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Newport Branch Talks, 2023 September 26

NEWPORT BRANCH MEETING, 2023 September 26th


Our speaker this month was Hannah Spruce, the Exhibition Manager at the Royal Mint Museum.

She started with the history of the Royal Mint- which is the oldest functioning in the world, having struck its first coin in about 880. Then coins were minted in several localities but to ensure standardization of coins throughout the land the Mint moved to premises in the Tower of London in 1279. There it stayed producing its wares until the 19th Century when the introduction of heavy steam driven presses meant new larger premises were needed and so it made a short trip in 1812 to a new building on Tower Hill.

In 1966 the greatest change ever was decided upon- moving from £sd coinage to decimal coins. New premises were needed for this much greater volume of work and the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time and a Welsh MP., James Callaghan pushed for the new plant to be in Wales. He won the argument and the new plant was constructed at Llantrisant in 1968.

The plan for the change over to decimal coinage was set for 1971 February 15th. To prepare the public for this change explanatory posters and pamphlets were regularly produced in the years before that date. Also the 5p and 10p coins were issued as they had the same monetary value as the current 1/- and 2/- coins and so could be used as alternatives and to acclimatize the public to the new system. When the total range of decimal coins was finally introduced the public seemed to get used to them very quickly.

Hannah in fact works at the Museum of the Mint and told us that this was only created about 200 years ago as it was then realised that no records had been taken in the long history of the Mint. The Museum has managed to obtain a complete set of every coin issued in the last 1150 years. However, the gem of the collection is perhaps the rarest coin in the world, the 1933 One Penny. Only nine were minted (important new buildings liked to have current coins hidden in the foundations but there were so many pennies in circulation in 1932 that no more were required for general use in 1933 and so a special pressing was made just for samples to display in the Mint Museum, The British Museum and a few building foundations.).

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