The Royal Mint is a department of government and its primary responsibility remains the provision of the United Kingdom coinage. Its reputation, however, extends beyond this and internationally it has a reputation for making some fascinating coins for over 100 countries.
The history of the Royal Mint itself stretches back over 1100 years. There is an unbroken link from the scattered workshops of the moneyers of Anglo-Saxon London to a single mint within the Tower of London, from a purpose-built premises at Tower Hill to the huge modern coining plant in South Wales.
In April 1975 the Mint was established as a Government Trading Fund, operationally very similar to a government-owned company. For many years over half its sales were shipped overseas and, in recognition, the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement was awarded on four separate occasions. In April 1990 the Royal Mint became an Executive Agency providing it with greater management freedom to develop its business further. Indeed the British Royal Mint has maintained its position as the world’s leading exporting Mint.
The minting of coins in Britain began in the first century BC, the earliest coins being crude imitations cast in moulds. This process gave way to striking coins using hand-held tools, the same technique by which coins would be struck for the next 1500 years. After the Roman Conquest the coinage of Iron Age Britain was brought to an end and thereafter large numbers of Roman coins circulated.
From the end of the third century AD some Roman coins were struck at a mint in London but for some 200 years after the Romans withdrew no coins appear to have been struck there. In 650AD, a London mint began operating, at first a little precariously but since the time of Alfred the Great (871-899) its history became continuous and increasingly important.
At the Royal Mint today, traditional skills are still used to create coins of the realm – skills that have been passed down from generation to generation.