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10 things you never knew about The Royal Mint.by Gary Reading, Aug 2018
1. Sir Isaac Newton was Master of the Mint
Known primarily for discovering gravity, Sir Isaac Newton was Master of the Mint from 1699 until his death in 1727. He applied his scientific mind to the task of improving the accuracy and integrity of coins and worked hard to prevent counterfeiting – a serious crime that carried the death penalty.
2. The Royal Mint Museum’s coin collection includes an Alfred the Great silver penny
Dating from around 886 AD, Alfred the Great’s silver penny is one of the earliest coins in The Royal Mint Museum collection. At a time when coins were made by hand in small workshops right across the country, the skilfully-worked LVNDONIA monogram on one side of the coin indicates that this silver penny was struck in London.
3. The Royal Mint moved to Wales prior to decimalisation
In 1971 the British system of pounds, shillings and pence was abandoned in favour of the decimal system we use today. To meet the challenge of creating the new decimal coinage, Europe’s largest mint was built in Llantrisant and opened by Her Majesty The Queen in December 1968.
4. Over 90,000 UK coins are on trial this year
Each year a random selection of UK coins are tested to ensure that they conform to the required standards of size, weight and composition. This procedure, which dates back to the twelfth century, is known as the Trial of the Pyx. ‘Pyx’ translates to box, and refers to the chests in which the coins are placed for presentation to the jury.
5. Monarchs face different ways on coins
It has been coinage tradition since the seventeenth century that monarchs face the opposite direction to their predecessor. Ever controversial, Edward VIII refused to follow this tradition and preferred to face left, the same way his father, George V, had faced. With a reign of 326 days, Edward was one of the shortest reigning monarchs in British history. He was never crowned.
6. The Tower of London was home to The Royal Mint for over 500 years
While The Royal Mint is now based in Llantrisant, its home, from the late thirteenth century to the early nineteenth century, was the Tower of London. Coins were made in a secure location between the inner and outer walls, still known as ‘Mint Street’. Over this period the process of minting changed from hand-struck coins to a fully mechanised operation, and by 1810 The Royal Mint had moved to larger, custom-built premises on nearby Tower Hill.
7. There are four portraits of Her Majesty The Queen in circulation today
From 1953 to the present day, twenty-three different portraits of Queen Elizabeth II have appeared on UK coins and medals, with four in circulation today. Arnold Machin’s portrait of The Queen for the decimal coinage is probably the most reproduced image in history; it has also appeared on British postage stamps since 1967.
8. Pinewood Studios housed a mint during WWII
During the Second World War a backup mint was set up in a scenery store at Pinewood Studios, 25 miles west of London, in case the main site at Tower Hill took a direct hit during the Blitz. Fortunately, it was never needed.
9. The Royal Mint struck the Olympic and Paralympic medals for London 2012
The Royal Mint won the contract to produce the medals for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. A new press, aptly nicknamed ‘Colossus’, was needed to strike the 4,700 medals, which were the biggest and heaviest Summer Games medals ever made.
10. Countries all over the world have their coins made at The Royal Mint
As the world’s leading export mint, The Royal Mint makes coins and medals for more countries than anyone else.
Find out more at The Royal Mint Visitor Centre, opening Spring 2016 or visitwww.royalmint.com/visitorcentre