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Antique English Folding Coin Scale


Offered for sale is an antique English Folding Coin Scale, self-raising, in a nice mahogany case, measuring 4 1/8" x 7/8" x 1/2" which we believe is circa 1818, and Georgian in origin. This piece of history was used to weigh gold coins to see if they were in correct weight to avoid counterfeiting or receiving coins with excess wear. This type of scale was in frequent use from the late 18th to 19th century. There is no visible maker's mark on this scale. This is in overall fine condition for it's age. The scale raises and stands automatically when the lid I raised. The case has a clasp pin or button on the end to hold it closed, or depressed to open.

The paper label inside the lid reads: "To ascertain the deficiency of the weight, draw the slide towards this end, each division one penny"

Ref: Crawforth, Michael, A, Weighing Coins, 1979

Provenance: Sotheby's, 1979

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This scale tests coins to check they are of full weight. From the earliest times, coins have been stamped with information about the issuer, whose reputation in the markets establishes metallic purity. The issued weight should be standard, but prior to milled edges, coins could be milked for a small amount of metal with a file and this gadget was made to protect its owner from being underpaid. This little scale dates from a time when that confidence was undermined by counterfeiters and clippers; a solution to a problem that was eventually dealt with when machinery was developed to press out tamper-proof coins with milled edges.

Even though the basic balance scale has been around for thousands of years and its accuracy has improved dramatically over the last several centuries, the principle behind this tool remains unchanged. Its parts include a fulcrum, a beam that balances on it, two pans at the ends of the beam to hold the materials to be weighed, and counter-balancing weights.

Balance scales that require equal weights on each side of the fulcrum have been used by everyone from apothecaries and assayers to jewelers and postal workers. The most accurate mechanical equal-arm scales, as they are called, are housed in wood-and-glass cases to keep dust from tipping the scales, so to speak.

In the 19th century, portable suspension balance scales were used to weigh coins—in those days, it was not uncommon for the value of the gold in a coin to exceed the coin’s stamped denomination. These scales, which could be hung from the nearest hook, were designed to fit into metal or wooden cases, including their brass pans and cast-iron or lead weights.

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  • Model: English Folding Coin Scale

This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 10 July, 2014.

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