royalmint.org is a site dedicated to providing a full history of Royal Mint including the British, Canadian and Australian Royal mints.
On this site you will discover how The Royal Mint was founded, the minting process, timelines, most popular Royal Mint coins and more.
From origins within the Tower of London to colonel expansion and the British Royal Mints relocation to Wales, royalmint.org is your guide to the history of the Royal Mint.
A Brief History
The Royal Mint has roots dating back to the second century BC when coins were first struck for circulation in Britain. Although the use of coins grew rapidly, the minting of them was managed locally and there was no central issuing mint.
In 650 AD there was as many as 30 mints recorded across Britain with one being established in London. There was a constant battle between tribes over territory and therefore, control of these mints.
The King of Wessex, Alfred the Great, recaptured London and started issuing silver pennies with his portrait. This is considered the origin, which then went on to form the history of the Royal Mint.
It was not until 1279 that the British mints were unified in the Tower of London. Mints outside of London were reduced.
By the early 16th century, England had excessive government spending and financial problems, wars with France and Scotland led to currency debasement, reducing the amount of precious metal in each coin.
In 1603, England and Scotland created a partial union of the two kingdom’s currencies. Due to Scotland heavily debasing their silver coins, the Scots mark was worth less than an English mark. Unauthorised minters across the country produced unofficial supplementary token coins (usually made from lead), to bridge the difference between the two values of the Scottish and English mark.
To regain some control, The Royal Mint hired English courtier and politician John Harington (Lord Harington), who started producing copper farthings under licence.
By 1672, The Royal Mint took over the production of copper coinage.
In 1688, parliament took over control of the mint from the crown. Until that point the crown allowed the mint to act as an independent body producing coins on behalf of the government.
By this time there were growing problems with counterfeiting, forgeries accounted for 10% of the country’s coinage. By 1696 the value of the silver in coins had surpassed their face value.
King William III ordered all coins to be removed from circulation.
Recoinage mints were established. These mints were in York, Norwich, Exeter, Chester and Bristol. Coins were then valued by weight, not the face value.
In 1707, England and Scotland united into one country. London took over the production of Scotland’s currency. Edinburgh’s mint closed and the English pound sterling replaced the Pound Scots.
The British empire expanded rapidly and so too did the supply of its coinage. Due to this expansion, the Tower of London was no longer fit for purpose, so in 1812 the mint was moved to a new purpose-built mint on Tower Hill, opposite the Tower of London.
However, by the late 1850s there were noticeable irregularities in minted coins’ fineness and weight.
To increase the accuracy of weights, more precise weighing equipment was ordered and the tolerance was revised to 0.10 oz for silver and 0.01 oz for gold.
It was discovered there was a loss of gold during the manufacturing process.
Along with this, the mint had also came under increased scrutiny in terms of how it dealt with unrefined gold that had started to enter the country.
To address these issues, it was recommended by a Royal commission that the refinery process be outsourced to an external agency.
British financier and a member of the prominent Rothschild banking family, Anthony de Rothschild, took this opportunity in order to secure a lease from the government in January 1852, purchasing equipment and premises adjacent to the Royal Mint under the name of Royal Mint Refinery.
Royal Australian Mint
Britain continued its colonial expansion which created a greater need for currency.
This eventually led to the Royal Mint’s first overseas branch in Sydney Australia, which opened in 1854.
This success led to opening the Melbourne Mint in 1872 and the Perth Mint in 1899.
Britain continued to own these mints until 1970 until finally the mints became statutory authorities of the Western Australian Government.
Royal Canadian Mint
Canada had been under British rule since 1763. By 1858 the Canadian dollar was established and London produced the coins.
As Canada’s gold mines expanded and the country prospered, a new mint was built in Ottawa and opened in 1908.
The Government of Canada eventually gained control of the mint, renaming it the Royal Canadian Mint in 1931.
First and Second World War
During the First World War, the British government began to issue £1 and 10 shilling Treasury notes. These were used to replace gold coins which would, therefore, be removed from circulation to help pay for the war.
This led to Britain leaving the gold standard in 1931.
The mint played a key role during the Second World War, and it was the first time that women were accepted for employment at the mint.
UK banknotes were under threat because of forged banknotes flooding the country to try and collapse the economy.
By 1943, the mint had to almost double its output, while at the same time fend off the continuing threat of being bombed.
During this time, an additional mint was set up in Buckinghamshire in Pinewood Studios and operated throughout the World War II.
When the war ended, Britain began to rebuild and the demand for coins continued to grow. Technology and productivity increased into the 1960s.
1960s to present
The British government announced its plans to decimalise the nation’s currency in 1966. This would mean the minting of millions of new coins.
Because of this announcement, the then current site of the mint on Tower Hill was deemed unsuitable for this high demand of coins.
There would be a huge task ahead to ensure readiness for decimalisation in 1971, while still providing products for overseas customers.
A new mint on a new site would be needed.
After many years and much debate, government eventually decided on the location for the new mint in Llantrisant, Wales, UK, adhering to government policy of transferring industry from the capital to developmental areas around the UK.
The first phase of the mint was formally opened by the Queen in 1968, and the minting of coins gradually moved to the new site in Wales. The last coin struck in London was a gold sovereign in 1975.
The Royal Mint still operates in Llantrisant, Wales to this day, as a government company.
The current site has some of the most advanced coining machinery in the world and is the location of the ‘Royal Mint Experience’.
The Royal Mint Experience is a visitors centre that includes more than 80,000 artefacts, an education centre, an interactive museum, and even a view onto the factory floor.
The Royal Mint brand is recognised around the world and has a proud heritage. It is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of coins.