In an effort to compete with world bullion coins of higher fineness, Royal Mint officials launched Britannia .999 fine silver and .9999 fine gold coins that year, as 2013-dated issues.
Coins of the new fineness weigh less than coins of the previous standard because the silver of the previous coinage was alloyed with an additional metal, copper.
Before the switch, the Britannia 1-ounce bullion coin had an authorized mintage 100,000 pieces annually. Limited numbers of Proof versions were issued infrequently. Since the switch, mintage restrictions have been loosed as the Royal Mint seeks to own more of the market. Though mintage figures have not been announced, the Royal Mint has since had to expand bullion production facilities and add production shifts in response to increased demand for the finer Britannia.
In 2014, the Royal Mint also began a Lunar silver bullion series, honoring the animals of the Chinese Zodiac calendar.
Austria joins bullion market
Austria’s history as a popular silver producer got a boost nearly a decade ago.
One coin that has been well-received during its relatively young life is Austria’s Vienna Philharmonic .9999 fine silver €1.5 coin, introduced in 2008 as an addition to a gold bullion program that has been around since 1989.
The obverse of each Vienna Philharmonic gold and silver coin depicts a cello, violins, Vienna horn, bassoon and harp with legend WEINER PHILHARMONIKER about the rim. The common reverse shows the Great Organ of the Vienna Golden Hall, home of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. It also carries the denomination, weight, fineness and year of issue.
The Vienna Philharmonic silver bullion coin program enjoys continually rising demand, unlike some series that started with a bang only to see demand wane. The Austrian Mint has not expanded silver offerings, but in 2016 did launch a platinum version.
Russia and beyond
Rarely encountered in the United States is the silver 3-ruble bullion coin from Russia that made its debut in 2009, extending the young St. George the Victorious gold bullion franchise launched in 2007. The obverse of both bullion coins shows the two-headed eagle emblem of the Central Bank of Russia. The reverse displays an image of Saint George the Victorious sitting on horseback and spearing a dragon.