Volume 53, Number 7, July 2016
It’s an Experience… EVERY reader of COIN NEWS will have heard of the Royal Mint, indeed I’m fairly sure you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the country, collector or not, who hasn’t heard of the august organisation—even if they do get them confused with the Bank of England sometimes and assume all of our money, metal and paper/polymer, is made there. There is no doubt that the Royal Mint does tend to polarise opinion in our hobby, some of you love them and will deal with them on a regular basis, buying everything they have to offer as soon as they offer it; others will stick only to gold and silver or the occasional purchase whilst others still will consider them purely as the home of “new issues”, of “baby” sets, of proof sets, of the coins we find in our pockets every day, etc., and will think of them as having no relevance to their particular branch of numismatics. If you are in the latter camp you may be inclined to gloss over news about the Mint, tend to ignore them, believing that no matter what they are offering it will be of no interest to you. Certainly you might glance at the Royal Mint Bulletin pages here in COIN NEWS, interested perhaps in what gem from the Museum Dr Kevin Clancy has managed to find for us, but as a rule you will feel that any “news” from Llantrisant is of no relevance to you. Well, on this particular occasion I can assure you the news is very much of relevance to every single one of you who collects British coinage from the past 1,000 years! In May COIN NEWS was lucky enough to be one of the first to visit the “Royal Mint Experience”, the new visitor centre in South Wales, purpose-built to tell the story of Britain’s coinage and the Mint in which most of it has been produced. Those of you following us on Twitter (@coinsandmedals) will have already seen some of the delights this new visitor centre and tour has to offer. From the story of the Royal Mint as an entity through the history of the coins it has produced and on to the manufacturing processes of today, the “Experience” is far more than a simple factory visit. It is, of course, amazing to see coins being made: huge “buckets” of brand new, fresh coins all destined for our pockets and purses capture our imaginations but, if we are honest, the actual manufacturing plant of the Mint could be making any small metal objects, they are produced so quickly from the state of the art machinery that picking out exactly what is being made is difficult to say the least. It is only because we know they are coins that are clinking away and not nuts or bolts that we are so fascinated by what is going on. Luckily the “Experience” is far more than just a glimpse at whirring machinery—visitors are told about the different metals used, shown the machines used for edge lettering and “milling”, taught how the bimetallic coins are made and all about “pickling” and “annealing” amongst a host of other things. For anyone interested in coinage of any era the factory side of the tour is a real treat. However, it is in the zones beyond the factory that the numismatist will realise that his entrance fee was money well spent. When you move away from the buzz of the machinery of the modern Mint you get to learn about die-making, about the Trial of the Pyx, about the medals and the medallions. You get to see the Great Seal of the Realm and the London 2012 Olympic medals and you get to see some of the gems from the Royal Mint Museum collection that only a favoured few have managed to see before. The first ever sovereign from the reign of Henry VII? Of course. A 1933 Penny? Yep, there’s one over there. Something from the curtailed reign of Edward VIII? Absolutely, here’s a sovereign! One of the most beautiful coins ever produced? Why, there’s Una and the Lion for your delight—and there’s so much more besides. I fully accept that the Royal Mint of 2016 isn’t relevant to every collector, to every reader of COIN NEWS, but the Mint as an entity, as a body stretching back over 1,000 years, is very relevant and anyone of you who collects British coinage really should get a chance to “experience “ that for yourselves. Of course, if Mr Osborne does as he promises and abolishes the Severn Bridge toll you’ll have no excuse at all! Seriously though, if you do get a chance to visit do so, I really do recommend it.
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