Perhaps the number of coins needed in circulation is declining, but as this proves to be true, the British Royal Mint is using its otherwise unused capacity to increase the number of commemorative coins it produces.
There has been a notable shift in where the BRM is putting its focus. Not all of its efforts are being directed solely on coins. Mint efforts have shifted to include such programs as the Royal Mint Experience and the Great British Coin Hunt.
According to BRM statistics, the number of penny coins struck during 2017 fell by 76 percent from one year earlier. The number of twopence fell by 94 percent during the same period. The number of 10-pence coins fell by 80 percent during 2017 from 2016, but the mint has released a record number of commemorative 10 pence so far during 2018.
During August, economists at the Bank of England blamed inflation as the reason the copper penny and twopence denominations have been vanishing from circulation, also citing the loss of these two coins as being due to being placed “down back of the sofa.”
The Royal Mint Experience is an example of how the mint is trying to think and act outside the box. The program is the first ever public factory tour of the South Wales minting facility. The mint has indicated it hopes to boost profits by “adding sales and service to the historic coin collector market” through this effort. There is an admission fee, and group tours are encouraged.
The Great British Coin Hunt features a series of commemorative 10-pence coins that carry letters between A and Z meant to represent “the A to Z of what makes Britain great.” Since some of the subjects on the coins include the fictitious spy character James Bond (B), the Loch Ness Monster (L), or the semi-fictional King Arthur (K), the coins mark a continuing break from British commemorative coin traditions on which only events surrounding the royal family or political events had been featured.
Great Britain released its first commemorative 50-pence coin in 1973. The mint has released more commemoratives of this denomination in 2018 than in any year since that time.
According to BRM Research Curator Chris Baker, the turning point came when the mint began issuing commemoratives in 2009 marking the 2012 London Olympic Games. Baker said, “The coins captured the interest of all ages. A year on from the Games 70 percent of the circulating editions had disappeared from the nation’s change, picked up by collectors. A new younger generation of coin collectors has been growing since then.”
Baker added the Royal Mint Advisory Committee is encouraging this shift as well. The RMAC selects coin designs that are then submitted to the queen for her final approval. According to Baker, “The RMAC exists to raise the standard of numismatic and medallic art in Britain and is expected to ensure that designs meet high standards of art, decency and good taste.”
The Pobjoy Mint is a privately owned British business in Surrey that also produces coins. While Pobjoy doesn’t feel the lagging demand for circulating coins in Britain, the privately owned mint has benefited from the uptick in collector interest. Pobjoy Mint Managing Director Taya Pobjoy said, “That [interest] goes hand in hand with the family factor, which makes a significant impact on the industry when the younger crowd is encouraged and ultimately introduced to numismatics by their parents and grandparents.”
The Pobjoy Mint has been issuing traditional commemoratives as well as annual Christmas coins and commemoratives featuring dogs for years. During 2018, its products continued to become more novel, with such issues as a color enhanced series of Falkland Islands penguins 50-pence coins with a diamond finish as well as coins composed of titanium or virenium.
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