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Annand, Smith & Co., Grocers, Melbourne

By Museums Victoria    |   Sunday, 19 April 2020

This company of Family Grocers of Collins Street, Melbourne, issued Australia's first circulating copper tokens, on 20 October 1849, as reported in The Argus. Although the token is not inscribed with a date, this report and an order for their manufacture discovered by researchers in Birmingham, England, confirm that they were issued before the great population boom of the gold rush. It was manufactured by the Soho Mint, Birmingham - they shipped 5 hundredweight at 27.5 pieces per pound (15,400 tokens) on 23 May 1849 followed by two further shipments on 12 October 1849 and 15 January 1850, the total comming to 45,503 pieces. This was their last product before the mint's plant was sold. Heaton & Sons purchased much of the equipment at the sale of the Soho mint and their first issue was of trade tokens for Annand Smith & Co. in 1851. The second token issue has the letters H&S added beside the shield (it is a different Britannia die too).

After issuing the first tokens, Councillor George Annand had a case brought against him for uttering and putting off coinage...imitating the coin of the realm, (Melbourne Daily News, 30 Oct. 1849) but he was obviously not convicted as he retained his position as a Councillor and went on to become a MLA.

The tokens were a great success, with applications from all quarters of Melbourne and also Geelong and other distant places, exhausting the supply in less than four months.

The Melbourne Directories of 1847 list Annand, Smith & Co., Grocers, in Collins Street, Melbourne. George Annand, Grocer, is also listed in Collins Street. The Australian Dictionary of Biography mentions a George Annand and Robert Smith, who from 1846-55 were in partnership with Robert Fulton in a business to boil down sheep carcases for tallow. Fulton later ran the business by himself. The partnership between Annand and Smith was over by 1852. The 1853 Melbourne Commercial Directory included an advertisement for Smith, Adamson & Co.'s Grocery Establishment at the Corner of Queen and Collins Streets that proclaimed them to be the successors to Annand, Smith & Co.

Annand Smith - 100th Anniversary

In 1949, the Numismatic Association of Victoria issued a medal marking the centenary of the first Australasian token, issued by Melbourne grocers Annand Smith & Co. in 1849. One hundred of these medals were struck by Stokes & Son. The medal was launched at an exhibition held by the NAV in the National Gallery of Victoria, at which the granddaughter of George Annand spoke. This was the first of many issues by the NAV.

Biographical Notes

George Annand: Born Grange, Banffshire, Scotland possibly 1798. Member, Melbourne City Council 1847 - 1852; Victorian MLA 1853. Died 'Bon Accord Villa', Church Street Hawthorn, aged either 56 or 58 on 9 January 1856.

Robert Smith: Migrated from Scotland and opened store off Bourke Lane (Little Bourke Street) 1847. He was briefly in partnership with Robert Fulton, Ironmonger of Flinders Street before opening his own business. George Annand joined him in the grocery business and they opened a store in Lt. Collins Street before moving to corner of Collins and Queen Streets. After their partnership was dissolved, Smith was a partner in 'Smith, Adamson & Co.' and 'Smith, Roche & Co.' before becoming a partner in Jasper McKenzie & Co. He died near Wellington, New Zealand. His date of death is variously given as 8 November 1885 and 18 November 1855 (Gardner & Henderson respectively). In his article on Annand, Smith and Co., Henderson theorises that the Adamson that Smith was in business with was the same as the Adamson of Adamson, Watts, McKechnie & Co., and that Findlay from Crombie, Clapperton & Findlay was the same one who was in partnership with Adamson in Adamson, Findlay & Co.

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