The story of the Mint in Wales is one of success.

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Initially striking the new decimal bronze coins required for D Day in 1971, the Mint today produces all the United Kingdom’s coins as well as those for 60 or more countries around the world. Production has moved with the times and as the process of minting has been transformed so have the roles and duties of the people who work here.

 

Running the Mint

To ensure that the nation is supplied with sufficient amounts of coin is an essential task. In the past, eminent scientists and mathematicians like Sir Isaac Newton have been among those entrusted with the task. Today the Royal Mint has its first ever female Deputy Master, Anne Jessopp.

Since the move to Wales the role of Deputy Master has changed. The likes of Jack James, a career civil servant, would find elements of the job unrecognisable. Once a Government department, the Mint is now a private company whose only shareholder is the Treasury, allowing it more commercial freedom. The responsibility of running the Mint remains the same, however and 11 Deputy Masters have guided the organisation in the last 50 years.

In the laboratories

In order to produce decimal bronze coins to a high standard the first phase of the new Mint at Llantrisant included the erection of temporary laboratories. Here, the Senior Experimental Officer Mike Chequers and his staff worked with new methods of analysis to check the quality and composition of everything from imported blanks to the new rouleau packaging material.

As the foundry took shape in 1974 the opportunity was taken to introduce additional testing procedures for melted metal. And with its completion the remaining operations of the Assay Department moved from London into their new accommodation.

Today, Royal Mint chemists and technicians, under the supervision of the Queen’s Assay Master, Graeme Smith, test and control all aspects of production. The Mint now has a far wider range of precious metal coins than it did in 1968, though gold and silver are no longer melted and cast at Llantrisant.

Designing the Coins

Nowhere has the Mint seen more dramatic change over the last fifty years than in the making of dies. In the 1970s most coin designs were modelled by artists in plaster. From the models, rubber moulds were taken and electroplated to create large metal versions of coins called electrotypes. These would then be traced on a reducing machine which, acting like a three-dimensional pantograph, would reproduce the designs in steel at coin size. Royal Mint engravers such as the highly experienced Eric Sewell, who was appointed Deputy Chief Engraver in 1960, transferred to Llantrisant. He would later go on to be Chief Engraver and to design the reverse of the first one pound coin of 1983.

Today, under the guidance of Chief Engraver Gordon Summers the team of engravers and designers still model by hand in plaster or clay. The reducing machine, however, has been superseded and 3D scanners and computers can now be used to amend designs as well as to cut the tools needed to create coin and medal dies.

On the Factory Floor

As elsewhere in the Mint, the last 50 years have been a story of change and adaptation on the factory floor. When Llantrisant opened with its newly trained workforce, the coining presses could strike up to 200 coins per minute, but as technology has advanced so has the rate of production. In consequence the amount the factory can make has risen dramatically, and production exceeded 3000 million coins a year for the first time in 1990, a far cry from the 24 million struck at Tower Hill in 1870.

It is not just the quantity that has changed but also the complexity of the coins. Witness the new £1 coin, which is now 12 sided, bi-metallic and has a range of security features.

The construction of plating plants since 1983 has enabled the Royal Mint to remain an important player in the overseas circulating coin market and today plated coins account for around 80% of the Mint’s output.

Faces from the Mint

 

 

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People

Explore how five decades have affected the roles of people at the Mint.

Events

Explore events at Llantrisant over the last 50 years.

Production

Explore events at Llantrisant over the last 50 years.