ONWARDS AND UPWARDS

September 1998, Volume 35 No. 9
THE Annual Report of the Royal Mint, published on July 23, reveals that the Mint produced a return on capital in excess of its financial target, an increased operating profit of £13 million (compared with £7.6 million in the previous year), and a record level of capital investment to prepare the Mint for the new millennium. Productivity was well up, despite the problems which beset the British bimetallic £2 coin which had to be postponed from November 1997 to June 1998 on account of slight inconsistency in the contact resistance between the two parts of the coin, affecting its acceptance by vending equipment. Although the Mint had produced the coins to the legal specifications, this did not include the electrical signature or contact resistance. Hopefully, these technical hitches have now been successfully resolved.

The Report covers the year ending March 31, and reveals exceptional sales of £111.9 million-an increase of 22 per cent on 1996-97. This was partly due to the issue of the new UK 50p coins fro-nLseptember1997,which increasedtheiy,pical annual output of UK coins by some 400 million. In addition, exports grew with £63 million overseas sales (56 per cent of the total) to countries of every continent, reinforcing the Mint's position as world leader in the circulating coin market. Altogether, the Royal Mint issued more than 3,900 million circulating coins or blanks.

Interestingly, the Report reveals that the chief contributor to the Mint's increased profitability was the collector market which benefited from a strong product range. One success in particular was from the Hong Kong series marking the handover of the erstwhile crown colony to the People's Republic of China in 1997. Other best-sellers were the coins celebrating the Golden Wedding of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. Among the overseas coins, the award-winning triangular coin of Bermuda was particularly noteworthy.

The Mint also struck a number of medals, notably the Northern Ireland Home Service Medal and a bronze medal commemorating the tragic maiden voyage of RMS Titanic. A curious novelty was a silver dish celebrating the bicentenary of the Cartwheel penny, which had a bronze replica mounted in the centre. Ironically, this commemorates the achievements of the Mint's great18th century rival, the Soho Mint of Boulton and Watt in Birmingham.

As well as reviewing the past year, the Report looks forward to the next 12 months. Two new plating plants will be installed this year, making the Mint the world's largest producer of copper-plated steel blanks. This composition has been adopted for the three lowest denominations of the Euro coinage and already the Mint has received orders from blanks from five of the 11 countries planning to release Euro coins in 2002. The Euro, in fact, represents the biggest single factor in the Mint's investment programme.

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In This Issue

ANCIENTS23
The rise and fall of the Roman denomination by Sarah Troy
Changes to the coinage
INSIGHT26
Nicholas Briot (1579-1640) by M. A. Grey
An outstanding engraver
ON THE FRINGE33
Coins for Enamellers by Eika Speel
Attractive collectables
COLLECTORS NOTEBOOK36
Scottish beggers' badges by Denzil Webb
Poor man's markers
BANKNOTE NEWS39
The latest news
Noble's Thousand41
by Mick Vort-Ronald
Banknotes of Kuwait42
by James Mackay

Regulars

NEWS & VIEWS13
NEWS & VIEWS17
FORTHCOMING AUCTION21
NEW ISSUE UP-DATE31
READERS' LETTERS44
PRICE GUIDE TO CROWNS46
NOTICE BOARD SMALL ADS48
DEALERS' LISTS50
WHAT'S ON53
CLASSIFIED ADVERTISEMENTS54
CLASSIFIED ADVERTISEMENTS55
THE BACK PAGE56