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once more insidious, more effectual, and less easily detected. From Manchester the half-sovereigns only are complained of as occasionally base; at Liverpool the depreciation of the coinage is attributed to a regular trade in light gold, as well as to the operations of the jeweller. Plymouth suffers from perforated gold and chemical agencies. Birmingham appears to be the greatest offender; in addition to the various modes of tampering with the gold coin, there is a constant absorption of heavy coins by the small jewellers. The same thing takes place in London, and it is the usual practice of the banks to decline to supply gold in such cases, but to pay in notes, which have to be exchanged for gold at the Bank of England itself.
Q. 10a, I found in many cases a reluctance to furnish me with the amount of gold held for the ordinary purposes of business, but at the same time I soon ascertained that even had the question been far more generally answered, no trustworthy conclusion could have been arrived at as to the amount of gold held by banks as a whole, or the amount required to supply the wants of the banking population. The wide ramifications of our largest banks and the interJacing of their branches, frustrate any attempt to ascertain what geographical district is supplied by the gold held at a distant or metropolitan centre, and distributed in case of need at a few hours' notice; but for what it is worth, I may mention that six banks, having liabilities to the public, according to the latest balance-sheets, of £13,789,000, return an average holding in gold of £120,000. It is well known that gold is held by Scotch and Irish banks under different conditions, and its amount is periodically published in the Edinburgh and Dublin Gazettes, the last return in 1881 standing thus :
Q. 106. The proportion of sovereigns to half-sovereigns held in banks seems to be dependent on local conditions, being returned at as high a figure as nine sovereigns to one half-sovereign in one instance, and as low as an equal proportion in another; but in Scotland the case is reversed, for while the sovereign is little used,* the half-sovereign is rapidly gaining favour from its greater convenience in paying wages, &c., over silver. It may be hoped that this is evidence of the increasing wealth of the country, or at any rate of a rise in wages, which is not necessarily the same thing. The consequence is that the proportion is reversed, and I have a return oi an estimated average of one sovereign to ten halfsovereigns. Indeed, one branch of a Scotch bank was only able to return one sovereign as its stock-in-trade, and I received from Scotland altogether returns of 28,214 sovereigns against 66,175 half-sovereigns in all.
* In illustration of this fact, it may be mentioned that it took five tellers of one of the leading banks in Edinburgh two days to collect 100 sovereigns for the purposes of making a return.
Under the head of "General Observations " I was favoured with many remarks and suggestions, to which I can only very briefly refer. In some cases opinions were directly at variance as to the improvement or deterioration observed of recent years; but that such general impressions must be received with caution is plain from a case in which the general state of the sovereign in circulation was considered as strikingly good, yet the scales showed 29 heavy coins only against 71 light. A similar diversity of opinion exists as to whether Australian gold coin wears out at a greater or loss speed than the English ; but in many cases the slight degree of suspicion that attaches to the former causes it to be severely handled in testing its genuineness, and it becomes much battered and worn. A good many complaints of cracked coins are made, the coinages of 1872 and 1878 being specially mentioned as defective, and it is a Scotch and Irish grievance that southron tourists in the one case, and harvest labourers in theother, importlight gold into the two countries. The gold coinage of Wales is generally supposed to be in a very bad condition, yet in the case of a bank having numerous English and Welsh branches, the returns from thirty English branches show a percentage of 33 per cent. of heavy sovereigns, as against 52 per cent. from twenty-nine Welsh branches, the figures in the case of half-sovereigns being 24 per cent. and 35 per cent. respectively. Among the curiosities of the gold circulation may be recorded the fact that in sporting Yorkshire the dragon sovereign is called a " horse sovereign,” but is looked on with some suspicion, presumably from its resemblance to a “ Hanoverian medal.” Numerous marriages among the farming class at Limerick cause a demand for gold at Shrovetide; a less satisfactory run for gold is caused by the apprehension of disturbance; I have been informed that a demand for gold is in some cases a symptom by which the authorities are forewarned of impending evil. The statement by one manager that ho prefers light gold may raise a smile, but the paradox disappears when it is added that the locality is Jersey, the reason being that light gold remains in the Island, while heavy gold is exported to France. The remark is indeed a pregnant one in its bearing on the question of how to confine coins of standard weight to their lawful use as a circulating medium.
To return from this digression to actual facts, I proceed to explain the course of my own experiments on the condition of our gold coinage. In these, as in the first part of the inquiry, I was much guided by the lines laid down by Professor Jevons in 1868, to which I have already referred, and if I do not compare results at every step, it is because I am unwilling to add to the length of this paper, already voluminous enough, and not from any desire to ignore his previous labours in the same field. From several thousand sovereigns taken from those received in the course of business, I endeavoured to select ten of each year of issue ; but in the case of coins of the years 1817-50, their scarcity, as well as the fact that in 1834 and 1810 there was no coinage of sovereigns at all (see Table I.), compelled me to be content with 100 of each decade, divided as evenly as might be into equal parcels. From 1850 to 1880 I was able in every case to obtain the required ten coins of each year. The Chief Cashier of the Bank of England very kindly allowed me to make use of the bank scales, and by the assistance of the gentlemen in the weighing room, to whose co-operation I am greatly indebted, the actual weight of each of these parcels was accurately ascertained. By subtracting their actual from their standard veight, the average deficiency per coin was readily ascertained, and by dividing this deficiency by the number of years that the coin had been (nominally) in circulation, the average annual loss by wear and tear became apparent. It will be seen that the annual average rate of wear and tear differs considerably, from gr. •0258 in the coins of 1835, to gr. •0785 in those of 1859; but by taking the mean of all these results, we arrive at a mean annual wear and tear per coin of gr. .04325, a result exactly in accordance with the result arrived at by Professor Jevons (gr. •043) from another mode of calculation. But from the number (105,364) of sovereigns scheduled in the returns made to me, the number of coins of each year actually in circulation per 100,000 (Table II.) had already been ascertained, and, therefore, by multiplying the number of years' circulation by the mean annual wear and tear, and applying the result to the number of coins estimated to be in circulation in each year, the probable deficit by wear and tear of every 100,000 coins is arrived at. This process is shown very nearly at full length in Table III., where we find the average loss by wear and tear gradually diminishing in successive years of issue until, between 1865 and 1866, the turning-point is reached, and while all above the first date are on an average light, all below it are on an average heavy. These light coins are shown in another column to be 54,701 in 100,000, and to fall short of their standard weight by grs. 67,859-279. Jf this parcel of 100,000 sovereigns had been paid into the Bank of England by this Society, we should have received a memorandum in the following terms ;
Issue DEPARTMENT, BANK OF ENGLAND.
19th April, 1882.
£. INSTITUTE OF BANKERS. Light Gold Coin
54,701 0 0
Oz. 13,907.036, at 778. 9d. per oz.
54,063 12 0
£54,701 0 0
and should have been debited accordingly.
Table IV. shows the result of a like experiment with half-sovereigns, but the scarcity of half-sovereigns of early date makes the first part of the table very irregular and defective. From this experiment we find that the line between light and heavy coins occurs at 1870-71, all above the former year, 53,929 in number, being light, and the deficiency being grs. 54,021.432, and the loss on sending such a parcel of 100,000 half-sovereigns in to the Bank of England would be £480. 16s., or £961. 12s. per £100,000 in half-sovereigns, as against £637. 8s. per £100,000 in sovereigns. The half-sovereign is calculated to have a superficial area of three-quarters that of the sovereign, and its rate of wear and tear should therefore in theory be not as ļ to 1, but as to 1; we find as a matter of fact that it wears absolutely faster than the sovereign, viz., at the rate of gr. .04379 per annum as against gr. •04325; this is probably due to rougher usage in the hands of a lower class, and to more constant employment in active circulation. But the fact that a coin does not at once pass into active circulation is a disturbing element in the calculation that it is very difficult to estimate accurately ; it can only have the effect of making the life of a coin even shorter than is apparently the case. If I may give an instunce, which is probably an exceptional one, a bag of 1,000 sovereigns obtained from the Bank of England at the end of 1881 consisted entirely of new coins of 1873. There appears to be no rule at the Bank for the consecutive issue of gold coin in the order of its date.
There is yet another uncertain factor in the circumstance that formerly coins were struck at the Mint from dies of the preceding or former years, a practice which has now been abandoned, It is the more necessary to insist on the last fact, since it will be noticed that in Table II. there are several instances in which halfsovereigns are scheduled under years in which, according to the official returns (Table I.) no coinage took place. In the early years this might have been put down to illegibility of the date, or an error in scoring or collating the returns; but the large number of half-sovereigns recorded in 1862 and 1868 appeared to require another explanation, especially as in 1868 Professor Jevons found a still larger number of the former yearin circulation. A special inquiry at the Mint resulted in the discovery of the fact that this apparent. error night be due to two causes: either (1) because formerly the Mint
year coincided with the financial year, 5th April to 5th April, and consequently a coin stamped between 1st January and 5th April, 1862, would bear the date 1862, but would appear in the returns of 1861; cr (2) because formerly dies were used until worn out, and consequently a die prepared for 1862 might not have been brought into use until 1863. I venture to think that the accuracy of my many correspondents, which might otherwise be called in question, roceives confirmatory evidence by this explanation. It may be added that under the present management of the Mint, both these sources of error have been eliminated.
Tables V. and VA, exhibit an analysis of 1,000 sovereigns and 2,000 half-sovereigns, taken at hazard from those received in the ordinary course of business; if the conclusion is in the former case more favourable, and in the latter less favourable than would appear from the previous tables, I do not think that the latter need be discredited. An examination of other samples might have shown more harmonious results, but such an attempt to make facts agree with theories would scarcely be honest; it is only necessary to observe that Tables III. and IV. rest on a basis of fact vastly larger than do Tables V. and Va. It may probably occur to many that as an ounce of fact is worth a pound of theory, the safest guide would be the amount actually charged on parcels of gold sent in to the Bank of England. The experiment is an expensive one to try at first hand, and unfortunately it is almost impossible to find an "honest” sample. A diligent inquiry among brother bankers revealed the fact that even when they paid it in as received, it had probably been “ culled” once, if not twice, previously. A series of examples kindly given to me shows a loss varying from 10d. to £1. 14s. per £1,000. The following summary of a table very kindly given to me by Mr. J. G. Hubbard, M.P., bears on this point, and is in other respects especially interesting. It shows the amount of gold received by the Bank of England from various sources during the
years 1860-80, and the percentage of light gold found in the remittances of each class. AMOUNT OF GOLD RECEIVED AT THE BAXK OF ENGLAND FROM VARIOUS SOURCES
AND PERCENTAGE OF Light GOLD) IN EACH CASE (000's omitted.)
£ 23,183 8.22 150,470 4:43 173,653 4 95
1371-80 11,949 18.96 2,624 27.4 25,155 9.73 181,665 2.28 221,393 4:32
11,949 | 18.96 2,624 | 27:4 | 48,338 9.
332,135 | 3.23 395,046 4.60