The collection and study of coins, tokens and medals is called numismatics. RAMM’s numismatics collection contains over 6,500 items. Some of differences between these items are minute, and each one tells us a little bit about the time it was made and used.
The first coins used in Devon are from the Iron Age around 2,100 years ago. These coins were not made in the region but traded from the tribes in Dorset. During the Roman period coinage became widespread throughout Britain, and coins from across the Empire have been found and collected in Devon. The first coins to be made in Devon come from the Anglo-Saxon mints at Exeter (871-1300), Lydford (959-1066), Totnes (959-1100) and Barnstaple (978-1087).
RAMM recently acquired the Seaton Down Hoard of 22,888 Roman coins and three iron ingots. It was buried in around AD 350 but why, and by whom is a mystery. You can find out more about this exciting discovery by visiting the Seaton Down Hoard pages on our website.
The hoard will be put on display in July 2017. At the moment the coins are being conserved but some are on display in the Behind the Scenes Gallery. From September 2016 RAMM will be taking a Roman Roadshow on tour. This is the opportunity for schools and communities in East Devon and Exeter to get involved with the hoard. You can also help with the Seaton Down Hoard project by volunteering at RAMM.
Exeter’s mint has a long history, from the very rare coins of Alfred the Great (871-99), through the Anglo-Saxon and Norman kings to the Medieval coinage up to 1300. Exeter also minted coins in 1644 and 1645 for the Royalists during the Civil War. The final phase of coin production in Exeter was for the great recoinage ordered by William III in 1696-1698.
Official coins of the realm are not the only currency that has been made Devon. Merchants often produced their own trade tokens, often to cover for the lack of small change issued officially. In the 17th century traders in most Devon towns issued trade tokens. By the 18th century only Exeter and Plymouth issued tokens, but in the 19th century they were made in Exeter, Barnstaple, Tavistock and Teignmouth.
Many 19th century public houses, inns, hotels, shops and other merchants issued advertising checks and tickets. These were very like trade tokens but were also an advertisement for their business. Most were made from bronze but some were bone, ivory and even plastic.
The first bank notes were made in the 18th century. These were issued by a number of small banking businesses that sprang up at this time. Between 1790 and 1820 there was a banking crisis and many of these banks either failed, or merged to form larger banks. RAMM has several bank notes from Exeter banks in the collection. The most recent acquisitions are examples of the ‘Exeter Pound’ which was first issued in 2015.
RAMM has a fine collection of medals. Many of these are military and civilian honours awarded to people with a connection to Devon or Exeter. Other medals commemorate specific Exeter or Devon people, events and buildings. One of the most interesting groups in RAMM’s collection are the medals from schools in Exeter. These rewarded good attendance or proficiency in topics such as mathematics or Latin hexameters.