World Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Oct. 16, 2023: End to an era

The Pobjoy Mint is a private mint in Surrey, England, in business since 1965, that has struck coins for more than 40 countries or territories.

Image courtesy of the Pobjoy Mint.

The closing of the Pobjoy Mint, a private minter that has issued thousands of coins since its founding in 1965, comes as a huge surprise to us. It will forever be remembered as one of the private firms that helped introduce the era of noncirculating legal tender coins, an era that continues to this day.

In the 1970s and into the 1980s, the term “noncirculating legal tender,” or NCLT, was widely considered pejorative by traditional collectors when private firms like the Pobjoy Mint in England and the Franklin Mint in the United States began striking coins for client nations, coins that were never intended to circulate in those “issuing” nations.

Traditionalist collectors who preferred collecting coins that were struck for circulation (and maybe collector Proof versions) viewed such series as the Isle of Man’s Cat series (struck by the Pobjoy Mint) and collector-only coins struck for Panama (produced by the Franklin Mint) with outrage. This stuff was ... well, insert your favorite-word-we-cannot-print-in-Coin-World here.

Among the points that critics of such coinage made was that the coins were rarely made for distribution in their supposed countries of origin and instead were sold through advertisements in the pages of Coin World and elsewhere (and yes, those ads were a big source of income for us for years and still are).

However, government mints studied the business practices of the Franklin Mint and the Pobjoy Mint and began to emulate them by issuing their own NCLT coinage, on an ever-expanding number of themes. Mints both private and national began experimenting with new finishes and such enhancements as added color, selective gold plating, increased relief, piedforts and more — even the United States Mint began striking a wide range of coins (some specifically mandated by Congress, some not) that could be considered NCLT: coins commemorating coins, American Liberty coins, and multiple others.

While some collectors continue to deride NCLT coinage like those of the Royal Canadian Mint celebrating UFO sightings and coins from Australia celebrating that nation’s long list of deadly creatures, other collectors have embraced them. And many collectors who prefer Morgan dollars to Star Wars and Disney coins now recognize that this hobby is big enough to support both traditional circulating coins and  NCLT coinage. Indeed, the hobby is richer, is bigger, for all of the issues considered NCLT.

Unfortunately, not all businesses survive. The Franklin Mint as a private coiner no longer exists, and the Pobjoy Mint is on its way out. The Pobjoy Mint cites COVID-19, the loss of an important client, and the desire of its head manager to retire as among its reasons to close down and sell off its minting equipment.

But collectors should not worry. There is little doubt that other minters will continue to strike and sell “that stuff” — noncirculating legal tender —  for years to come, even as coins play smaller and smaller roles in circulation.

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