British Royal Mint.
The Royal Mint is the world’s oldest mint and is currently based in Llantrisant, Wales, UK.
The Royal Mint Limited is owned by Her Majesty’s Treasury, AKA HM Treasury or ‘the Treasury’, which is a department of the UK government responsible for developing and executing the government’s economic and finance policies.
The Royal Mint is under an exclusive contract, minting and circulating coins for use domestically and internationally.
The Royal Mint also produces precious metal bullion coins, various medals, and commemorative coins.
The mint produces all of the UK’s physical currency apart from banknotes, and is the sole body responsible for minting legal tender coins in the UK.
The Royal Mint also provides its services to over 60 different countries by producing national currencies or supplying ready to strike planchets, commonly known as a blank, which is a round metal disk, prepared and ready to be struck into a coin. The Royal Mint makes coins and medals for more countries than anyone else, as the mint can produce 90 million coins and blanks a week!
Key moments in the History of the Royal Mint.
The Royal Mint is the world’s oldest mint established over 1,100 years ago.
However, it has roots dating back to the second century BC when coins were first struck for circulation in Britain.
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 image. This is considered the origin of the Royal Mint and where it’s historical journey began.
The Tower of London.
It was not until 1279 that the British mints were unified in the Tower of London. Mints outside of London were reduced.
The Tower of London is arguably the most notable and iconic location in the Royal Mint’s history, and the mint remained in the Tower of London for over 500 years.
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 where steam powered machinery was used to increase production capacity.
In 1848 a Royal Commission recommended that the mint refining activities of the Royal Mint be operated by a distinct refinery separate from the Mint, essentially separating the twin roles of refining and coin striking. In 1852, British financier and a member of the prominent Rothschild banking family, Anthony de Rothschild, managed to secure a lease from the government, purchasing equipment and premises under the name of, Royal Mint Refinery.
The refinery continued operations for over 100 years but was eventually sold in 1967 to American Fortune 500 company, Engelhard Corporation.
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, the British government eventually decided on the location for the new mint in Llantrisant, Wales, UK,
In 1968 the Royal Mint relocated to Llantrisant, Wales, UK. The last coin produced at the Royal Mint’s Tower Hill mint was in 1975, when a gold sovereign coin was struck.
The Royal Mint Museum also eventually moved from the Tower Hill site in London to Llantrisant in 1980.
Since the seventeenth century it has been coinage tradition that alternate Monarchs always faced different ways on coins. However, Edward VIII actually refused to follow this long established tradition and basically demanded to face left, the same way his father, George V, had faced.
Ironically, Edward VIII held the period of rule of a monarch for only 326 days and was never crowned.
Now, Arnold Machin’s portrait of The Queen for the decimal coinage, is probably the most reproduced image in history.
Large scale gold mining was developing in the various colonies of the British Empire during the 1800s and early 1900s.
Because of this, the Royal Mint decided to open a series of mints near these gold mines, including Sydney Australia, which opened in 1854, the Melbourne Mint in 1872 followed by the Perth Mint in 1899. Then a Canadian mint was established in Ottawa in 1908, Bombay, India in 1918, and finally Pretoria, South Africa in 1923.
The Royal Mint has also expanded its business interests by reviving its production of gold, silver and platinum bullion bars and coins for sale to investors and the general public.
The sale of gold, silver and platinum bullion is now an integral part of the mint and contributes to almost half of the mint’s revenue.
The brand ‘Royal Mint Refinery’ was revived in 2015 and began issuing gold and silver bullion bars which are stamped with the Royal Mint Refinery logo.
Royal Mint Refinery gold bars are produced from 99.99% pure gold and silver bars are made from 99.9% pure silver.
The Royal Mint’s most famous and iconic bullion coins are the 1oz Gold Britannia the Gold Sovereign and 1oz Silver Britannia.
Minted by The Royal Mint since 1987, the British Britannia contains one troy ounce of gold and has a face value of £100. From 2013 the gold coins have been struck in 24-carat fine gold, which currently (June 2020) are valued at around £1560.
Gold Britannias also are issued in fractional sizes of one-half, one-quarter, and one-tenth of a troy ounce.
The Gold Sovereign has been produced by the Royal Mint in its modern form since 1817. The Gold Sovereign is one of the most recognisable coins in the world. Struck in traditional 22-carat gold.
There has also been a range of ‘Lunar’ coins, featuring animals of the Chinese lunar years which was launched in 2014. Lunars are made from 999.9 fine gold and 99.9% pure silver.
The Queens Beasts series was released in 2016 available in 1oz gold coin 99.99% pure and a 2oz silver coin series of 99.99% pure silver, which is Royal Mint’s highest purity silver coin to date.
Bullion, Uncirculated and Proof coins.
Bullion coins are mass produced, such as the Sovereigns and Britannias. Bullion coins are not as perfect or crisp in finish compared to uncirculated or proof coins.
Brilliant Uncirculated coins are normally a higher standard than bullion coins due to the dies used to strike the coins being hand finished and polished. They have slightly less definition than a proof coin.
Proof coins are considered the highest quality of all the coins, mainly due to the extra attention and care put into producing each coin.
When it comes to the dies used to strike these proof coins, each one is hand finished, and extra care has been taken to remove any sight of imperfection.
There is also a smaller volume of proof coins struck per hour, and the dies used are re-polished more regularly than the uncirculated or bullion coins.
The Royal Mint Experience.
The Mint runs a recently opened tourist venue adjacent to the Mint site, called ‘The Royal Mint Experience’.
The Royal Mint Experience is a visitor centre that includes more than 80,000 artefacts including coins, medals, minting equipment and artwork.
In May 2016, the Royal Mint Experience opened to the public at a cost of £9 million. To fund the development, the Welsh Government also provided a grant of £2.3 million to assist the attraction, predicting 200,000 visitors a year to the area which in tern would help boost the local economy and provide extra jobs.
The Royal Mint Experience includes an education centre, an interactive museum, and even a view onto the factory floor.
Visitors can explore in more detail the 1,100-year history of the mint and its move to Wales.
Information is available on all the coins and medals (including the London 2012 Olympic Medals) produced by the mint for over 100 different countries.
Visitors are able to learn about the history of Britain’s coinage, the process of minting each coin, and the traditions behind the most popular coins.
There is also a fascinating range of commemorative, military and sporting medals.
One of the most rewarding aspects of the experience is that of discovering more about coins and collecting. Learning more about how this hobby can also be part of a wide community of coin collectors, which includes many different people, young and old.