Today, both the smallest and the largest UK coins ever minted at The Royal Mint are among 70,000 coins on trial at the Trial of the Pyx. Weighing just one fortieth-ounce and measuring a delicate 8mm wide, the coin features a modern interpretation of Britannia. The imposing Kilo coin measures at 100mm wide and continues The Royal Mint’s five-year commemoration of the centenary of the First World War.
The Trial of the Pyx is an ancient annual ceremony and is one of the oldest quality assurance trials in the world. At the Trial, samples of circulating and commemorative coins produced by The Royal Mint over the last year are selected at random and weighed for accuracy.
Now held at Goldsmiths’ Hall, London, the Trial was first recorded publicly in 1282, and is today presided over by the Queen’s Remembrancer or their deputy, who are amongst the highest legal representatives in the country, assisted by an independent jury of Liverymen of the Goldsmiths’ Company.
During the ceremony jury members are presented with Pyx boxes (Pyx being the Roman word for chest). The coins are selected from a random selection provided by The Royal Mint and placed in copper bowls. The remainder are placed in wooden bowls and are then weighed for accuracy. The Trial is then adjourned until May to allow time for trial coins to be tested by Goldsmiths Assay Laboratory and the National Measurement Office.
Whilst modern methods such as XRF (X-Ray Fluorescence) are often used in assaying, it is still only the centuries old methods such as cupellation (the fire assaying of gold) that are accurate enough in the testing of metals and therefore remain credible for checking the accuracy of the coins of the realm for the Trial of the Pyx verdict.
Modern legislation does not mention penalties for an adverse verdict by the Pyx jury, yet there have been stiff punishments for failure in the past. The Master of the Mint (today a role held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer) went to prison for six weeks in 1318 and even Sir Isaac Newton was at loggerheads with the jury during his time as master of the Mint when the integrity of his coin samples was questioned.
Whilst the Trial is steeped in ancient traditions, and attended by officers with some of the oldest job titles in the land (The Master and Deputy Master of the Royal Mint, The Queen’s Assay Master, The Queen’s Remembrancer), the Trial of the Pyx is as relevant today as it has always been, and continues to play an extremely important role, supporting The Royal Mint’s international reputation for excellence in production.
Adam Lawrence, Deputy Master of the Mint said: “The Trial of the Pyx is one of the oldest quality assurance trials in existence and is as important today as it has ever been, helping ensure integrity and confidence in our UK currency, commemorative and bullion coins. At The Royal Mint, we pride ourselves on having developed our craft to produce the highest quality coinage. The Trial provides an opportunity for The Royal Mint to prove that our state-of-the-art technology and centuries-old hand skills remain second to none”.
About The Royal Mint
The Royal Mint has an unbroken history of minting British coinage dating back over 1,000 years. By the late thirteenth century the organisation was based in the Tower of London, and remained there for over 500 years. By 1812 The Royal Mint had moved out of the Tower to premises on London’s Tower Hill. In 1967 the building of a new Royal Mint began on its current site in South Wales, UK.
While The Royal Mint’s finest traditions are always respected, it continually innovates in order to stay at the forefront of world minting, embracing the latest production techniques and technology in order to offer excellence to our clients across the globe. By underpinning our proud heritage with a highly progressive outlook, The Royal Mint produces coins that remain a byword for trust and reliability the world over.
There were estimated to be 28.9 billion UK coins in circulation at 31 March 2014 ,with a total face value of over £4 billion, all manufactured by The Royal Mint. In total, nearly 2 billion UK coins were issued during 2013-14.
As well as over 1,000 years of producing British coinage, The Royal Mint has long been trusted with the currencies of other countries. It has served more than 100 issuing authorities around the world and currently meets approximately 15% of global demand, making us the world’s leading export mint.
The Royal Mint has been making official military campaign medals since it was commissioned to make awards for soldiers who fought in the battle of Waterloo in 1815. The year 2012 was of particular significance for The Royal Mint’s medal-making team, with the manufacture of all 4,700 Victory Medals for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Royal Mint has recently introduced a new fineness of Britannia bullion coins and a highly-secure on-site bullion vault storage facility, building on the gold Sovereign’s long-standing reputation for integrity, accuracy. This positions The Royal Mint and its bullion products as a premium proposition in this marketplace.
In September 2014, The Royal Mint launched a new bullion trading website, www.royalmintbullion.com, enabling customers to buy, store and sell bullion coins at constantly updated prices directly from The Royal Mint quickly, effortlessly and securely, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
In January 2015, The Royal Mint announced the revival of The Royal Mint Refinery bullion brand. Gold and silver minted bars bearing the historic Royal Mint Refinery marque became available direct to the public for the first time since 1968, at www.royalmintbullion.com.
In April 2014, The Royal Mint unveiled plans to develop a purpose-built visitor centre at its headquarters in Llantrisant, South Wales. Construction is expected to be completed during 2016.