February 15th of 2021 saw the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day. That is not a misprint. For this day did not commemorate the heroic sacrifice made on the beaches of Normandy, that contributed so much to the overthrow of evil, but Decimalisation Day. In 1971 Britain went from imperial units of currency such as shillings and farthings to the metric system that we know today. The process had not been undertaken overnight of course, but February 15th was the deadline day, the moment of no return, and so Britain experienced a watershed moment.
At the heart of it all was The Royal Mint. It was they that undertook the herculean task of preparing all the new coins that were to go into circulation. From their base in the small Welsh town of Llantrisant, the Mint went about producing millions of new coins for the nation. Today, The Royal Mint is about much more than producing the nation’s currency- although this is still an important aspect of the business. As the original maker of world-class precious metals products, The Royal Mint has become synonymous with state-of-the-art gold, silver and platinum bullion coins and bars as well as a digital portfolio of investment solutions.
In these uncertain economic times when markets are fluctuating so rapidly, many people are looking for safe-haven investment opportunities. Precious metals such as gold have historically held their value over time, somewhat shielded from the ebbs and flows of the stock market. Therefore, with the Coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc upon the global economy, investing in gold has become more popular than ever.
Many people will invest in a precious metal coin or bar from The Royal Mint purely in the hope of generating good returns in the future, but for others it offers even more. Like an exquisite watch, a bullion coin or bar is an object of beauty, crafted to perfection. It can be an heirloom as well as an investment, to be passed down and cherished through generations. When acquiring a bullion coin or bar from The Royal Mint, you hold in your hand something that has over one thousand years of heritage.
The History of Coinage
What have the Romans ever done for us? Well apart from the roads, the baths, underfloor heating, and of course stone buildings, they did set up the first organised distribution of Mints across the land. Archaeological evidence has shown that whilst they were here, the Romans made the most of their conquered domain through minting coins and thus ensuring a stable base for tax. However, when the occupation ended we not only returned to mud huts and warring factions but ceased to mint coins.
The earliest known Anglo-Saxon printed penny is dated to 765. At this time, every area had its own Mint. This was before English unification under Athelstan in 927 and the country was split into various kingdoms. To be a mint worker in those days was a thankless task though. They were never paid but given bed and board and being surrounded by such vast wealth it must have been tempting for them to shave off the odd bit of silver for themselves. But to do so was a huge risk. To deface a coin was akin to defacing the king himself and the penalty was castration.
In 886 Alfred the Great recaptured London from the Viking settlers and began issuing silver pennies that bore his portrait, thus the beginning of a continuous Royal Mint in England began. To us, the idea of having a sovereign on the face of a coin seems a conventional thing, but it was a stroke of genius on Alfred’s part. In times when communication networks were virtually non-existent it was vital to let the populace know who was in charge as quickly as possible. Every time anyone from lord to peasant handled money, they knew where power lied. As such, The Royal Mint became not only a vital tool to ensure the economic stability of the realm, but also to stamp the monarch’s authority on the people.
The Royal Mint gradually became more and more centralised. By the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 only London and Canterbury had the right to mint coin. It made England one of the most financially stable and efficiently taxed kingdoms in Europe. Little wonder then why Duke William of Normandy had his eye on the crown. In 1279 the number of mints in England was further reduced, and a unified system was established. This was run from the London mint in the Tower of London. Thereafter only a few local and ecclesiastic mints continued to operate intermittently and by 1553 English minting was wholly concentrated in a single establishment. Thenceforward, save during the Civil War and the existence of temporary country mints during the recoinage of the 1690s, one mint served England, Wales, and Ireland.
With the Acts of Union in 1707 Britain was formed, and The Royal Mint continued to provide crucial financial stability. As the fiscal needs of the nation grew, so did The Royal Mint. By the time of the Napoleonic Wars the decision was made for it to be moved from the confines of the Tower of London to a much larger building constructed on Tower Hill in August 1812. From here the Mint went into overdrive and ensured a stable basis that facilitated Britain’s monumental rise to become the financial capital of the world. Industry boomed, trade flourished, and this small collection of islands became a dominant global power. The British Empire was one on which the sun never set. The armies and navies may have caused its expansion, but the Royal Mint made sure there was money to keep it running.
By 1967 it was time for another change of scenery. In preparation for Decimalisation Day, The Royal Mint relocated to the small town of Llantrisant, where it remains to this day. Due to rigorous planning and a successful public information campaign the transition was surprisingly smooth, considering the enormity of the situation. Once again the Mint was at the heart of a watershed moment in Britain’s history. A day worthy of commemoration through its new line of coins.
The Royal Mint has therefore been of vital importance for over one thousand years, but it still fulfils an important role now. Not only does it produce the coins we currently have in circulation, but it also offers a range of physical and digital investment opportunities.
Many people value the physicality and tangibility of gold bullion coins and for this reason, they choose to take delivery of them at home. However, for those who don’t want to worry about storage and insurance, there is also the option of storing bullion coins at The Royal Mint’s vaulting facility at their Llantrisant site. The Royal Mint vault is one of the most secure establishments in the world, it is protected 24/7, situated away from the capital and of course it sits outside of the financial system which can be prone to systemic shocks from time to time. Bullion coins from The Royal Mint feature their iconic designs, such as The Sovereign – widely regarded as the chief coin of the world – and the Britannia – which this year boasted four innovative new security features and has proved extremely popular with investors all over the world.
There are tax benefits associated with buying UK bullion coins from The Royal Mint. Due to their legal tender status, they are exempt from UK capital gains tax for UK residents. Gold coins are also VAT free.
Bars are what people tend to think of when they think about bullion. Probably because that’s what they show in the James Bond movies
The royal Mint offers three type of bullion bar: 1) Core, always available ranges such as their cast bars and the beautiful minted Britannia bar, 2) Themed bars such as their James Bond range and 3) Celebration bars which are available in smaller sizes such as 1g and 5g and perfect for gifting.
Bullion bars come in a range of sizes to cater for different budgets. At The Royal Mint, they are available from 1g to 400oz. Like coins, bars are tangible and customers can choose to take home delivery or store them within The Royal Mint’s vault. Also, like coins, gold bars benefit from VAT exemption. However, they are not free of capital gain tax.
Digital Precious Metals
The Royal Mint’s online precious metals programmes allow you to buy digital gold, platinum or silver 24/7 at the click of a button. There are three products that fall within this category:
- Little Treasures – designed for parents and grandparents who want to set up a long-term digital gold savings plan which they can then gift to their child or grandchild. They can do this by setting up monthly payments (from as little as £25 per month) into a Little Treasures account.
- DigiGold – DigiGold is designed for individuals who either want to accumulate digital gold, silver or platinum over the long term, or make instant trades in-line with market volatility. It allows you to buy and sell fractional metal from as little as £25, at the click of a button, 24/7.
- Gold for Pensions – this allows your Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) or your Small Self-Administered Scheme (SSAS) to hold, manage and sell physical Precious Metals from within your pension.
The digital holdings that are purchased within these programmes are backed by portions of real, physical bullion bars, which are fully allocated, insured and stored within The Royal Mint’s vault, so there is no need to worry about storing the gold at home.
As with bullion coins and bars, DigiGold is VAT free for non VAT registered individuals.
In 2020, The Royal Mint also launched its gold-backed exchange-traded commodity, or ETC, in partnership with ETF issuer, HANetf. The ETC was launched on the London Stock Exchange in 2020 with the ticker symbol RMAU. RMAU is popular amongst institutional investors or those who invest in stocks and shares via third-party platforms such as Hargreaves Lansdown or Interactive Investor.
With the world experiencing unprecedented financial damage due to the Coronavirus pandemic, alternative forms of investment are more important than ever before. In January 2020, as the Coronavirus began to hit markets in Asia, the price of gold went up by 24%. Then on August 7th 2020, the value of gold in the UK hit an impressive £1586.30 per troy ounce. In recent months, the price of gold has settled back down to around £1,260 per troy ounce but many analysts, including The World Gold Council, are optimistic about the value of gold over the next 12 months. The Royal Mint offers a live tracker that is updated every thirty seconds. Thus, allowing you to track the prices of gold, silver, and platinum in real-time.
Since the genesis of The Royal Mint over a thousand years ago, the British Isles have been the site of constant change. They have borne witness to civil wars, famine, plague, cultural and scientific revolutions, and the formation of one of the largest empires in world history. But amidst all this there is the one fundamental that has never changed, that money makes the world go round. Because of this the Royal Mint is an intrinsic patchwork within the long tapestry of British history. The Royal Mint can offer investors a combination that is seldom felt. The emotional value of owning a piece of history, and the financial benefit of a precious investment.