The History of UK Bullion Coins – Britannia and Sovereign
By StoneX Bullion
The Royal Mint is one of the world’s oldest organisations, shaping and leading the minting industry for over 1,100 years. As key players in the bullion market, The Royal Mint provides security and quality that customers would expect when choosing to invest in bullion coins.
BritanniaBritannia has a long history with Britain and its coinage; she is the embodiment of the nation and has represented Britain for 2,000 years, ever since the Romans invaded the isles and claimed them as the province of Britannia. She first appeared on the Roman coins of Emperor Hadrian circa AD 119 and was, after a long absence, revived for the coinage of Charles II in 1672.The bullion Britannia coin was created exclusively to satisfy the growing international bullion market. To satisfy global demand for UK Bullion coins, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1987 announced the addition of the one ounce fine gold Britannia to The Royal Mint’s Bullion portfolio. Philip Nathan created an interpretation of Britannia that was perfect for the new coins. He presented the icon with strong maritime influence, standing windswept in a classical gown, waves at her feet and a trident, shield and olive branch in hand. Since then the Britannia gold coin became an instant classic and today, is one of the flagship coins of The Royal Mint and one of the most popular Bullion products. His interpretation of the Britannia is commanding and powerful, yet feminine, peaceful and elegant. The design still endures over 30 years later – a constant throughout change. Britannia gold bullion coins are renowned for their beauty and reliability, with their weight and quality verified at the centuries-old Trial of the Pyx. A symbol of strength and tradition, the Britannia Bullion coin is instantly recognisable in an international market.
The SovereignThe Sovereign, one of the oldest coins still produced today was first struck over 500 years ago in 1489. It was named to honour the King and has been a symbol of strength and prestige ever since. During the nineteenth century, the gold Sovereign was a recognised currency in more than 20 countries and is one of the most famous gold coins in the world.The tale of Saint George and the Dragon was bought back to Western Europe by returning crusaders. It would serve as inspiration when Benedetto Pistrucci was commissioned by The Royal Mint to work on new designs as a reform of the coinage was undertaken in 1816, the government intervening to re-stabilise the currency after the Napoleonic Wars. Pistrucci’s interest in St George had been inspired by Lady Spencer, to whom he had been introduced to by Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society and friend of William Wellesley Pole, the Master of the Mint. Her Ladyship showed Pistrucci a wax model of Saint George and asked him to make another ‘in the Greek style’. Pistrucci’s iconic design first appeared on The Sovereign in 1817, instantly distinctive it became a classic and still endures 200 years later. The Sovereign has always been produced by The Royal Mint, and we continue to preserve the quality and accuracy of the coin to this day. The Sovereign is the flagship coin of The Royal Mint and one of the most tightly specified coins in the world. The weight and quality of its 22 carat gold is verified at the Trial of the Pyx, an exacting independent trial dating back to at least 1282, and is guaranteed to five decimal placed by the 1971 Coinage Act. Both Britannia and the Sovereign precious metal coins continue to play a key role in global bullion markets, as well as representing both the pride and probity of the United Kingdom across the world.