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Ever since the times of ancient Roman Britain, Britannia has been a symbol of the British Isles that has appeared on many coins.
A special version of the highly popular Britannia from the Royal Mint of the United Kingdom has been issued in 2018 to celebrate the historic expansion of the Mint’s bullion business into Asia.
These coins feature an intricate, ornate border around the inner rim of the coin’s reverse side in an homage to the famous British trade dollars of the 19th century that were struck to facilitate trade with Asia.
The oriental border is also inspired by the Chinese-themed rooms within Buckingham Palace, where Queen Elizabeth II resides.
A more subtle version of the oriental pattern appears on the obverse’s inner rim, surrounding the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by the Royal Mint’s Jody Clark, the fifth numismatic effigy since the Queen ascended to the throne in 1953.
The new Britannia coins are issued in silver and gold and each version features a highly limited mintage of 100,000 and 5,000 coins, respectively.
Like standard Britannia coins, each 1 oz. silver and gold coin contains .999 fineness of the metal, carries a reeded edge, and has a respective denomination of 2 and 100 pounds.
In addition, unlike the standard version of the coins that ships in tubes and plastic flips, the Oriental Border coins are issued by the Mint in protective capsules.
MCM will also carry graded examples.
These special Britannia coins are also significant because they feature the biggest design change since the Mint began using the same Britannia created by Philip Nathan on these coins each year since 2013, while the proof coins issued since then annually feature a new Britannia design.
Since the inscriptions that normally appear on the inner rim were replaced with the oriental pattern they were moved for the first time to the center of the coin with “BRITANNIA” appearing vertically along the trident and “ONE OUNCE 999 SILVER” to the left of the trident appearing horizontally.
Nathan’s Britannia, a modern numismatic masterpiece whose design and symbolism resonates far beyond Britain, first appeared in 1987, when it was prepared for the first Britannia gold release.
This design is a tribute to Britain’s renowned maritime history, depicting the personification of the British nation as a guardian of British shores who is both ready for defending her nation but still open to peaceful relations with other nations.
That is why she appears a trident in one hand and a shield that bears the Union Jack in the other. In addition, she clutches an olive branch, a timeless symbol of peace, and wears a Corinthian helmet, which originated in ancient Greece’s city-state of Corinth.
The artist said of his design: “I wanted to make more of Britain’s links to the sea, personifying as she does the British love of things nautical and great pride in our naval history.”
Nathan’s Britannia is the perfect one to appear on the new coins since it was also inspired by the British trade dollars of the 19th century.
During the 19th century, international trade between Western countries expanded into China and other parts of Asia. In order to facilitate this increased commercial activity and end reliance on foreign coins circulating in Asia, the Western powers created what came to be known as silver trade dollars, which were inspired by the Spanish silver Pieces of Eight that began to circulate in the Far East beginning in the 16th century.
Probably the most famous of the trade dollars are the U.S. Trade dollar issued from 1873 to 1885 and the British trade
dollar issued from 1895 to 1935.
The British coins, designed by William De Saulles, were a result of the Opium Wars and depicted Britannia in a similar fashion to the way she is shown on Nathan’s design, another tribute to Britain’s famed maritime history.
On the reverse, Britannia is shown clutching a trident in one hand and a British shield in the other, while a merchant ship sails in the background. Those iconic images are surrounded with an oriental pattern that is the inspiration for those on the new Britannia coins. The obverse features a Chinese symbol for longevity in the center of an ornate arabesque design.
MCM carries a special set of five trade dollars from the 18th and 19th centuries that includes those two plus the ones from Austria (the Maria Theresa Thaler), Mexico (Cap and Rays coins), and French Indochina (Piastre):
In other Britannia-related news, the Mint is also introducing the first expansion of the series into a new metal since the silver coins were introduced in 1997 with the first-ever Britannia Platinum bullion coins.
Last year the Mint launched its first platinum bullion products, the Queen’s Beast platinum coins.
David Crawford of the World Platinum Invest Council, noted that the release of the coin is proof of platinum’s “unique properties as an attractive investment asset. The Britannia is amongst the world’s most recognizable bullion coin ranges and we’re delighted The Royal Mint is expanding the Britannia range to include platinum for the first time.”
The new coins are struck from .9995 fine platinum and carry a face value of 100 pounds.
Like the oriental border silver and gold Britannias, the platinum ones feature a textured “guilloche” finish on the obverse, surrounding the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.
Guilloche is a decorative device using precise, intricate and repeating patterns.
The Britannia Platinum coin joins a select group of bullion coins made from this metal issued by several major world mints.
||Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and American Hard Assets. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He was previously a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.|