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Can new British mint service possibly succeed?

The British Royal Mint is going into the coin authentication and valuing service.

Can you believe it?

You should.

With countries moving to cashlessness, what’s a mint to do to stay relevant in the 21st century?

The Royal Mint announced it has decided to offer a service that might be considered competition with third-party grading services.

Should numismatic private enterprise be worried?

Probably not.

The British Royal Mint is not known by collectors for its numismatic marketplace competence.

Of course, that’s not what the website says:

“With unparalleled knowledge on British coin history our team can help you gain a deeper understanding of your coins. From an identification made from an image you email to us, to a full report with certification, we have a service to answer your questions and satisfy your curiosity. Our Authentication & Valuation service is only available for pre-decimal British coins (struck before 1971).”

The British Royal Mint will charge $14 to reply to an email that has a clear photo of the coin sent with it.

For $140, the standard service will reply by telephone.

This only applies to coins worth less than $7,000. For coins with higher values, a special consultation must be arranged.

For $280, you can have premium service.

“Along with your Authentication & Valuation report you will receive a Royal Mint certificate signed by the Deputy Master of the Mint.”

Boy, to me that is one expensive autograph.

Again, for coins valued at more than $7,000, a special consultation must be arranged.

As you probably have already figured out, the coins being evaluated are not being slabbed – at least there is no indication that they are in the information provided.

Therefore, the British Royal Mint has little likelihood of being useful to many in the commercial marketplace.

What is a certificate when coins go from hand to hand to hand?

Even the American Numismatic Association Certification Service took photographs of the coins it evaluated 40 years ago.

However, the invention of the slab in the 1980s meant that private grading firms ate their lunch.

That is one reason why the ANA sold its grading service.

Another idea the British Royal Mint had in recent years was to sell coins with high face values to collectors for their face values.

When some of these began showing up in the banking system, bankers refused to honor them, and the mint panicked and refused to accept the coins back at face value. It referred owners instead to commercial dealers.

This strikes at the heart of what is legal tender.

It was not a way to inspire respect among coin collectors.

Does this new British Royal Mint service have some value?

There must be a few historical coins at the top end of the market that need to be evaluated that professional numismatists cannot do. But I doubt that there are sufficient numbers of these to make this new service a paying commercial proposition with mass appeal.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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