Gold Britannia

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The gold Britannia is a gold bullion coin of Great Britain, issued and minted officially by the Royal Mint since 1987. As with many gold coins, the gold Britannia has a more ‘affordable’ version minted in silver and marketed towards numismatists more so than bullion investors. The gold Britannia is considered a modern gold coin and should not be related with earlier English gold coins. Initially minted in 1987 for the global bullion market, the Britannia possesses many features that were then common for many gold bullion coins. Unlike the more recent gold coins that were made from pure, unalloyed gold, the Britannia, like the American Gold Eagle and the Krugerrand, was made with (initially) an alloy of gold and copper, better known by jewelers and numismatists as crown gold. From its initial mintage in 1987, the Britannia had a millesimal fineness of 917 (22 carats) by being alloyed with copper. This process resulted in a common gold alloy used in coinage known as ‘crown gold’ which was the standard for all gold coins since the earliest examples of English gold coinage came about. The special alloy of copper and gold not only resulted in a more durable, hardier coin that resisted wear and tear (unlike coins made of pure, unalloyed gold), but it also gave the earliest examples Britannia a slightly reddish or dull dun hue.[1] The use of crown gold stopped after three years of production, and a new alloy was created, this time incorporating pure silver in place of the copper. This new standard officiated in 1991 and effective to this day, made a new type of Britannia, with a slightly brighter, more yellowish or yellow-white hue owing to the presence of the silver. Some examples of post-crown gold Britannia even possess an intense, unmistakable gold hue that sets it apart from many other impure gold bullion coins.[2]

During its initial mintage, the obverse and reverse side of the coin remained unchanged, and it was not until much later (beginning in circa 1996 – 1997) that the Britannia bullion coin adopted a dynamic approach to its design, with a yearly or bi-yearly revamp of the reverse designs.

The obverse of the Gold Britannia has always carried the image of Queen Elizabeth II with the legends ‘ELIZABETH II D. G. REG DEF FID’, (Elizabeth II Dei Gratia Regina Fides Defensor – Elizabeth II by the Grace of God, Queen Defender of the Faith) along with the face value of the coin underneath the bust. Oftentimes, a mintmark may be found below or next to the nape of the bust if the Britannia coin happens to be a proof or a bullion-uncirculated (BU) type instead of just the normal bullion one. The reverse of the Gold Britannia features the personification of Great Britain, a Greek goddess like figure (the namesake of the coin – ‘Britannia’) wearing a centurion’s helmet and flowing robes, carrying a Poseidon’s trident in one hand, and a shield emblazoned with the Union Jack on the other. The most common versions of the Britannia feature her standing to the right, with her trident held in her right hand planted before her and the shield with the Union Jack placed at the right, held by her left hand, along with a sprig of olives (early mintage, up until 1998 mintage). Other versions of the Britannia feature only her helmeted bust, with flowing, windswept hair (2003 mintage and 2010 mintage), while others feature an enthroned Britannia with all of her respective regalia (2005 mintage, alternative / proof version). Some versions even depict her with a familiar animal – the lion – a long-standing symbol of British sovereignty (2001 mintage). The most recent version of the Britannia combines the Union Jack symbol with a seated Britannia with her war regalia[3] (2011 mintage). The most remarkable and beautiful of all of her ‘poses’ feature her riding off to battle on a war-chariot (2009 proof mintage). In many of these depictions, the legend: FINE GOLD BRITANNIA, preceded by the denomination and the date of mintage is usually seen.

Generally available in one ounce denominations (with a face value of HYPERLINK "" \o "Pound sterling" £100), the Britannia also comes in fractional sizes of ½ oz, ¼ oz, and 1/10 oz with face values of HYPERLINK "" \o "Pound sterling" £50, HYPERLINK "" \o "Pound sterling" £25, and HYPERLINK "" \o "Pound sterling" HYPERLINK "" \o "Pound sterling" £10, respectively. Collectors of Gold Britannia often purchase them in sets featuring the different poses. Because of its impure nature, the Britannia is not as widely popular an investment coin as say, the Gold Maple Leaf of Canada or the Gold Kangaroos of Australia, but there are still a number of investors that collect Britannia coins for both investment purposes and numismatic acquisitions. The Gold Britannia is available in three types: bullion, bullion uncirculated (BU) and proofs.

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Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for ©

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