Is coin minting about to become another lost British art? LEE BOYCE on the Royal Mint’s shocking decision

Seven years ago I visited the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales, to see how coins are made.

Consider: the start, when developing a design; the middle, when they are pickled; and end with coins being spit out in perfect, satisfying unity through enormous machines.

It is a precise art and the Mint is a huge employer in this part of the Welsh valleys, having moved to its current location from London in the 1960s.

When I was there, the Mint was proud to point out that over the decades it had produced coins for 60 different countries, from Jamaica to Iceland, from Suriname to Thailand.

Art form: Coin design and minting is an art form – and the Royal Mint has long been the global master at it

That is a tradition that goes back almost 700 years, to 1325. At that time Edward II was king, England had just over 4 million inhabitants and coins were minted in the Tower of London.

In 1325, coins were shipped to Bordeaux for use in the king’s territories in southwestern France.

The Royal Mint itself has origins dating back to 886. That’s quite a few generations of expertise in the art of making uniform coins of all shapes and sizes, for countries large and small.

The website states: ‘For many years the Royal Mint has been the largest export coin in the world.

“In a normal year, coins might be produced for sixty or more different countries, some of which may not have their own currency, while others may have a currency that is temporarily unable to meet demand.”

In 1922, a “new and energetic” deputy master led to a huge increase in export activity, the Mint says.

Now, 102 years later, This is Money revealed that the Royal Mint will no longer be making foreign coins.

As a bit of a coin nerd (I’m not a collector, but I do enjoy the beauty of currency) it feels like a huge shame.

Instead, the Royal Mint will turn its attention to recovering gold from electronics – trying to extract it from old laptops and mobile phones – taking advantage of the rise in precious metals prices.

As a bit of a coin nerd (I’m not a collector, but I do enjoy the beauty of currency) it feels like a huge shame.

It has indeed become a major player in the gold world with its bullion arm buyers can purchase sets worth over £200,000 with a few mouse clicks.

The move comes down to two things. First of all, profitability. The currency business is losing money and in 2022/2023 these losses increased by 191 percent to £13.1 million.

Second, the demand for physical money is declining worldwide. In short, people around the world are more connected than ever before to payment systems that are not as ‘archaic’ as trading coins for goods and services, a system that has been used for thousands of years.

The Royal Mint told us it will no longer bid for contracts to make international circulating coins and will cease production when it fills its existing orders in December.

A spokesperson added: ‘The decline in the use of cash worldwide has been a catalyst for change at the Royal Mint.’

The shift to card and contactless technology has been rapid over the past decade – not just in Britain, but in many remote areas of the world. This is another sign of it.

It is said there will be no job losses and affected staff will be given employment at the expanded recycling centre.

Focus shift: The Royal Mint will focus on extracting gold from electronic devices

Focus shift: The Royal Mint will focus on extracting gold from electronic devices

But Labor MP for Pontypridd, Alex Davies-Jones, said of our story in a tweet: ‘The Royal Mint plays a vital role in our local economy – no jobs are currently at stake but does raise concerns about long-term safety and could also reduce employment. our role in currency circulation and damage our global soft power.

“I’ll be watching this closely.”

I may be a bit old-fashioned: I like to carry physical money in my wallet and when I go abroad I always take cash with me.

I don’t use cash exclusively and card payments have their place, but physical money is still crucial in my opinion.

Technology can fail, the signal is often patchy to make payments, it’s harder to budget and cash gives me the ability to make purchases without my bank knowing what I’m spending it on. A small victory in a world where we are increasingly followed and our information is a commodity.

A while ago I went to my daughter’s primary school to learn how they teach math, to help with matching at home.

There was a chapter about learning to count coins, and a teacher said something along the lines of, “though that doesn’t seem so relevant anymore. Nowadays, when children play shop, most of them act as if they are tapping on a card, a learned behavior…’

I left a note on the feedback form that said: ‘Please continue teaching children about coins and banknotes. It is of vital importance.’

The Mint wants to emphasize that it will continue to produce British currency, but with its use here also declining. It will be up to shoppers to maintain demand, and therefore supply, and up to parents to teach their children about physical cash.

For example, for my daughter’s fifth birthday I took her to a toy shop with £100 cash – and taught her how to budget, and showed her what she could buy with it, and she was fascinated.

But all of the above fuels my fear that physical money will go the way of the dodo – and then we’ll all be in trouble.

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