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    Modern Numismatics

    Louis Golino has been a collector of American and world coins since childhood and has written about coins since 2009. He writes about modern coins and other numismatic issues for Coin World. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum.

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  • New Britannia Proof Coins Launched

    Right around this time of the year, late June to early July, every year since 2013 when the program began, the Royal Mint (www.royalmint.com) launches its extensive range of silver and gold Britannia proof coins.  

    Unlike their popular bullion counterparts, which since 2012 have carried the same design each year, the proof coins feature a new rendition of Britannia each year.

    Britannia is the British equivalent of Lady Liberty, the female personification or allegorical representation of Great Britain and the enduring values for which she has stood for centuries.  The practice of representing nations as women dates to the Roman Empire, and over the centuries Britannia has emerged as a "warrior queen," wearing a helmet and carrying a shield.

    That is how she is portrayed in the new design, which appears as always on the reverse side of the coins since the obverse must feature the 5th effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Jody Clark.  

    The new design, called "Courage at her command," shows Britannia holding her trident in one hand and the shield of Britain in the other with a British lion at her feet.  The addition of the lion is something that was seen on memorial plaques after World War I and is a national symbol of courage and protection.

    The 2016 design is the work of Suzie Zamit, the only woman who has designed Britannia coins, and this is her second one.

    Initial reaction to the design from collectors has been quite positive, though nothing issued to date compares with the 2014 Britannia proof design by Jody Clark that was also used in the 2015 50 pound BU coin that is still available from the Mint.  The 2016 design is perhaps the best one after the 2014.

    Michael Alexander, who heads the London Banknote and Monetary Research Centre, said of the new coins: "They're a great design, very symbolic of course and would make a wonderful circulation design if it were up to me. Perhaps coincidentally they will deliver a subliminal message of the greatness the UK still possesses in the wake of the referendum to exit the EU."

    Those interested in acquiring the coins have many options from a single 1 oz. silver piece to a six-piece silver proof set and 5 oz. silver coin as well as various gold options from 1/40th oz. to 5 oz.  Only the 1 and 5 oz. versions in both metals are available individually. The fractional coins are only issued in sets.

    Britannia proof coins carry low mintages,* especially compared to our own proof coins, and they tend to sell out and do decently on the aftermarket after that.  Those who own any of the 2014 proofs know what I mean.

    Finally, keep in mind that due to the Brexit vote, the British pound is at a 30-year low of about 1.3 to the U.S. dollar, which makes these coins more affordable than  in the past.

    *For example, the six-coin silver proof set has a mintage of just 1,100 sets.