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Good Money: Birmingham Button Makers, the Royal Mint, and the Beginnings of Modern Coinage, 1775-1821 [Hardcover]

George Selgin

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Book Description

15 July 2008
This book looks at private enterprise and the foundation of modern coinage."Good Money" tells the fascinating story of British manufacturers' challenge to the Crown's monopoly on coinage. In the 1780s, when the Industrial Revolution was gathering momentum, the Royal Mint failed to produce enough small-denomination coinage for factory owners to pay their workers. As the currency shortage threatened to derail industrial progress, manufacturers began to mint custom-made coins, called 'tradesman's tokens'. Rapidly gaining wide acceptance, these tokens served as the nation's most popular currency for wages and retail sales until 1821, when the Crown outlawed all moneys except its own.Historian George Selgin presents a lively tale of enterprising manufacturers, technological innovations, and struggles over the right to coin legal money.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: The University of Michigan Press (15 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0472116312
  • ISBN-13: 978-0472116317
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 15.6 x 23.1 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 715,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"In lucid, enjoyable, often humorous language, Selgin takes us from the 'dark satanic mills' to the backstreet haunts of the eighteenth-century counterfeiter and the private, legitimate mints, set up to address a problem the Royal Mint could or would not - the production of safe small change for the people. His cast of characters is large and auspicious: Thomas, Williams, James Watt, John Westwood, and Matthew Boulton. And Selgin's understanding of eighteenth-century economic theory and practice is absolute, allowing him to write with verve and clarity." - Richard Doty, Curator of Numismatics, Smithsonian Institution"

About the Author

George Selgin is Professor of Economics in the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia.

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Challenge to Central Bankers 4 Aug 2008
By Ben Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Despite it's seemingly specialized, historical subject, Good Money is really both very topical and very important. The story it tells--of private coinage during the Industrial Revolution--directly challenges the conventional wisdom that's at the foundation of all modern monetary systems, namely, the belief that only government's are fit to supply coins and paper money. Selgin shows that this was far from being the case in 18th-century England. There the government proved itself perfectly unfit to coin money, until private mints showed it how to do its job right! The story of how they designed the world's first successful industrial-scale coinage system, and of how the government ultimately put them out of business, is absolutely spellbinding! No one who reads it can ever look at a central bank or government-run mint without wondering how much better off the world might have been without it!
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Money; Great Storytelling 4 Sep 2008
By Andrew Daubigny - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The scene: Birmingham, England, in the steamy, sooty grip of the Industrial Revolution. George Selgin tells the "riveting" tale of a group of eccentric entrepreneurs who take on not only each other, but the Royal Mint and the British Crown in their bids to supply a burgeoning working class with desperately needed copper and silver coins. The result: a yarn as colorfully amusing as one of Dickens' more ambitious novels, but entirely true, and one that offers up an economics lesson to boot: namely, that good money really does drive out bad--that is, as long as governments stay out of it (as soon as they don't Gersham's Law kicks in). If you love a great story, if you adore larger-than-life characters, if you put a premium on fine prose, do yourself a favor and buy Good Money. It will be well worth yours.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Capitalism saves itself and the Industrial Revolution 12 Jan 2009
By Grant - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Well researched and generally well written. Some of the middle chapters can get a little tedious with the historical detail lavished on the Soho Mint, but other than that it is a historical gem! All you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask about the fascinating economic underpinnings of the Industrial Revolution and the cultural milieu within which it was rooted.
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