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The British Royal Mint is a favorite source of gold and silver coins for many collectors throughout the world. Its Gold and Silver Britannias are eagerly anticipated every year, while its Queen’s Beasts series has attracted tremendous interest recently. Even for those who generally prefer coins from other countries, the mint’s Sovereigns have an unparalleled history that many cannot resist. Although the coins of the mint are well known to collectors, many important facts about it are often overlooked. Here are a few things that you may not know about one of the world’s most respected mints.
The British have had a tumultuous relationship with their neighbors to the west. The Irish Home Rule Movement lasted for half a century, ultimately leading to the Irish War for Independence and the establishment of the Irish Free State. Ireland continued using British currency until 1928, when it began issuing its own, however British currency continued to circulate. Like the British currency, the new one was struck at the British Royal Mint. Although the Irish Free State became the Republic of Ireland, an independent nation, in 1949, Irish currency, known as the “punt,” continued to be struck at the Royal Mint until the Irish Mint, also known as the Currency Centre, opened in 1978.
The eyes of the world were on London when the city hosted the Olympic Summer Games in 2012. The Games were also a showcase for the Royal Mint, which struck all of the medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The mint struck each of them 15 times with 900 metric tons of force. 4,700 medals were struck. While gold in color, the top prizes were actually 93% silver and just 1.34% gold.
Visitors to the Royal Mint often ask when it was established. Unfortunately, that question is impossible to answer since it began operating without an official charter or other definitive records. Alfred the Great’s Monogram Penny, which was struck from 871-899, was among the first coins to state explicitly that it was struck in London. Scholars know, however, that other coins were struck in London earlier. Accordingly, when precisely what is today known as “the Royal Mint” began operating remains an open question.
The Tower of London is one of the most visited tourist attractions in London. Today, it appears a solid fortress on the Thames, but for centuries it was made from old wood and appeared “wretched.” From the late 13th century to the early 19th century, it served as home to the Royal Mint. Its original location within the Tower is unknown, although what is certain, is that it was between the inner and outer walls for most of its time there. Conditions within the mint were generally cramped and became all the more so with the introduction of mills and presses in the 1600s.
In 2015-2016, the Royal Mint issued 2.4 billion pieces of coins and blanks for foreign nations while striking 1.345 billion British coins. It supplied these pieces to 34 foreign nations, well below its average of 60 per annum. In 2014, a request was submitted to the Royal Mint under the Freedom of Information Act for a complete list of countries and territories for which the Royal Mint strikes currency. The request was denied to protect the commercial interests of the mint.
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||Sean McConeghy is a freelance writer and network marketer living in Roatan, Honduras. He originally hails from New York and specializes in writing about numismatics, real estate, and politics.|