Mints are production facilities. They make coins, medals, tokens, refine bullion, and offer other related products. Coin dealers act as distributors for bullion and other new numismatic products when a mint chooses not to sell those products directly to the public. Coin dealers also act as antiquity and fine art dealers, selling older coins as second-hand merchandise to collectors who may not necessarily take an interest in new issues.
It appears the British Royal Mint may have recently crossed the Rubicon, foraging into selling older collectible coins that were previously the exclusive realm of auction houses and retail coin businesses.
On February 10, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America announced it had certified an undated 1544-1547 English Henry VIII Type Two gold sovereign for the British Royal Mint. It was further announced the coin will be offered by the BRM in “an exclusive online auction” that took place on March 4.
According to the NGC announcement, “Well-known for producing new coins, the Royal Mint recently expanded into the sale of rare and historic coins and, as an NGC Strategic Partner, has already submitted several exciting rarities to NGC for authentication, grading and encapsulation in the state-of-the-art NGC holder, which provides superior display and protection.”
The Henry VIII sovereign is planned to be the first in a series of BRM online auctions. Since the mint will not add a buyer’s premium to the hammer price, this could become a challenge to privately owned numismatic auction houses that typically charge anywhere between 10 and 20 percent buyer premiums.
Royal Mint Divisional Director of Collector Services Rebecca Morgan said, “We are delighted to be offering such a rare coin, which traces its history to the first Tudor king and the Royal Mint’s original location at the Tower of London. Because the survival rate of these gold coins is minuscule, NGC’s expert determination of this example’s authenticity and condition is added assurance to bidders that they are competing for a superlative Tudor artifact.”
NGC Senior Grading Finalizer of World Coins Ben Wengel added, “The historical significance of this coin cannot be overstated. It is distinctly representative of its time, its place and its purpose, creating a tangible link to one of England’s most famous and transformative eras. NGC is honored to have certified it in preparation of it having a lucky new owner.”
Neither Morgan nor Wengel said anything about how the Royal Mint came into the possession of the coin or how the mint plans to come into possession of other coins the mint plans to sell via an exclusive mint auction in the future.
The British Mint began selling vintage rare coins a few years earlier. On January 17, 2020 it was announced the mint had sold a 1936 Edward VIII gold sovereign for a record price for a British coin of £1 million. It was disclosed the coin was sold to a private collector, but once again the mint only disclosed it came into the possession of the coin “from a collector in America.” It is not known if the coin was consigned to or purchased outright by the mint.
At that time Morgan said, “Our coin finding and authentication service draws on original documentation and the latest technology to provide customers with complete confidence that coins are genuine, and help them to create a collection with purpose.”
Royal Mint Collectors Services spokesman Matt Curtis had added, “The Edward VIII sovereign is certainly one of the rarest coins in the world, but we hope it will help inspire others to look through their homes and see what treasures are hidden.”
The accompanying press release indicated the Royal Mint has been in the historic coin market “in recent years.”
At the time this article was being written the web site royalmint.com/help/trm-faqs/buying-back-coins-and-medals/ continued posting a statement reading: “The Royal Mint does not currently purchase old coins or medals. If you wish to sell your coins we would recommend that you contact a reputable coin dealer such as Sovereign Rarities Ltd. www.sovr.co.uk or your local BNTA [British Numismatic Trade Association] member www.bnta.net.,“ adding, “If you would like your coins valued please see our new Authentication and Valuation services here: royalmint.com/collector-services/valuations/.”
The Royal Mint as a rare coin dealer adds another layer to the dynamics of the market for collectible coins.