it may be off the beaten path in the Welsh countryside, Britain’s
Royal Mint is the center of coinage innovation in the United Kingdom,
and a world coin producing powerhouse.
the United Kingdom began a decade-long effort to decimalize its
coinage in the 1960s, a growing need for circulating coins led the
British Treasury to relocate the Royal Mint to the Welsh countryside.
the Cold War, fears that a London location would come under attack are
said to have factored in the move.
the threat to the Royal Mint’s position in the global coin business is
less sinister, and comes from Canada, Australia, Austria and others,
as mints in those countries and others elbow each other in competition
for bullion sales, foreign coinage contracts and collector coin market shares.
a tour of the Royal Mint’s 35-acre site at Llantrisant, about 10 miles
northwest of Cardiff in Wales, as Coin World did last fall, and the
enormity of their tasks — and the effort being expended to meet them —
becomes crystal clear.
Making our way to the mint
The train ride from central London to Llantrisant takes about two
hours — if there are no delays.
Since we were leaving London around 8 p.m., fortunately the journey
was swift and arrival was on time. After departing the train in
Cardiff and flagging a cab, we made it to a hotel near the Mint to
spend the night.
The next morning, after breakfast, we were off to the Mint for an
Though the grounds are surrounded by gates and heavily guarded by
Ministry of Defence soldiers, visitors can proceed to a welcome
center, where a miniature exhibit currently explores the minting
process. During our stop, designs commemorating World War I, as used
or proposed for coins and medals, were on display.
Before entering the production area, coins, cell phones and other
devices must be placed into visitors’ lockers. Stroll out of the main
entrance and you’re on your way to the giant buildings that house the
plating and minting operations. A few other, smaller buildings contain
offices, a gift shop and museum, and other places like the employee lunchroom.
The first machine you encounter in the main building, where melting,
rolling and blanking occur, is the melting furnace, its boiling
cauldron of copper cathodes and nickel bars steaming at the 900
degrees Celsius necessary to meld the metal together to create the
coinage strip that rolls out of the casting furnace.
After cooling and scalping (the removal of debris from the surface)
the strip is sent through another rolling machine to reduce it to the
proper thickness. Then it is advanced to the blanking machine where
blanks are punched out at a rate of 500 per minute. The blanks are
annealed and then rimmed to form a proto-rim. The facility has four
casting lines that can each produce at the rate of 1 inch of coil per minute.
The section was a lot busier just a few years ago, said Evan Thomas,
a worker in the casting area, before the advent of plated coinage.
Plated coinage is one factor that the Royal Mint is counting on to
drive its growth in the coming years.
Read the entire Visiting the Royal Mint series:
Part One — Making
our way to the Mint
Part Two — New
Part Three — World coinage production
Part Four — Targeting Asia, India—