc. with your favourite goldsmith and when you wanted some of it back you would eithert write to him direct or give a third party a 'goldsmiths' note' which he could present in order to be paid.
These 'goldsmiths' notes' ware the forerunners of modern checks!
BUT the Bank of England was really only used for savings and legal matters, trade was handled by a myriad of private banks (limeite by law to a maximun of six partners) usually with specialist areas of expertise and interest. In England it is not until the introduction of Joint Stock Banks in 1836 that the system is finally stabalised.
There are 'collectible' c.18th goldsmith/bankers - Richard Gosling comes to mind but thare are many others.
I go along with Clive; for the wealthy there was (at least a psycological) a direct connection between holdings of silver and understandin of wealth until at least 1780.
Hope this isn't too rambling! smile

IP: Logged

tmockait

Posts: 963
Registered: Jul 2004

iconnumber posted 09-23-2005 11:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for tmockait     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It was more than just psychological. Banks notwithstanding there was no workers comp, old age penisons, or much insurance of any kind. One's possessions were a hedge against disaster and a comfort -hence the ponderous, lavish, and gaudy furnishings of the Victorian period. Aspiring middle class families were expected to rent silver and china to entertain in a suitable manner. Success or failure in the dining room could make or break one's career!

The poor of course had no silver or much of anything by way of possessions. They contributed small amounts to "friendly societies" and "burial clubs" who would see to their needs in life and death respectively. Later unions served a similar purpose.

Tom

[This message has been edited by tmockait (edited 09-23-2005).]

IP: Logged

TBC

Posts: 134
Registered: Jan 2005

iconnumber posted 09-23-2005 02:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for TBC     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is a very interesting topic, of which I might be able to add some value. As a lawyer who has written a book entitled "The Law of Private Companies", (2nd ed; 2002) Butterworths/ Reid Elsevier, I researched the law relating to the introduction of the modern company in Irish/ English law, and touched upon the history of the Joint-Stock Company.

There are some interesting aspects of the law of companies that concern silver.

Perhaps one of the most obvious is the use of the word "Limited" or "Ltd" in the name of companies. Once can safely say that any item with such a maker's mark post-date 1855 for it was in that year that the Limited Liability Act, 1855 was passed for the UK. It is only after that date that one could expect to find a maker's mark with the word "Limited" or "Ltd" or a variation thereof (such as "L_d" - which is not a permissible legal abbreviation of the word limited and which could, under past and present Irish and English Company Law render the officers (directors) of such a company personally liable for any loss suffered by someone who deals with such a company where such an unacceptable abbreviation is used!!)

Prior to that there was the Joint Stock Companies Act, 1844. This Act permitted the incorporation, by governmental sponsored registration, of companies - but limited liability was still not a recognised by statute. Prior to that "companies" i.e. artificial legal persons were largelyt created only by Royal charter i.e. the King/Queen or parliament had to actually allow the incorporation of an entity! (for the lawyers, this was far from the Delaware model!!!)

Prior to that again, we have the joint stock companies one of which famously perished following the so-called South Sea Bubble. This was an amazing event when people went mad and started investing in circumstances where there was no regulation or control. In my book (2nd ed; 2002) I quote from a book I found on the internet called MacKay, "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds", (1841) quotation reproduced with permission from the Litrix Reading Room (www.Litrix.com). This shows just how mad people became in investing in stocks.

I would guess that there might be a correlation between the South Sea Bubble and people investing in Silver and Gold - since for many their world was ruined, thereafter by investment in intangibles and only gold and silver existed as tangible investment commodities. (For an interesting, fictional, historial perspective of the fate of one cartographer, read Robert Godard's "Sea Change", (2000) (available on amazon.com).

Hope the foregoing is of interest.

Best wishes,

Tom

[This message has been edited by TBC (edited 09-23-2005).]

IP: Logged

Clive E Taylor

Posts: 450
Registered: Jul 2000

iconnumber posted 09-23-2005 02:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Clive E Taylor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
tmockait's point that the Bank of England acting as to operate Goverment debt and the rise of the joint stock companies ocurred early in the 18th century. But Goverment stock was not fully trusted - many in the early 1700's could remeber a civil war ! And later many could rember the South Sea bubble .
Concerning our 1900 person - England did not come off the Gold standard until after the First World War. He could, and did, walk into the Bank of England, hand over a five pound note , and get gold sivereighns for it - which had to be of a certain purity /weight.

Like all social processes it was gradual - but we should keep in mind the total alien differtences in attitude .

IP: Logged

TBC

Posts: 134
Registered: Jan 2005

iconnumber posted 09-23-2005 02:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for TBC     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hello Clive.

I think our posts, crossed as I bear out some of what you are saying.

Rgds,

Tom

[This message has been edited by TBC (edited 09-23-2005).]

IP: Logged

tmockait

Posts: 963
Registered: Jul 2004

iconnumber posted 09-23-2005 02:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tmockait     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Perhaps I misunderstood you. Your post made it sound like the value of the note and coinnage varied from bank to bank, which I don't think was the case by 1900. In any event, very few working class people had soverigns, five pound notes, or family silver. We're still talking about a relatively small percentage of the population, even in 1900.

You are certainly right about confidence and the South Sea bubble, which brought down the government. Banking did take a very long time to develop.

On a related note, some of the earliest bankers were from Northern Italy, hence the existence of Lombard Street in London today.
Jews were also forced into the business by Christian laws prohibiting lending at interest (usery) and royal laws preventing Jews from owning land. Add to the mix the need of a persecuted minority to keep its assets liquid and transportable and Jews became the "natural" bankers - a role for which they were then blamed and persecuted futher.

Tom

IP: Logged

Clive E Taylor

Posts: 450
Registered: Jul 2000

iconnumber posted 09-23-2005 02:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Clive E Taylor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Silver Lyon has reminded us of the other great relationship . The depositing of silver with goldsmiths ( who had strongrooms) against a negotiable receipt was the foundation of modern banking. These early notes were more allied to banknotes than cheques although we do not want to go into the definition of a "cheque" - a negotiable instrument drawn on a banker- because term "negotiable instrument" - learnt by heart by all lawyers accountants and bankers ,although simple is actually highly technical.
Suffice to say our goldsmith bankers took a guy's silver (not money but silver ,only perhaps in coin) stored it and used it as the backing for loans to third parties. Seems familiar ! But all backed by gold and silver.

IP: Logged

tmockait

Posts: 963
Registered: Jul 2004

iconnumber posted 09-23-2005 08:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tmockait     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Clive, et al,

Do you know of a good article on the relationship between silver, banking, savings, credit, etc.?

Tom

IP: Logged

Clive E Taylor

Posts: 450
Registered: Jul 2000

iconnumber posted 10-08-2005 01:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Clive E Taylor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sorry Tomockait but "no I don't". But the point I was trying to impress on collectors is the significance silver had socoally and ecomonically in past centuries, far beyond it's current consumer goods aspect.
Judging by the great responses to this topic I may have got the message over !
Thanks to all

IP: Logged

Patrick Vyvyan

Posts: 640
Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 10-11-2005 11:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Patrick Vyvyan     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Although perhaps a little off topic, this title has some fascinating information:

The History of Bimetallism in the United States by J. Laurence Laughlin
D. Appleton and Co. New York, 1898 (Fourth edition). First edition: 1885.

It is completely on-line at: The History of Bimetallism in the United States

IP: Logged

ahwt

Posts: 2173
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 10-20-2005 11:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Patrick you cited an interesting article. Many more reference materials will be available on the internet if the search engine companies can come up with a business model where they and the book publishers both make money in copying old books. Copyright (at least in the countries that respect this property right) do last a long time, but there are many books that never come to light because of this long time period.

On another matter, I recall reading an commentary about the relationship between the value of silver and the added value imparted by the silversmith in his or her work in designing and crafting the item. I can not find this article now and wonder if anyone else has seen such an analysis. Early on when the weight of silver in the finished product was engraved on the item I could imagine that a frugal purchaser would like simple items that could be finished quickly without a great amount of hand work.

IP: Logged

Fitzhugh

Posts: 136
Registered: Jan 2002

iconnumber posted 01-07-2006 11:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fitzhugh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Excellent point on the guarantee of weight on some finished silver articles. Did I overlook it, or have we failed to mention the security factor in maintaining "plate" rather than coinage? Remember that a key reason for securing the labor of the silversmith was to provide dual marks of identification in case of theft, both the smiths hallmarks, and the owner's name/crest, something one certainly couldn't do easily with a bag of Spanish mill dollars!

IP: Logged

All times are ET

next newest topic | next oldest topic

Administrative Options: Close Topic | Archive/Move | Delete Topic
Post New Topic  Post A Reply
Hop to:


Ultimate Bulletin Board 5.46a


1. Public Silver Forums (open Free membership) - anyone with a valid e-mail address may register. Once you have received your Silver Salon Forum password, and then if you abide by the Silver Salon Forum Guidelines, you may start a thread or post a reply in the New Members' Forum. New Members who show a continued willingness to participate, to completely read and abide by the Guidelines will be allowed to post to the Member Public Forums.
Click here to Register for a Free password

2. Private Silver Salon Forums (invitational or $ donation membership) - The Private Silver Salon Forums require registration and special authorization to view, search, start a thread or to post a reply. Special authorization can be obtained in one of several ways: by Invitation; Annual $ Donation; or via Special Limited Membership. For more details click here (under development).

3. Administrative/Special Private Forums (special membership required) - These forums are reserved for special subjects or administrative discussion. These forums are not open to the public and require special authorization to view or post.


| Home | Order | The Guide to Evaluating Gold & Silver Objects | The Book of Silver
| Update BOS Registration | Silver Library | For Sale | Our Wants List | Silver Dealers | Speakers Bureau |
| Silversmiths | How to set a table | Shows | SMP | Silver News |
copyright © 1993 - 2020 SM Publications
All Rights Reserved.
Legal & Privacy Notices