Volume 54, Number 8, August 2017
A new chapter AS we went to press last month a news release came in regarding the equity investment in Sovereign Rarities Ltd by none other than that most prestigious of numismatic institutions—The Royal Mint (COIN NEWS July, page 16). We managed to change a few things around and led with the story as we felt it was hugely important, and our readers seem to agree. In the intervening few weeks we have heard from people with all sorts of views on the subject, from those who believe the over commercialisation of the Royal Mint is a terrible thing, to those who think that they should have got into this sort of market years ago—and all points in between . . . Now to those who believe that the commercialisation of the Royal Mint is a bad thing there is really only one answer—and that they have actually been a commercial organisation for some time now! It has been self-financing since 1975 and since 2009 has been a limited company, admittedly it isn’t a limited company in private hands per se, as the Government is the sole shareholder but nevertheless it has to do all it can to be profitable and that includes selling commercial merchandise. In the past that merchandise has been somewhat less than appealing, at least to numismatists (anyone remember the range of porcelain figures they were selling a decade or so ago?), but in recent times they have concentrated on their core business and the results speak for themselves. Of course Royal Mint new strike products won’t appeal to all coin collectors, such is the diversity of the hobby, but even the most diehard ancient or hammered coin specialist would be hard pressed to deny that the recent designs (the 2017 sovereign for example or the stunning “Queen’s Beasts” series) have been works of art and certainly worthy of being deemed “collectable”. In the past one of the biggest issues many traditionalists have had with the Mint is that they fear their products damage the hobby because there hasn’t always been a huge secondary market for them and when somebody who has spent £1000s on Year sets (for example) goes to sell them and doesn’t get their money back, they naturally turn away from collecting altogether. Of course, there is always the counter argument that anyone spending serious money on anything as an investment should always check to see whether there is a secondary market before parting with their cash, but that is by the by—the fact is that the Mint hasn’t really worried about the secondary market because, well why would they? Their job is to produce products that people want to buy. If those same people want to sell them on later, is it any concern of the Mint’s whether there are buyers or not? Well that is about to change. Now the Royal Mint have invested in a company that specialises in heritage coins, not new issues—they have decided that the secondary market, the collectors market away from new strikes, DOES matter and they are prepared to put money up to show their commitment to it. Not only is that good news but just think of the possibilities for the hobby at large. We spoke last month about how coin collecting (at least in terms of checking your change and seeking out certain 50 pences and £2s) had gone mainstream again and how we had completely sold out of the COIN YEARBOOK for this year because of the surge in interest in coins; well that surge is down, to a large degree, to the huge operation that is the Royal Mint’s marketing department. Over the years the Mint has sold to hundreds of thousands of collectors—but just about everything they sold has been new issues or maybe bullion (and the occasional piece of porcelain I accept). Think then what could happen to our hobby if they decide to start encouraging all of those people on their huge database to collect “heritage” coins. There is no doubt that a new chapter is beginning in the coin hobby—we look forward to reading more!