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§ 177. “Coinage.”

Coinage is the act or process of converting metal into money for circulation. The coining and legitimation of money is one of the exclusive prerogatives of the Crown, but from the earliest times it has been regulated by Act of Parliament.

Sterling money (gold and silver money) of a given weight and fineness, seems to have been first established in 1351 by 25 Edw. III., st. 5, c. 13, but for a long time after that date the Crown exercised, or as Blackstone says (1 Com. 278), usurped, as part of its prerogative, the right to debase the coin. It was not until the time of Charles II. that the currency was put on a comparatively sound footing. The standard and value of English coin was extended to Scotland in 1706. Prior to 1870 the coinage and management of the mint were regulated by a series of enactments, wholly or partly repealed by and specified in the Coinage Act, 1870, 33 and 34 Vic. c. 10, on which the regulation of coin of the realm and the colonies now mainly depends. That Act fixes the standard of coins, prohibits the issue, except from the mint, of any piece of metal as token or coin, under a penalty of £20, recovered summarily; directs all contracts to be made in currency; regulates the purchase and coining of gold bullion ; and directs mint profits to be paid into the exchequer. The exercise of the prerogative of coinage is defined and controlled, but the powers are left very wide. The purity of the coinage and the conformity to standard is ascertained annually by the trial of the pyx, which is held under an Order in Council of 1871. At this trial a jury of six competent freemen of the Goldsmiths' Company examine coins of each minting, set apart for testing by the standard trial plates and standard weights, which are kept in the custody of the Board of Trade, and produced on notice for the occasion. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is master of the mint, which is managed and regulated by the Treasury, subject to the Act of 1870. (Encyc. of the Laws of England, iii. p. 74.)

The language of the American Constitution, by its proper signification, is limited to the facts or to the faculty in Congress of coining and stamping the standard of value upon what the government creates or shall adopt, and of punishing the offence of producing a false representation of what may have been so created or adopted. The imposture of passing a false coin creates, produces or alters nothing; it is an offence punishable by State law, since it leaves the legal coin as it was—affects its intrinsic value in no wise whatever. (Fox v. Ohio, 5 How. 410–413; compare with United States v. Marigold, 9 How. 560. Baker, Annot. Const. p. 47.)

Under this power, as well as under the power to regulate commerce, Congress has authority to enact laws providing for the punishment of persons who bring into the United States, with intent to pass the same, any false or counterfcit coin, and also to


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persons for passing, altering, publishing or selling any such false or counterfeit coin. (United States v. Marigold, 9 How. 560, id.)

The Mint opened in Sydney on 14th May, 1855, and that opened in Melbourne on 12th June, 1872, are Imperial Institutions, being branches of the Royal Mint. They were established, and are now administered, by the Imperial Government at the request of the Colonial Governments, which guarantee it against loss. The Queen's proclamation, pursuant to which these branches were opened, declared that the coin issued therefrom was to be a legal tender for payment within the United Kingdom. The Parliament of New South Wales and the Parliament of Victoria have made permanent provision, by special appropriations, for defraying the salaries, allowances, expenses, and contingencies connected with the branch mints in their respective colonies. The Victorian special appropriation is £20,000 per year; that of New South Wales is £15,000 per year. All fees, dues, and charges collected at the branch mints are accounted for and handed over by the deputy masters to the Treasurers of their respective colonies and paid into the consolidated revenue.

The West Australian Government has obtained the sanction of the Imperial Government for the establishment of a branch mint in Perth, of which the foundation stone was laid by Sir John Forrest on 23rd September, 1896. The building was completed and handed over to the Mint authorities in October, 1898, and the necessary machinery has since been erected. The expenditure involved up to the present has been about £30,000. The Parliament of Western Australia has appropriated the sum of £20,000 per year towards the maintenance of the Mint. On the authority of the Master of the Imperial Mint, it is stated that the new Mint will probably relieve the Melbourne Mint of a third of the deposits presented there. This will affect materially the profits of the Melbourne Mint, which have for some years past been of a most satisfactory character. The Perth Mint was opened for the reception of bullion on the 20th June, 1899.

The following statement of the capital value of the Sydney and Melbourne Mint properties, the annual interest payable thereon, the ordinary annual expenditure, the annual receipts, and the net cost per annum, has been compiled from returns presented to the Convention. (Votes and proceedings of Melbourne Session, p. 232; Victorian Federation Papers, 296.)

                           
SYDNEY MINT
CAPITAL.—Estimated present value land and building (rough approximation) ... ... ... ...  £70,000 
MAINTENANCE.—Annual interest on outlay ... ... ... ...  £3,000 
Annual subsidy ... ... ... ...  15,000 
Total ... ... ... ...  £18,000 
REVENUE, 1895–6, Fees, dues, charges, &c. ... ...  £15,119 
Net annual expenditure ... ... ... ...  £2,881 
MELBOURNE MINT
CAPITAL.—Estimated present value of land and building (rough approximation) ... ... ... ...  £70,000 
MAINTENANCE.—Annual interest on outlay ... ...  £3,395 
Annual subsidy ... ... ... ...  20,000 
Total ... ... ... ...  £23,395 
REVENUE, 1895–6, Fees, dues, charges, &c. ... ...  £21,194 
Net annual expenditure ... ... ... ...  £2,201 




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