Before the modern minting process, there were mainly two ways to produce coins. These processes involved using a hammer and anvil to punch the design of the dies, and a screw press to press the design of the dies onto a planchet. Minting coins up to the mid-17th century was mostly done using the hammer method.
There are many different techniques used to produce Hammered coins. One of these techniques was to create an obverse and reverse die, where one of the dies was countersunk in a large piece of wood. This was done to keep the lower die stable to prevent it from moving or separating when the upper die was struck by the hammer. The upper die was often held by hand, centering it over the lower die. The blank or planchet would be loaded on top of the lower die and would be kept in place by a Collar that was formed by the wood. The upper die would then be centered over the planchet and struck with a hammer to emboss both sides of the planchet. This is a very effective way to produce Hammered coins and it has been used since ancient times.
Hammering coins was fast and easy to do at the time. It is difficult to determine the number of coins that were produced by each person, but it is suspected that each moneyer would produce over one thousand coins per day. Although hammered coins have been around for centuries, attempts have been made to improve upon the minting process. Donato Bramante was the first person to successfully create a working screw press for coinage in 1506, and it was believed that he got the idea from a fruit press. In 1560, Elisabeth I commissioned a Frenchmen by the name of Eloye Mestrelle to implement a more efficient way to produce coins. Eloye used Donato’s design to create his own screw press. This proved to be a great idea and towards the end of 1560, Eloye was already producing coins from his machine. This new process struck coins with much more power and accuracy. In this time, his machine would have produced shillings, groats, and half-groats.
In 1561, new denominations, such as the Sixpence, Threepence, One and a half pence, and Three-quarter pence, were in production, as well as Three Farthing, Half pound, Crown, and Half-Crown. The press ran for another three years until it broke down in 1564. Eloye struggled to get the machine working again until 1566. Everything for Eloye was going great until 1568 when one of Eloye’s relatives Phillip Mestrelle was arrested for counterfeiting coins. And in 1569, Phillip was hung for his actions and Eloye was pardoned. Although Eloye was pardoned and was allowed to keep his job, he now faced harsh restrictions and was forced to use Substandard tools.
In 1572 the warden of the mint, Richard Martin discontinued the Screw press and Eloye was fired. Eloye, left with no job went back into the counterfeiting scene and was later arrested in 1577 and charged again for counterfeiting coins. Eloye Mestrelle was executed following his arrest in 1578.