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Basic Information

A coin-stamper is the legitimate craftsman or smith who strikes bullion coins. Historically, coins made from soft metals such as any form of gold, were usually cold-struck. So instead of the labor intensive process of melting and casting coins, you would instead work everything at room temperature. First, the lump of metal would be hammered into a thin plate, which was then cut into disks of the correct size (usually done with shears). The disk was then placed in a small single-coin two-part die that is mounted on an anvil. The inner surfaces of the die or mold have the shape and details of the coin carved out of them in reverse. When the top half of the mold was struck with a hammer, it would force the soft metal to take on the shape of the coin.

Hand-minting of this sort dates back to at least the 7th Century BC, and continued until at least the development of the screw press in the middle of the 16th Century AD.

A mint in a major country in the middle ages might strike as many as 20,000 coins a day. This created significant wear and tear on the dies used to strike the coins, which would need to be replaced every few days. This replacement could in turn result in some variation between coins minted at different times. Another source of coin variation might be theft committed by the Coin-Stamper, such as the shaving of coins to accumulate and pocket precious metal over time. This was a serious offense, and if caught betraying the trust of ones lord or treasurer in this was, the punishments could be severe. Castration was not unheard of, but another form of deterrent punishment was chopping off a hand from the crook and nailing it to the door of the mint as a warning to other would-be thieves.


Game and Story Use

  • A corrupt Coin-Stamper working with a con man, counterfeiter, or thieves guild could have a disastrous impact on the local economy by providing dies for striking false coins. PCs might be hired by the treasurer or other government figure to break up the organized crime syndicate, or bring back stolen molds or coin blanks.
    • On the other side of the coin, a heroic coin-stamper might be the whistleblower who uncovers government corruption.
  • The coin-stamper may be a simple menial labour job, or it could require specific and exacting knowledge. Where it falls on that spectrum has a lot to do with the economy and history of your world, what metals the coins are made of, and the nature of the guild or government that appointed the coin-stamper to their line of work. They could be the skilled expert needed to discover counterfeit coinage, or the one to ask when a rare coin is somehow important to the plot.
  • A ghost or other undead is haunting a community intent on recovering the treasure that was stolen from it centuries ago. Those coins are vanishingly rare and valuable now, and have scattered to the corners of the earth. Perhaps the ancient coins have become grave goods in another tomb, and raiding it to silence one ghost may well create another. Given the choice between these risky endeavors, the PCs best option may be to commission a local coin-stamper to recreate the likeness of those coins in an attempt to appease the restless dead.
  • For more ideas, see Money, Bullion Coin, and Dual Currencies.
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