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The Royal Mint: coin portraits of the monarchy

The idea of currency was created as a system that allows people to exchange goods, but do any of us know what it represents? The Royal Mint has long been in existence, and tells the story of Britain’s history. Over eleven hundred years ago a convention was created that would oversee the production of coins, which would be known as The Royal Mint. Although the first coins in England were made over two thousand years ago, the were not yet under the monopoly of this convention. When production of the Royal Mint began royal influence was still in its infancy, but over the next few hundred years it would gain considerable control. By 1279, the creation of the Royal Mint was contained to the Tower of London, and was managed by a hierarchical system.

Coins convey a message to citizens, and have a symbolic meaning that has consistently been used over the past millennium. The Royal Mint is the largest exporter of coins in the world, and ship to approximately fifty countries each year.

During the 1800s The Royal Mint began to change, because the industrial revolution created a new manufacturing process. Considering the size of machinery during the industrial revolution, The Mint had to move to East Smithfield. Again in the 1880s, the building accommodating The Mint had to be expanded, and would continue to do so until the 1960s. After years of production in London, The Royal Mint moved to Llantrisant located near Cardiff in 1967.

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George V florin – 1919

During the reign of Queen Victoria, The Royal Mint discontinued the use of copper coins, and instead began using bronze. Queen Victoria began her reign with a portrait of her “young head,” then would produce a new coin with her “bun head.” The last portrait she would have engraved would be her “old head.”

Only one coin was created for the next two kings, Edward VII and George V. Edward VIII was the only monarch to go against the tradition of facing the opposite direction as their predecessor, but his coins were never formally put into circulation due to his short rule.

After his succession, King George VI chose a simple portrait to be placed on coins during his reign, and kept with the tradition of facing in the opposite direction.

The current monarch on currency produced by The Royal Mint is Queen Elizabeth II, and she has had four different coins manufactured during her long reign. At the onset of her rule, the young Elizabeth had new coins printed, which would mark a new era. Twenty-four years later she commissioned another portrait, and again in 1985. The last coin to be created during her administration would be in 1998, but has only had this many printed due how long she’s been Great Britain’s sovereign.

Although The Royal Mint is a government-owned company that is maintained by the Her Majesty’s Exchequer, the current monarch in charge appoints duties to shareholders. Over the years this organization has evolved its techniques, but always keeps with tradition.

Along with manufacturing coins, The Royal Mint produces medals, and in 2012 saw a record-breaking year because of the Olympics. In 2014 it was announced that the institution would once more be adding on to their headquarters, which should be finished by 2016. This unique company has been a part of Britain’s history for over a thousand years, and will continue to display its social and economic progress.

Photo credit: Jerry “Woody” via photopincc

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