By Richard Giedroyc
Your mother likely told you she hoped you’d make your own money some day. Well, this may be your big opportunity – if you’d like to own a mint!
Following a string of problems that have cost the mint a mint, Netherlands State Secretary (Assistant Finance Minister) Eric Wiebes submitted a plan to the Council of Ministers and then informed the Tweede Kamer or lower house of Parliament of his desire to divest the kingdom of its asset that is now becoming a liability.
According to a letter received by the Tweede Kamer from Wiebes in January, the Royal Dutch Mint lost 11 million euros (about $12 million US) on a turnover of 40 million euros during 2014. What’s worse, the mint has an outstanding debt with the Ministry of Finance of 18 million euros. The mint is operated as a private company. The company is owned by the Ministry of Finance as the mint’s sole shareholder.
The mint made an effort to pay off this debt by contracting to produce coins for Chile. The peso coins unfortunately oxidized quickly, leaving dark stains on their surfaces. The Chilean government complained, then demanded contractual penalty payments. On Nov. 12, 2015, the Managing Board and Advisory Board of the Royal Dutch Mint demanded Mint Chief Executive Officer Maarten Brouwer resign, which he obliged at the end of the year.
Brouwer was kept on as an advisor. An official statement on the Chilean situation reads: “The Royal Dutch Mint has overcome these problems and expects to be able to satisfactorily complete this order within the coming months, however realizing that this completion will demand huge efforts from the company and its employees. Since the privatization in 1994 the Royal Dutch Mint has constantly shown positive financial results; the mint strives for a return to its former strong financial position.”
Privatization of a mint is nothing new. The Royal Canadian Mint is among the others that is expected to turn a profit for its owner, which is a government or its agent. What is now the Royal Dutch Mint was first established in Utrecht in 1579 to strike coins for that province in the name of Philip II of Spain. Spain owned the Low Countries at that time.
Utrecht became the national mint in 1814. There was a desire for a centralized minting facility; however, due to a lack of funding it became impractical to establish this central mint in Amsterdam. In more recent history, the mint’s income has been diminishing since the Netherlands stopped manufacturing the small change 1- and 2-euro cent coins. It was due to this decline that the company took on the contract to mint 850 million peso coins for Chile for which the mint was later fined for breach of contract.
The mint is limited to production of coins; however, it is also tasked with guarding against counterfeiting and ensuring coins will be accepted as money within the Netherlands. There are mints elsewhere that produce medals, tokens or bullion materials in addition to refining precious metals. Some mints actively solicit foreign coin contracts on a continuing basis.
The potential sale of the mint will mean the Netherlands will likely need to contract with a foreign mint to produce its required euro-denominated coins in the future.
This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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