In an unprecedented and historic move, the British Royal Mint announced on several days notice that the British Brexit commemorative 50-pence coin anticipated to be dated and issued Oct. 31 will not be released. All existing examples were ordered to be scrapped.
Brexit is the term being used to describe the agreement or lack of an agreement that was to be implemented Oct. 31 when the United Kingdom was scheduled to sever its relationship with the European Union. The coins were meant to commemorate the nation’s exit from the EU. However, at the time this article was being written, no arrangement had been concluded between Britain and the EU on the formal departure of Britain.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is required through the Benn Act enacted by Parliament to request a time extension for when his nation will officially exit the EU. Jan. 31, 2020 has been agreed upon as the new proposed date when the two entities are anticipated to part ways. A Treasury spokesman said a coin will still be produced to mark Brexit, appropriately marking the exact date when Brexit finally happens. Designs for that coin were not immediately available.
As for the already minted eight gram 27.3 mm diameter copper-nickel composition coins, according to the British Royal Mint web site, these are being sorted and shredded, then melted. Reports indicate up to 10 million Brexit coins were being prepared. The obverse of the coins to be destroyed depicts a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, while the reverse depicts the message of “Peace, prosperity, and friendship with all nations” and date expressed as 31 October 2019. Additional Brexit coins were planned to be produced in gold and silver, the silver coins being announced to be considered as legal tender.
The Treasury said it would not comment on the cost of producing the coins due to this being “commercially sensitive information.” The BRM rather than the taxpayer was reported to bear the brunt of the expense of designing, producing, and then destroying the coins.
Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said of the coin recall, “I don't think it looks foolish. I think it was a very sincere aim of the British government to leave on the 31st of October.”
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond initially planned to issue Brexit commemorative coins on March 29, but that date passed without a deal between Great Britain and the EU. Current Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid was following up on this idea when the Brexit date was once more moved. The chancellor of the Exchequer is the master of the BRM.
British coins have never before been dated to the exact date of their release. Irish Gun Money emergency issue coins of 1689 through 1691 issued during the Williamite War are dated to the month of issue. The Isle of Man issues coins dated for Christmas annually, these being struck by the privately-owned Pobjoy Mint.
There are many coins that have been recalled once issued, but few have ever been recalled before reaching circulation. British coins of King Edward VIII were planned to be issued in 1936, but were never produced due to the king’s sudden abdication. Several pattern examples have survived. It isn’t known if any of the Oct. 31, 2019, Brexit coins will survive the melting pot legitimately or otherwise.
The U.S. and Canada are among nations that have struck patterns not meant for circulation that were released to individuals outside the mint for examination, then failed to be recovered. When Canada was planning its current circulating Loon dollar, coin sample patterns were sent to vending machine companies for examination. When some of the patterns were not returned the Royal Canadian Mint produced more samples and made them available to the public.
Silver thaler coins of Frederick “the Great” of Prussia (ruled 1740 to 1786) struck at the Burials Mint were ordered to be destroyed rather than issued. The legend on these thalers was meant to read ‘Ein Reichthaler’ or ‘one thaler.’ Instead, the legend read ‘En Reich Stall Er’ or ‘he stole the empire.’ None of these coins are known to have survived. It is not known if the mint master survived either.