Coin minting for more than 1100 years
The Royal Mint is one of the oldest still existing mints in the world. In 886, this mint - which was then known as the London Mint - was first mentioned in a public deed. After it was moved to the Tower of London in 1279, it still took about 260 years until the mint was renamed the Royal Mint, and it was given the monopoly to mint coins in the British kingdom in the 1540s. A few years later the first attempts were made to mechanically mint coins. But it still took until the 1660s to mostly mechanise the production using horse-operated roller mills and screw presses.
Both famous coins and famous personalities are linked to the Royal Mint. In addition to the British monarchs whose faces have adorned many coins we must mention the Master of the Mint from the years 1699 to 1727. The scientist Isaac Newton, whose findings have revolutionised our understanding of physics, was the head of the Royal Mint until he died.
As the extended capacities of the Royal Mint had led to conflicts with the military that was also stationed in the Tower, the Royal Mint was moved to a new establishment in 1809. After the coin system was comprehensively reformed in 1851, the first branches of the Royal Mint were established in the different colonies of the British Crown from 1855. This created two very important mints: the Perth Mint in Australia and the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa. Shortly before the end of the 19th century, the mint exceeded the threshold of 100 million minted coins per year for the first time in 1899.
In World War I, German planes brought the war to London, and four workers were killed during an attack on the mint. It quickly recovered from the destruction and loss, and gained two minting orders from abroad. The Soviet Union became an important customer of the Royal Mint. In 1922 the Royal Mint Advisory Committee was formed, which has since then been responsible for drafting the coins, medals and seals.
World War II also did not pass the Royal Mint without it having to suffer losses. Eight workers were killed during a bomb attack, and the destructions forced the British finance ministry to build a substitute mint in Buckinghamshire, which was operated until the end of the war.
However, the Royal Mint could quickly recover from these setbacks and produced more than 1 billion coins per year in 1964. Seven years later the British coin system, which was still based on the Carolingian system, was changed to the decimal system. Only a few years later the remaining rooms at Tower Hill were abandoned, and the coin minting was fully transferred to Llantrisant in the south of Wales. The last change of the Royal Mint took place in 2009, when it was transformed into a state-owned limited company.
The Royal Mint today
When looking back at its long history the Royal Mint today is one of the biggest and most important mints in the world. In addition to the British circulatory coins and bullion coins, collectors' coins, civil and military medals and coins from more than 60 countries are minted here. Thanks to this varied range of duties 15% of the worldwide production of coins is handled by the Royal Mint today. Only such a state-of-the-art and efficient facility can cope with such a large amount of production. Therefore, not only the design, but also the method of production and the minting quality of the coins of the Royal Mint are trend-setting. These are the best prerequisites to be able to produce some of the most successful bullion coins in the market.
One of these coins is the Britannia, which was first published in 1987. The coin is mainly aimed at the British market. The motif is the Goddess, who gave it its name and was already worshipped by the British Romans as the tutelary Goddess of their home country. Today, she is regarded as the embodiment of the British nation carrying a trident and a shield. Thanks to its sophisticated design the coin is available in gold and silver, and is popular amongst collectors even outside the British Isles.
The most important coin of the Royal Mint and of international importance in the investors' market is the Sovereign. The history of the coin began in 1489, when it was first minted under the reign of Henry VII. In 1604, the last "old" Sovereign was minted, and it lost its significance in the 17th and 18th centuries. With the “great recoinage of 1816” the Sovereign was again used as a circulatory coin from 1817. At that time the design with George the dragon slayer was introduced. It was drafted by Benedetto Pistrucci and is still used today, Until today the image of George the dragon slayer is still regarded as Pistrucci's most famous piece of work. It was lastly also the Sovereign that contributed to this fame. But even such a famous motif could not avoid the end of the Sovereign as a regular means of payment when the gold coverage came to an end. It was used as such in Great Britain until 1917, and in South Africa until even 1932.
In 1957, the Sovereign witnessed a renaissance as a bullion coin. Since then it has been very popular amongst investors thanks to its long tradition and stability in value. The Sovereign is one of the very few bullion coins that is weighted not in ounces, but unitised in pounds according to its nominal value. Today in addition to the Sovereign, the Half Sovereign and the Quarter Sovereign are also minted.