Based in the United Kingdom, the Royal Mint is one of the oldest minting institutions in the world – tracing its roots back to 886 AD. Although the Mint’s chief responsibility is striking coinage for the United Kingdom, it also produces planchets, commemorative coins, and various types of medals and precious metals bullion.
The original facility was operated from the Tower of London and was named the London Mint. For over 800 years, the location of the London Mint and its name remained intact. Soon after (in 1809), Britain decided to shift the facility to Royal Mint Court in London, where it remained until 1960.
The incredible capacity of the Royal Mint allows it to export its products to an average of 60 countries in a year, which make up almost 70% of its total sales. There have been several attempts to privatize this Mint to no avail. The Chancellor of the Exchequer initiated the latest attempt in 2015 when he announced plans for a £20 billion privatization drive to raise funds. However, the Mint went on to make a record profit of £11 million the next year, and was able to expand and diversify its operations.
Although Her Majesty's treasury wholly owns it, the Royal Mint operates as a limited company with the name ‘Royal Mint Ltd.,’ and has an exclusive contract to supply all of the nation’s coinage. Today, the Royal Mint is headquartered in Wales, where it has a minting facility, the Royal Mint Museum, and a £9 million visitor center.
Royal Mint History
Origin of Royal Mint Coins
Coins in Britain can trace their roots back to the second century BC when Celtic tribes that crossed the English Channel introduced the concept to the natives. After the Romans had invaded Britain in 43 AD, they established mints all across their territories – including in London. This mint produced Roman coinage for 40 years before it closed down.
Although the mint reopened briefly in 383 AD, it closed swiftly due to the end of Roman rule in Britain. Until 650 AD, when the English Kingdom formed, no other coins were minted in Britain. However, as the control of the mint in London changed hands frequently due to tribal infighting over territory – the year 886 AD, the year in which Alfred the Great recaptured London, is regarded as the real start of the history of the Royal Mint.
Tower of London
After the country’s many mints had been unified under a single system in 1279, the control was centralized under a new mint based inside the Tower of London. All other facilities were shuttered, with only a few local branches continuing operations.
The master-worker of the mint was charged with hiring engravers and also managed moneyers (private individuals with official permission to coin money). However, the old system of management left a lot to be desired, and a board was set up in 1472 – with the aim of dividing the Mint's roles between three positions: the warden, a master, and a comptroller.
The London Mint remained operational when the Acts of Union (1707) merged England and Scotland into one country. This meant that the London Mint was in-charge of striking coins for Scotland as well – slowly replacing Scottish Pound Scots with English Pound Sterlings. However, as the British Empire continued expanding, the mint started to feel cramped, and the need for space for new machinery was a real concern.
Royal Mint Court
Situated right across from the Tower of London, the Royal Mint Court was chosen as the ideal spot for establishing the brand-new minting facility. Although construction began in 1805 and was completed in 1809, the move was made official only in 1812.
As time passed, the mint began to prove highly inefficient – with irregularity in minted coins’ purity and weight. Upon the Master of the Mint’s insistence, German chemist August Wilhelm von Hofmann sent his student to assist the mint in resolving its issues. The student, George Frederick Ansell, was awarded the role of temporary clerk with a suitable salary.
Upon investigation, Ansell found that the problem lay with the outdated scales used by the Royal Mint.
Over the course of the World War, the Royal Mint (called the London Mint then) was bombed several times – putting it out of commission for around three weeks. Unfortunately, the Mint’s problems didn’t end with the war.
As demand grew, the government realized that the Royal Mint Court facility was also not adequate for newer machinery and expanding capacity. Hence, plans were drawn for the relocation of the mint to a location outside London to ensure ample space for future expansion. After years of deliberation, the small Welsh town of Llantrisant was chosen in 1967.
Present Royal Mint Facility
Queen Elizabeth II inaugurated the first phase of the Royal Mint in December 1968. The construction of the second phase commenced in 1973. It included the addition of the technology to mint coins from virgin metals – completing the full minting process.
This facility, and other expansions over the years, stand to this day – tirelessly minting coins for the United Kingdom.
Popular Royal Mint Bullion Coins and Series
Like other popular sovereign mints, the Royal Mint has a few product lines that enjoy significant demand from collectors and investors. The rich history of the Royal Mint, in conjunction with its proven quality over the years, make every product released by it – extremely valuable and desirable.
The first Britannia Coin was struck using gold in 1987. However, on its 10th anniversary, in 1997, the Royal Mint also launched the Silver Britannia Coin. These annually releasing coins are counted among the most awaited coin launches every year.
Every coin after 2012 was struck using 0.999 silver, while pre-2012 Silver Britannias contained 0.958 pure silver. Pre-2013 Gold Britannias, on the other hand, featured 0.917 (22-carat) pure gold. Since 2013, all Gold Britannia Coins were struck using 0.9999 fine gold.
Royal Mint Sovereigns
Sovereign Gold Coins are perhaps one of the most recognizable currency coins in the world – due to its circulation as Britain’s gold standard currency. Today, it is valued as a bullion gold coin due to its 22-carat gold content.
However, Sovereigns have been minted all across the world as well (Australian, Canada, and South Africa) – to satisfy the demand stemming from Britain’s numerous colonies. Now, only the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales and MMTC-PAMP near Delhi, India strike them, with the latter being the only corporation, other than the Royal Mint, to hold a license to mint the Gold Sovereigns today.
British Queen’s Beasts
This coin series was launched in 2016 – with the Royal Mint displaying a unique take on each of the ten beasts that stood guard during Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation ceremony. These coins are available in both 0.999 pure silver and 0.999 pure gold variants.
The designs of these beasts were left to the creativity of Jody Clark, a renowned engraver who rendered the latest right-profile bust of Queen Elizabeth II that features on all coinage in the United Kingdom.
With a promise of 10 unique coins, this decade-long coin program has already proven popular among collectors and investors alike.
Royal Mint Lunar Series
Commemorating the Chinese New Year and the Chinese Zodiac, the Royal Mint started the Lunar series in 2014 – celebrating the Year of the Horse. The galloping horse on the reverses of these gold and silver coins became an instant hit – with collectors and investors clamoring for more.
This annual coin program is also counted among the most successful coin programs in the world – as the precious metals market awaits each release with bated breath.