United Kingdom

Monetary System

Circulating Coins
1 pound sterling = 100 pence

Penny (pence): 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 / Pound(s): 1, 2* (entered circulation November, 1997)

The British Royal Mint has a history dating back more than 1100 years. In A.D. 886 Alfred the Great occupied London, drove out the Danish invaders, and ordered a large quantity of silver pennies to be struck bearing his portrait. So began Britain's Royal Mint. Control of minting gradually centered upon London under the West Saxon kings, from whom the present British royal family is descended. From the workshops of the Anglo-Saxons moneyers, the Royal Mint had moved by 1279 to the safety of the Towers of London, where it remained for over 500 years. New premises on adjacent Tower Hill were readied by 1810. Here the Mint remained for another 150 years. In the late 1980's, the demands of the 20th century and the planned decimalization of Britain's currency dictated the move to the Royal Mint's present facility at Llantrisant, South Wales.

Today heritage and tradition combined with the craftsman's skill and the most modern coining presses to enable the Royal Mint to produce coins for more than 70 countries each year. In addition to circulating coinage for the United Kingdom and abroad, the Royal Mint produces a wide range of collector coins and medals. Much sought after by numismatists around the world, these coins display today the same superb quality of production and design that have been the proud hallmark of generations of Royal Mint craftsmen.

Symbols of British Heritage

Decimalization in 1971 provided a rare opportunity to review the denomination, shape, size and design of all the United Kingdom coins simultaneously. The chosen designs for the reverses of the new decimal coins were created by Christopher Ironside and, in the words of the then Deputy Master of the Royal Mint, 'although new in style, have, for the most part, a long numismatic ancestry'.

The 1993 Britain's premier circulating coin, the one pound, recalls that of 1983, featuring the same finely detailed depiction of the Royal Arms. The first Royal Arms of England are attributed to Richard I, the Scottish lion and Irish harp being added by James VI of Scotland when he inherited the English throne. In their present form they remain essentially those of Queen Victoria and represent Her Majesty's sovereignty over the whole of the United Kingdom.

The 1996 Britain's premier circulating coin honors Northern Ireland and is the third in a new series representing the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom. The intricate reverse design has been created by Norman Sillman who, reaching deep into the history of Northern Ireland, has chosen to feature an ornate Celtic-style cross. The cross, richly decorated with Celtic spiral and geometric symbols inspired by the Book of Kells, is intertwined with a presentation of the famous Celtic gold collar found in 1896 by a ploughman at Broigher, Co. Londonderry in low, flat land bordering Logh Foyle. At the center of the design lies a pimpernel, the lovely yellow flower, which flourishes around Logh Neagh the vast freshwater lake to which are linked five of Northern Ireland's six counties.

Personifying the spirit of the British nation, Britannia has graced United Kingdom coins for more than three centuries. The seated figure of Britannia was approved for the fifty pence at the time of decimalization and features still on the Brilliant Uncirculated coin of 1993. A second fifty pence coin for 1992 and 1993 bears an historic design to commemorate Britain's Presidency of the Council of Ministers in 1992 and the completion of the European Single Market with effect from 1 January 1993. The beautifully worked design symbolizes the special bond between the twelve member countries of the symbolizes Community.

Following the defeat of Richard III, Henry Tudor acceded to the throne of England and brought an end to the War of Roses. His subsequent marriage to Elisabeth of York secured the Tudor Dynasty and Henry took as his badge the double-rose uniting the red rose of the House of Lancaster and the white rose of the House of York. The Tudor Rose, in stylized form and royally crowned, was chosen for the twenty pence coin.

For further information, contact the British Royal Mint, P.O. Box 937, Millbrook, NY 12545. Telephone 1-800-822-2748; in Canada: P.O. Box 33518, Dundurn Postal Outlet, Hamilton, Ontario, L8P 4X4, telephone 1-800-563-5943 Internet http://www.royalmint.com/