Coins, tokens and medals
The collection and study of coins, tokens and medals is called numismatics. There are over 6500 items in RAMM's collection. Some of the differences between them are minute. Each one tells us a little bit about the time it was made and used.
The first coins were used around 2700 years ago in Greece. Ever since then, for both rich and poor, money has had an important place in life. It is remarkable that over time coins have hardly changed their basic form at all.
Early coins in Devon
Coins were first used in Devon during the Iron Age (around 2100 years ago). They were not made here but probably traded from the tribes in Dorset. During the Roman period coinage became widespread throught Britain, and coins from across the Empire have been found and collected in Devon.
The first coins made in Devon come from the Anglo-Saxon mints at Exeter (871-1300), Lydford (959-1066), Totnes (959-1100) and Barnstaple (978-1087).
The mint at Exeter has a long history. From the very rare coins of Alfred the Great (871-99), though the Anglo-Saxon and Norman kings to the Medieval coinage up to 1300. Exeter did not mint coins again until the Civil War when coins were produced for the Royalist forces in 1644 and 1645. The final phase of coin production in Exeter was for the great recoinage ordered by William III in 1696-98.
Other forms of currency
Official coins of the realm are not the only currency that has been made Devon. Merchants, often to cover for the lack of small change issued officially, produced their own trade tokens. In the 17th century merchants in most Devon towns issued trade tokens. By the 18th century only Exeter and Plymouth issued tokens while they were made in Exeter, Barnstaple, Tavistock and Teignmouth in the 19th century.
19th century public, houses, inns, hotels, shops and other merchants issued advertising checks and tickets. These were very like trade tokens but served to advertise the business as well as have an exchange value. Most were made from bronze, but some were bone, ivory and even plastic.
The first bank notes were in use 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 a fine collection of medals. Many of these are military and civilian honours awarded to Devonians. Others are medals to commemorate specifically Exeter or Devon people, events and buildings. One of the most interesting collections is that of Exeter school medals. These rewarded good attendance or proficiency in mathematics or Latin hexameters.