Matthew Boulton’s Birmingham Mint was powered by his business partner and fellow Lunar Society member James Watt’s steam engines built at the Soho Foundry in Smethwick to the west of Birmingham not far from Boulton’s home at Soho House in Handsworth

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Birmingham was riddled with forgers in the late eighteenth century. Some were so cocky that they even advertised on street signs.

Copper coins were in short supply. They were made by hand presses and so easy to forge that The Royal Mint didn’t bother making them. Its own study revealed that 92% of halfpennies were fakes. It was a huge problem.

But Brum was also the home of Matthew Boulton – the Richard Branson or Bill Gates of his day. His factory at Soho House was the most advanced on the planet. He was in partnership with James Watt and their steam engines were revolutionising the world.

Boulton hated forgers – and the unscrupulous bosses who were short-changing their workers by paying them in counterfeit coins or tokens. In 1788 he launched his own mint – driven by steam and capable of making millions of identical coins so cheaply that…

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